This information explains autologous (your own) peripheral blood stem cell harvesting.
Stem cells are blood cells that have not matured to become a specific kind of blood cell. Any stem cell can become a specific kind of blood cell, such as a red blood cell or a platelet. Peripheral blood stem cell harvesting is the procedure used to collect some of the stem cells in your blood. The stem cells that are removed or “harvested” are frozen. After your chemotherapy, they will be thawed and returned to you. The doses of chemotherapy that you will receive are very high and will destroy most of the blood cells in your bone marrow and bloodstream. The stem cells that are harvested and returned to you will grow, mature, and replace the destroyed cells.
Before Your Procedure
A healthcare professional will examine your arms to see if your veins are adequate. If they are not, a temporary catheter will be put into a vein in your neck. This will take place before you begin the harvesting. The catheter will remain in place for several weeks to several months. It will be used to collect your stem cells, to take samples of your blood, and to give you intravenous (IV) fluids and medications while you are in the hospital. You will be given an appointment to have the catheter placed. You will also be given information that describes the procedure and how to care for the catheter afterward. Your nurse will review this with you.
During Your Procedure
The harvesting procedure is done in the Blood Donor Room. Your doctor will schedule you for several appointments; most patients require 3 to 5 appointments to collect enough cells. You should eat dairy products or other foods that are rich in calcium the night before and the morning of your appointment. Wear comfortable clothes. The harvesting is done while you are lying in a bed or sitting in a reclining chair. The process is painless and it will take 3 to 4 hours to collect your cells.
A machine that separates the stem cells from your blood will be connected to your catheter or the veins in your arms. Blood is withdrawn and circulated through the machine to collect the stem cells. The rest of your blood is returned to you. If you wish, you can watch TV or read. A family member or friend can sit with you after the procedure has started. Since patients sometimes complain of feeling cold during the procedure, blankets will be available.
After Your Procedure
After your harvesting procedure is done, your catheter will be flushed and recapped. If the veins in your arms were used for the harvesting, a dressing will be applied to prevent bleeding. It should remain in place for at least 3 hours, but not more than 5 hours. Most patients have no side effects after the procedure and can resume their regular activities.
Call Your Doctor if You:
- Have chills or a temperature of 100.4° F (38° C) or higher
- Notice any redness, bleeding, drainage, or pain at the catheter or needle insertion site