What Happens To Your Body When You Donate Bone Marrow

Donating bone marrow can save a life. Around 18,000 people each year are diagnosed with deadly diseases like leukemia and lymphoma (via Health Resources and Services Administration). Bone marrow transplants are sometimes the only option for successful treatment. But only 30% of these patients will be able to find a family member who is a match and able to donate. The rest will need a donation from a healthy person willing to go through the process of giving stem cells from bone marrow.

Bone marrow is a type of tissue that grows inside of your bones and is filled with stem cells (via Medline Plus). Once fully developed, these cells will become the blood cells that your body needs to function. In patients with blood cancers, treatment with chemotherapy or radiation can kill bone marrow stem cells (via Johns Hopkins). This means that in order to produce new stem cells and blood cells, they will need a bone marrow transplant. The two ways that bone marrow can be collected from a donor and transplanted to a patient in need are through surgery directly from the bone, or from the donor's blood (via Medline Plus).

The potential side effects

If you've already signed up to be a donor through organizations like Be The Match, or you're considering joining a bone marrow registry, there are a few things you should know in case you match someone who needs a transplant. Bone marrow donation can be done in a hospital or a special outpatient office (via Healthline). If you are having bone marrow collected from your bone, you may be given general anesthesia or just regional anesthesia. Either way, you won't feel the procedure and you'll only be left with very small incisions from the procedure. It will most likely be an outpatient procedure that only takes a few hours, so you won't need to spend the night at the hospital.

There are a few serious risks to donating bone marrow, and most are related to the anesthesia you are given. But only about 2.4% of people who give will experience serious complications from the procedure. Potential less serious side effects of anesthesia include nausea, vomiting, and sore throat. Bone marrow removal may cause some temporary soreness, bruising where the incisions were made, trouble walking because of soreness, and feeling tired. And even though a little bit of your bone marrow was removed, new marrow will be made by your body within a month and a half. So if you're thinking about donating life-saving bone marrow, know that the risks are low, but the benefits are priceless.