Side Effects of Donating Bone Marrow

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Bone marrow donation secures healthy blood cells to transplant into a patient with leukemia or another blood disorder. The surgery must be performed in a hospital. While donating bone marrow is considered safe and has saved recipients’ lives, there are some risks and possible side effects.

Anesthesia

Bone marrow donation surgery is done under general or regional (spinal or epidural) anesthesia.. Any time you undergo anesthesia, there are risks. Some of the risks and possible side effects, according to the Mayo Clinic, include drowsiness or weakness in the few days following surgery, abdominal pain, pain in the back or legs, vomiting with blood or black material, fever, severe headache, severe nausea, loss of appetite, pale skin, shivering, nightmares, and blurred vision. About 75 percent of bone marrow donations are done under general anesthesia, which carries the risk of death.

Donation Site and Side Effects

When you donate bone marrow, a special needle withdraws the blood cells from your bones. The hollow needles are usually placed into the back of the pelvic bones. You may feel sore or tender at the collection site for a few days following the donation procedure. Bleeding at the donation site is also possible.

Common Side Effects

Most bone marrow donors experience some general side effects but can usually go home within a day of their surgery, according to the National Marrow Donor Program. General side effects, which rarely require emergency medical intervention, include fatigue, lower back pain and stiffness while walking. Pain and stiffness can last anywhere from several days to a few weeks.

Long-Term Effects

Long-term side effects are rare but possible when donating bone marrow. About one out of 100 donors experiences damage to a bone, muscle or nerve in the hip area.

Blood Transfusions

Bone marrow takes about a month to naturally replaces itself. However, some patients require a blood transfusion in the hospital, and there is a risk of side effects. Some of the side effects of a blood transfusion include allergic reaction, nausea, chest or back pain, fever, lung injury and problems breathing. The chance of contracting HIV or hepatitis from a blood transfusion is extremely rare.

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