(via NMDP)

The first step to becoming a bone marrow donor is to join the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP) Registry. Doctors search our Registry to find donors for their patients who need a transplant. If a doctor selects you as a suitable match, you will be asked to donate either bone marrow or blood cells.

Man donating blood sample for tissue typing

1. Join the Registry

Anyone age 18 – 60 who meets the health guidelines and is committed to helping any patient in need may join. First, you complete a short health questionnaire and sign a form stating you understand what being on our Registry means. Then you give a small blood sample or swab of cheek cells to be tested for your tissue type, and this information is added to the Registry. (To join now, see Join the Registry.)

2. Stay committed and available

Doctors search our Registry to find a donor whose tissue type matches their patient’s. If you are chosen, we will contact you. If you agree to proceed, we will schedule more testing. (For more information, see When You’re Contacted as a Possible Match.)

Discussion of the donation process.

3. Attend an information session

We will invite you to to learn about the donation process, risks and side effects. Please feel free to bring a friend or family member to your information session. We will let you know if the doctor has requested a donation of cells from bone marrow or cells from circulating blood (known as a PBSC donation). Then you can decide whether or not to donate. (For more information, see When You’re Asked to Donate for a Patient.)

4. Receive a physical exam

If you agree to donate, you will have a physical exam to discover if donating would pose any special risks to you or the patient.

The surgical procedure of marrow donation. The procedure of PBSC donation.

5. Bone marrow donation

Bone marrow donation is a surgical procedure. While you receive anesthesia, doctors use special, hollow needles to withdraw liquid marrow from the back of your pelvic bones. Many donors receive a transfusion of their own previously donated blood.

5. PBSC Donation

PBSC donation takes place at an apheresis center. To increase the number of blood-forming cells in the bloodstream, you will receive daily injections of a drug called filgrastim for five days before the collection. Your blood is then removed through a sterile needle in one arm and passed through a machine that separates out the blood-forming cells. This process is similar to donating plasma. The remaining blood is returned to you.

6. Side effects and recovery

You can expect to feel some soreness in your lower back for a few days or longer. Most donors are back to their normal routine in a few days. Your marrow is completely replaced within four to six weeks.

6. Side effects and recovery

You may experience headache or bone or muscle aches for several days before collection, a side effect of the filgrastim injections. These effects disappear shortly after collection.

7. Follow-up

We will follow up with you until you are able to resume normal activity. After that, we will call you annually for long-term follow up.