Bone marrow donation is a life-saving procedure in which the healthy bone marrow from one person is taken and used to replace the unhealthy marrow of another. This is usually done by inserting a needle into the donor’s pelvic bone and extracting the marrow from this location into a syringe or vial. The donor will typically feel no pain during this procedure because anesthesia is administered prior to marrow extraction.
There are many reasons why someone would participate in bone marrow donation. Often, the person has a friend of family member who could benefit from a transplant and they want to help. Others simply donate as a good Samaritan effort in the hopes that their marrow may be useful to someone.
To better understand bone marrow donation, it is important to know what bone marrow is and what it does for the body. Bone marrow is a flexible tissue that can be found inside the hallow cavity of bones. Marrow in large bones produces new blood cells to be entered into the blood stream for use in preventing infection and carrying oxygen throughout the body.
Certain diseases, such a leukemia, can affect the effectiveness of this process. This can cause low blood cell counts which in turn, leads to compromised immunity and blood oxygen levels. If left untreated, these diseases can be fatal. There are other treatments used for many of these conditions, but often they are not enough and a bone marrow transplant is needed.
For anyone who needs a bone marrow transplant, the first place to start looking for a donor is with family members. Marrow will be taken in samples from both the patient and any relatives or friends who are willing to be donate. The two marrows will be tested to see if they are compatible. If a match is found, then a full bone marrow transplant can be performed.
If there is no match within the patient’s circle of family and friends, they are placed on a waiting list in hopes of finding a matching donor in one of many bone marrow donation facilities. These are places where everyday people go and give bone marrow. The donations are tested, labeled and stored until someone who can use them is found.
Since the human body is able to fully regenerate any donated bone marrow, it is possible for the same person to donate more than once if needed. After a bone marrow donation is complete, the donor may feel soreness around the injection site. Pain medication may be given to ease discomfort. Marrow donation is generally an outpatient procedure, meaning the person can go home the same day.