Myths and Facts
Bone Marrow Donation Myths and Facts

MYTH:
In bone marrow donation, pieces of bone are removed from the donor.  In bone marrow donation the marrow is scraped from the bone.

FACT:
No pieces of bone are taken during marrow donation.  The bones are not cracked to scrape the marrow from the bone.  The liquid marrow from the bones is either extracted with a needle from the donor’s pelvic bone (surgical procedure) or more often the marrow is harvested from the blood in a non-surgical procedure.

MYTH:
Marrow cells are taken from the spinal cord.

FACT:
Bone marrow cells are not removed from the spinal cord.   They are either taken from the pelvic bone or more often taken from the blood.

MYTH:
All bone marrow donations require surgery.

FACT:
75% of donations do not involve surgery.  With new medical technology, today, most often the cells are harvested with a peripheral blood stem cell (PBSC) donation, which is non-surgical.  In common language the marrow cells are harvested from your blood.   This is done on an out-patient basis with no general anesthetic.

The second way of donating is a marrow donation, which is a surgical procedure.  In each case, donors typically go home the same day they donate.

MYTH:
Bone marrow donation is painful and involves a long recovery.

FACT:
PBSC donors can experience uncomfortable side effects.  PBSC donors are given a drug called filgrastim for five days leading up to donation.  The filgrastim increases the production of marrow cells in the donor’s body.  This increase in cells can lead to joint or muscle aches, headaches, or fatigue.  Following the donation, PBSC donors can expect all symptoms to cease in one to two days.
Bone marrow donors are given general or regional anesthesia, so they feel no pain during donation.  Marrow donors can expect to feel some soreness in their lower back for one to two weeks afterward.  Most marrow donors are back to their normal activities in two to seven days.

MYTH:
Donating bone marrow is dangerous for the donor.   Once I give away my bone marrow cells my body will not regenerate them.

FACT:
Bone Marrow Registries, such as Be The Match in the US and DKMS in Germany, carefully prescreen all donors to be sure they are healthy and that the procedure is safe for the donor. During the procedure only five percent or less of a donor's marrow is extracted to give to the recipient.  Because it is a small amount the donor's immune system stays strong and the cells replace themselves within four to six weeks.  There are rarely any long-term side effects to the donor.

MYTH:
The donor has to have the same blood type as the patient.

FACT:
A bone marrow transplant does require a matching blood type, rather it requires the most exact match possible between the tissue characteristics (HLA characteristics) of the donor and of the patient.  Finding a 100 percent match is very complicated.   It is often compared to looking  for a needle in a haystack.  That’s why we need you. 
One interesting fact related to this is following a donation, the recipient even assumes the blood type of the donor.

MYTH:
Donors have to pay for the costs of medical care related to be a bone marrow donor. 

FACT:
In the United States, Be The Match, our national bone marrow registry, will cover all costs. Donors never pay to donate.  Be The Match will also reimburse travel costs and may reimburse other costs on a case-by-case basis.

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