Allogeneic Donor Peripheral Blood Stem Cell Harvesting

This information describes the procedure for donating peripheral blood stem cells at Memorial Sloan Kettering (MSK).

Stem cells are blood cells that have not matured to become a specific kind of blood cell, such as a red blood cell or platelet. Peripheral blood is the blood that circulates in your blood vessels, and includes every type of blood cell.

Peripheral stem cell harvesting is the procedure used to collect some of the stem cells in your blood. When stem cells are taken from a donor, it is called allogeneic peripheral blood stem cell harvesting. These cells will then be given to a patient in a peripheral blood stem cell transplant. The cells that you donate will grow, mature, and replace the patient’s destroyed cells.

Before Your Procedure

Filgrastim injections

Before the harvesting is done, you will receive a medication called filgrastim (Neupogen®). This medication helps move the stem cells from your bone marrow into your peripheral blood where they can be collected (harvested). You can either be taught to do the injections yourself or you can discuss other arrangements with your nurse. If you are doing the injections yourself, your nurse will give you the resource Giving Yourself an Injection of Filgrastim (Neupogen) or Pegfilgrastim (Neulasta) with a Prefilled Syringe. You must store your filgrastim injections in the refrigerator. The injections of filgrastim will be every day for about 5 to 6 days.

Common side effects of filgrastim include bone pain in your arms, legs, and lower back. It can also cause headaches and flu-like symptoms. Either regular or extra strength acetaminophen (Tylenol®) may relieve these side effects. If acetaminophen does not help, your doctor will prescribe something stronger.


As your stem cells are collected, your blood calcium levels may drop. We recommend that you eat foods with calcium such as cottage and milk the day before your procedure to help with this. 

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During Your Procedure

Your harvesting procedure will take place in the Donor Room at MSK, located at 1250 First Avenue (between East 67th and 68th Streets). You will have appointments 2 days in a row. On these days, you will get the dose of filgrastim at least 1 hour before your appointment.

The harvesting is done while you are on a bed or in a recliner chair. It usually takes 3 to 4 hours. A needle will be inserted into a vein in each of your arms. A machine that separates the stem cells from your blood will be connected to the needle in one arm. Your blood goes through the machine to collect the stem cells. The rest of the blood returns to you through the needle in your other arm.

As your stem cells are collected, you may have:
  • Muscle cramps
  • Twitching
  • A tingling sensation around your lips and fingertips

These are signs of low calcium levels in your blood. You can drink milk and eat dairy foods during your procedure. The staff in the Donor Room can also give you calcium carbonate in the form of Tums®, which are a quick and easy source of calcium.

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After Your Procedure

  • You will have bandages where the needles were inserted into your arms. Keep them in place for 3 hours.
  • If there is bleeding when you remove the bandages, apply gentle but firm pressure on the site(s) for 3 to 5 minutes. Call your doctor if the bleeding does not stop.
  • Ask your doctor when you an return to your regular activities. Most people can go back to their regular activities the day of or the day after the donation. 
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Call Your Doctor If You:

  • Have a temperature of 100.5° F (38° C) or higher
  • Have any of the following symptoms in the areas where the needles were inserted in your arms:
    • Redness
    • Bleeding that doesn’t stop with firm pressure
    • Pain
    • Swelling


Filgrastim Injection Schedule
Filgrastim (Neupogen®) dose: __________
Date Time Donor Room Appointment













    8:00 am
    8:00 am
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