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Are there risks associated with being a bone marrow donor?

Because only a small amount of bone marrow is removed, donating usually does not pose any significant problems for the donor. The most serious risk associated with donating bone marrow involves the use of anesthesia during the procedure.

The area where the bone marrow was taken out may feel stiff or sore for a few days, and the donor may feel tired. Within a few weeks, the donor's body replaces the donated marrow; however, the time required for a donor to recover varies. Some people are back to their usual routine within 2 or 3 days, while others may take up to 3 to 4 weeks to fully recover their strength.

This answer is based on the source infromation from the the National Cancer Institute
Anthony L. Komaroff, MD
Internal Medicine
This is a very important question. First, a word about bone marrow.

The bone marrow is where the key components of our blood are made. This includes:
  • Red blood cells (important for carrying oxygen throughout the body)
  • White blood cells (important for immunity and fighting off infections)
  • Platelets (small little white blood cells that are important in helping blood clot)
Bone marrow contains stem cells that allow each of these parts of our blood to be produced. When bone marrow cells are removed from you and placed into the recipient, the hope is that the stem cells and other "mother cells" will populate the recipients' bone marrow and start producing the parts of blood.

In the case of leukemia, transplanting your cells into your sister will hopefully repopulate her bone marrow with normal cells — after her leukemia has been treated with chemotherapy.

Donating an organ can be a risk to the donor, but there is minimal risk to those who donate bone marrow. There may be some discomfort and pain from the place the bone marrow is removed.

In general, the bone marrow within our bodies is located in the inner portions of most of our long bones, pelvis, ribs and backbones or vertebral bodies. This means there is a significant amount of bone marrow in our bodies. The amount taken from your body will have no ill effects on your health. Donating bone marrow is like giving blood. The cells from your body will regenerate.

Before you have bone marrow removed, you will get a local anesthesia to numb the outside portions of the bone. This will allow a needle to be passed into the marrow cavity, so the marrow can be removed.

Your donated cells will be processed, and then infused into your sister. Unlike a live kidney donor or a liver donor, which require an operation, you will not be undergoing an operation, but a more minor procedure to remove these important and life saving bone marrow cells.

You will have more than enough bone marrow cells after the donation to maintain your blood cells normally.

Good luck to both you and your sister.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.