Risks of bone marrow donation

Last Modified: May 11, 2003


Dear OncoLink "Ask The Experts,"
I am a match to donate bone marrow to my brother. My question is what are my risks, if any, as a bone marrow donor? 


Selina M. Luger, MD, Director of the Leukemia Program and Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, responds:

From your question, I assume that they are going to collect the cells from your bone marrow and not your blood. In order to do this, they will do surgery and you will require anesthesia, the risks of which are related to your general heath and the type of anesthesia that will be used--this should be discussed with the anesthesiologists. As for the bone marrow harvest procedure itself, usually there are not any significant complications. You will lose blood and have a drop in your hemoglobin--so you may be asked to donate a unit of your own blood beforehand. You may have some pain in your hips for some days afterwards. There is a small risk of a bleeding complication or infection from the procedure. You can get more information from the national marrow donor program (NMDP) website www.marrow.org or www.marrow.org/MEDICAL/marrow_donation.html.