Marrow Stem Cell Donor
You/your child had blood drawn earlier to
determine that you are a Human Leukocyte
Antigen (HLA) match to someone who needs
marrow stem cells. When marrow stem cells
are removed from a donor and given to
another person, it is called an allogeneic
marrow stem cell transplant.
This handout will explain how to prepare for
donating your marrow stem cells. It will
discuss what the process will be like. It will
also discuss what care you will need to
follow after some of your marrow stem cells
are removed. If you have any questions
about this handout, please ask your doctor or
Bone marrow is a spongy, liquid tissue that
is found inside bones such as the breastbone,
skull, ribs, spine, and hipbones. The bone
marrow contains many types of cells
including stem cells. Stem cells are “parent”
cells that produce the blood cells: red cells,
white cells, and platelets.
Before marrow stem cell collection
You will need to come to UW Hospital for
an assessment in the Oncology Clinic. The
appointment will include:
1. Outpatient Lab – You will have blood
and urine tests. Not all results are
available immediately. You will be
called in a few days with the results.
2. Chest x-ray and/or ECG – If needed,
depending on your age and health
3. Health history and brief physical exam–
The doctor will talk over your test results
and explain the marrow stem cell
collection process. The doctor will give
you an exam and ask questions about
your health history. Once all your
questions are answered, you will need to
sign two consents for the procedure
4. Do not get any tattoos or body piercings
before the marrow stem cell collection.
5. Once the clinic visit is complete, you
will go home. The date for the marrow
collection will be scheduled. You will
be called with that date and time.
The night before the Collection
1. A nurse from our First Day Surgery area
will call you the day before the
procedure. They will remind you what to
do and where and when you should
arrive. If you do not get a call by 3pm,
please call First Day Surgery at
2. You will need to shower and scrub your
back and hipbones with soap to clean
your skin. Use any body soap that you
3. After midnight, do not eat or drink
anything. You will be able to take your
usual medicine with a small sip of water.
You can brush your teeth, but do not
swallow the water.
4. Bring a current list of the medicines you
5. After the stem cells are collected, you
will spend one night in the hospital.
Bring the items you will need for a one-
night stay. You will be discharged
sometime the next day after the
procedure. Some patients are able to
leave the same day as the collection if
eating, drinking, and have a ride home.
6. There is no set discharge time. You will
need to be seen by the doctors and have
the dressing removed from your back.
You also need to feel well enough to
leave. You may want to bring a pillow
with you for the ride home. Some
patients have said a pillow placed in the
lower back makes the ride home more
Stem Cell Collection Day
The day may begin early. You will come
into the hospital and go to the First Day
Surgery Unit. From the second (Main)
floor, follow the floor path to the “D”
elevator. Take the elevator to the 3rd floor
and turn left. You will see the entrance to
the First Day Surgery Unit. A nurse will ask
you to put on a hospital gown. You will also
be asked to remove any jewelry, glasses, or
dentures. You will have an intravenous line
(IV) started that can be used to give fluids
Once in the operating room, you will receive
your anesthesia through an IV. After the
anesthesia has taken full effect, you will be
turned onto your
stomach. You will be
covered to keep warm.
The only uncovered
area will be your lower
back. A nick mark is
made on your skin over
the hipbone: one over
the right hip and one
over the left hip. A
needle is put through the nick mark into the
hipbone. Inside the bone is the liquid bone
marrow, which contains stem cells. About
one quart (one liter) of marrow is removed.
This is called the “harvest”. The harvest will
continue through the same nick marks with
the needle angled each time to a new site on
the bone. You will be in the operating
room about 1-2 hours.
After enough stem cells are removed, small
pieces of tape, called steri-strips, will hold
the skin together at nick mark sites. A large
dressing will cover the whole area. You will
be taken to the recovery room. When you
are awake, you will be taken to a hospital
room. If you are donating marrow to a
relative, you will likely be on the same
nursing unit as your marrow recipient.
After Stem Cell Collection
You may feel tired, sleepy, stiff, and sore.
Your nurse will help you get out of bed for
the first time because you might be
lightheaded. The nurse will help you to
walk to the bathroom and around in your
room. It is important to get up and move
about to help you recover faster. Patients
say walking often feels better than sitting or
If you had general anesthesia, you may have
an upset stomach. Your nurses can give you
medicine to help with the nausea. You may
have trouble passing urine right away. This
should resolve within 6-8 hours. The IV will
be left in place until you can take in enough
food and fluids.
You will feel some pain at the sites where
the stem cells were removed. You may
receive pain medicine through your IV if
you have severe pain. Pain pills will be
given for mild to moderate pain. Always let
your nurse know if you are having pain.
If you are donating marrow to a relative, you
will be encouraged to be with the marrow
transplant recipient when she/he is receiving
marrow stem cells. This is a happy and
Your bone marrow will take a few days to
recover from the harvest. The red blood cell
count will lower after marrow stem cell
harvest. By taking iron tablets, the count
should return to your baseline within two
weeks after the harvest. Your white blood
cell count and platelet count will not be
lowered by the harvest. Bone marrow is like
blood, if some is removed, you will only
make more. Your doctor or nurse will talk to
you about taking iron tablets and the side
effect which can be constipation.
When you leave the hospital you will have
some guidelines to follow.
• The doctors will remove the dressing
before you go home. Steri-strips will be
in place. They will peel off over the next
few days. Check the nick marks daily
for signs of swelling, redness, or
increased pain. Inform your doctor if
you develop chills or a fever.
• Once home, you might find it hard to sit
in a chair for long amounts of time or to
climb stairs. Slowly increase your
activity without doing too much. You
can resume any activity that does not
make your back hurt. Most patients say
it feels better to keep moving rather than
to sit or lie in bed. To decrease muscle
stiffness, walk often.
• Avoid jogging, heavy lifting or turning,
horseback riding, prolonged bed rest, or
• You will not be able to drive yourself
home from the hospital. You can
resume driving when you are not taking
pain medicines and you are not dizzy or
• You can shower or bathe anytime.
• Drink one to two quarts of fluid (water,
soda, juice) daily for three to four days.
The extra fluids will help with any
dizziness. Take your iron tablets
(ferrous sulfate) for about two weeks
after the donation. You can resume your
• If you are having pain, take the pain
medicine sent home with you as directed
or you may take Tylenol (regular or
extra-strength), 2 tablets every 4 hours as
• If you feel more tired than is normal for
you, take time out to rest during the day.
It takes about 2 weeks to feel the same
as you did before the stem cell
• Once you leave the hospital you will not
need to see a doctor unless you have
• You will have a follow-up telephone call
from the Stem Cell Transplant
coordinator to see how you are doing. If
you have any questions or problems, call
the UW Cancer Clinics at
(608) 265-1700 or Janelle McMannes,
RN at (608) 263-0501.
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call if
you have any questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with your
doctor. This is not medical advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition.
Because each person’s health needs are different, you should talk with your doctor or others on your health care
team when using this information. If you have an emergency, please call 911. Copyright © 2/2017 University of
Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing.