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Bone Marrow Donation FAQs

Matching bone marrow is used for transplant

Q. How are bone marrow matches determined?

Ans. The Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) system is a gene complex encoding the Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) proteins in humans. HLA is a protein or marker found on most cells in the body which is used to match the patient’s HLA with the donor’s HLA for the transplant.

The immune system uses HLA markers to know which cells belong in the body and which do not. The best transplant outcome happens when a patient's HLA and the donor's HLA closely match.

Q. What are the medical techniques for donating bone marrow?

Ans. Once a match for a patient needing a bone marrow transplant is found, there are two methods of bone marrow stem cell donation:

1) Bone MarrowStem cells collection by a bone marrow harvest (collection of stem cells with a needle placed into the soft centre of the bone marrow)

2) Peripheral Blood Stem Cell (PBSC) — These stem cells are collected from the circulating cells in the blood. PBSC donation is a non-surgical procedure done in an outpatient clinic. This process is now more common. Cord blood has already been collected at the time of a birth and stored for later use.

Q Who is eligible to be a bone marrow donor?

Ans. Any person who is legally major (at least 18 years) with good physical and mental health can donate his/her bone marrow. As it is a voluntary act and, a medical procedure which needs legal informed consent.

Q. Is it safe to donate bone marrow?

Ans. It is mandatory for clinical practice to cautiously pre-screened donors to ensure their fitness for the bone marrow donation process.

Bone marrow donation is a surgical, usually outpatient procedure. A donor receives anaesthesia and feels no pain during the process. Doctor uses a special surgical needle like instrument to withdraw liquid marrow from pelvic bone.

After the surgery, donor might feel tired or weak and have trouble walking for a few days due to sore part of the body.

Q. How many times can you be a bone marrow donor?

Ans. A person who is healthy can donate bone marrow stem cells many times in his/her life. It is unusual to have a proper match for many people. Moreover because the bone marrow and blood stem cells completely regenerate within few months, it is safe to donate more than once also.

Q. Is it dangerous to donate bone marrow?

Ans. Normally bone marrow donation procedure is not risky at all as there are no major repercussions other than little discomfort in that body part from where bone marrow is taken.

However, the only serious hazard connected with donating bone marrow involves the use and effects of anaesthesia during surgery.

Q. What are the physical conditions in which a person cannot donate bone marrow?

Ans. Besides prior thorough check-up of bone marrow donor, doctors exclude certain medical conditions where a person cannot donate bone marrow such as:

  • positive blood test for hepatitis B or hepatitis C
  • pregnancy
  • users of intravenous drugs that are not prescribed by a doctor
  • cancer patient
  • person suffering from heart related diseases
  • person suffering with Lyme disease

In addition, those who had malaria should wait at least a year before donating bone marrow.

However birth control pills, thyroid, antihistamines, antibiotics, anti-anxiety and antidepressant drugs are allowed as long as the person's medical condition is under control at the time of the donation.

Q. What is the usual recovery time after bone marrow donation?

Ans. Donor’s recovery time depends on the type of bone marrow donation procedure.

1. Normal symptoms after donating bone marrow through surgical process are muscle pain, back or hip pain, headache, fatigue, bruising around the incision site and difficulty in walking. But it takes few days to recover from the discomfort.

2. Peripheral Blood Stem Cell (PBSC) — these stem cells are collected from the circulating cells in the blood. PBSC donation is a non-surgical procedure done in an outpatient clinic. In this process, recovery time is instant.



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