This information explains bone marrow harvesting for autologous (ah-TOL-o-gus) or allogeneic (all-o-gen-EH-ic) stem cell transplants.
Bone marrow is a substance found in the spaces in the center of the larger bones in your body such as your hip, breastbone, and pelvis. Bone marrow contains a large number of stem cells, which are immature cells that produce all of the blood cells in your body—the white blood cells that fight infection, red blood cells that carry oxygen, and platelets that stop you from bleeding. Bone marrow harvesting (collecting) is a procedure to collect stem cells from your bone marrow.
There are two types of stem cell transplants: autologous and allogeneic.
- For an autologous stem cell transplant, your own stem cells are harvested. They are given back to you on the day of your transplant.
- For an allogeneic stem cell transplant, a donor’s stem cells are harvested. They are later given to the person who is receiving the transplant. If you are donating stem cells for someone else, your body will replace the cells 2 to 3 months after your procedure.
Bone marrow can be removed from different sites on your body, such as the front and back of your hips and your breastbone. These are called harvest sites. The most common harvest site is the back of the hips.
Before Your Procedure
If you are taking any medications, speak with your doctor or nurse to see if they are safe to take before your procedure. Some medications may suppress bone marrow and will need to be stopped.
Tell your doctor or nurse if you are taking any of the following:
- Medications that contain aspirin
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen (Motrin®, Advil®) or naproxen (Aleve®)
- Vitamin E
- Blood thinners
These medications can cause bleeding problems. Don’t take them unless your doctor says it is okay. Your nurse will give you information about what medications you cannot take and what you can take instead.
If you have any allergies, speak with your doctor or nurse before your procedure.
You must have someone 18 years or older take you home after your procedure. If you don’t have anyone, call one of the agencies below. They will provide someone to accompany you home. However, there is usually a charge for this service and you will also need to provide transportation.
In New York:
Partners in Care 888-735-8913
Prime Care 212-944-0244
In New York or New Jersey:
Caring People 877-227-4649
If you are donating stem cells for someone else, you may need to give a unit of blood 2 weeks before the procedure. This blood will be given back to you in the recovery room. It will help your bone marrow recover. Your doctor or nurse will speak to you about this.Back to top
The Day Before Your Procedure
- Do not eat anything after midnight the night before your procedure. This includes hard candy and gum.
- Between midnight and up until 2 hours before your scheduled arrival time, you may drink a total of 12 ounces of water (see figure).
- Starting 2 hours before your scheduled arrival time, do not eat or drink anything. This includes water.
The Day of Your Procedure
Your procedure will be done in the operating room. Since the harvest site is usually the back of the hip bones, you will probably be lying on your stomach. You will receive general anesthesia (medication that will make you sleep) before the procedure starts. Once you are asleep, your doctor will insert a needle through your skin and into your bone to take out the marrow. They will do this several times to collect enough marrow. The procedure usually takes about an hour.
When you wake up, you will be in the Post Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU). You may be sore at your harvest sites. Your nurse will give you pain medication to help with any discomfort. You will get a prescription for pain medication to take home with you.
You will go home once you are awake and able to eat and drink.Back to top
Caring for yourself at home
- Don’t shower for 24 hours after your procedure. After 24 hours, shower and then remove your dressings.
- Take your pain medication as prescribed. This will help relieve any pain and stiffness.
- Resume taking aspirin, medications containing aspirin, NSAIDs, or vitamin E, as needed.
- Drink at least 6 to 8 glasses of liquids every day for 4 days after your procedure.
- Don’t do any strenuous exercise (e.g., running, jogging, aerobics) or play any contact sports (e.g., football, soccer, basketball) for 1 week after your procedure. You can do light exercise such as walking.
- Don’t soak in a pool, bath tub, or hot tub for 1 week after your procedure.
- Eat a well-balanced diet high in iron (e.g., red meat, spinach) for 2 months after your procedure. Ask your doctor about taking vitamins and iron supplements. Ask your nurse for the resource Iron in Your Diet.
Call Your Doctor or Nurse if You Have:
- Bleeding from your harvest sites
- Redness or drainage at your harvest sites
- Pain at your harvest sites that is getting worse or not improving after 1 day
- A temperature of 100.4° F (38° C) or higher
- A cough that does not go away