Stem Cell / Bone Marrow

What is the difference?

The main difference between a stem cell and bone marrow transplant is whether stem cells are collected from the bloodstream or bone marrow.

A stem cell transplant uses stem cells from your bloodstream, or a donor’s bloodstream. This is also called a peripheral blood stem cell transplant.

A bone marrow transplant uses stem cells from your bone marrow, or a donor’s bone marrow.

Stem cell transplants are the most common type of transplant. Bone marrow transplants are not used as much.  This is because:

  • It’s easier to collect stem cells from the bloodstream than bone marrow

  • Your treatment team can usually collect more cells from the bloodstream

  • Blood counts tend to recover quicker following a stem cell transplant

You might have a bone marrow transplant if collecting stem cells has been difficult in your situation.

What are the two types of donation?

Stages of a donor stem cell transplant.p

Peripheral Blood Stem Cell (PBSC)

A nurse will come to your home or office to give you injections of granulocyte colony-stimulating factor (G-CSF) over four days. This is a naturally-occurring hormone which increases the number of stem cells your body produces. After the fourth day of injections, you will donate the next day.

You’ll travel to the collection centre. For the PBSC procedure, you will be asked to lie on a bed or reclining chair while a needle is put into each arm. Blood is drawn out of one arm and fed into a cell-separating machine. Inside the machine your stem cells are filtered out. The red blood cells are then put back into your bloodstream through a second needle.

Donating only takes about 4-5 hours. Occasionally we’ll need to collect more cells the following day. You won’t need a general anaesthetic or to stay in hospital overnight, though.

You might experience side effects like flu-like symptoms and aching, but they’re usually mild and only last just a couple of days.

Bone Marrow

You’ll spend two nights in hospital. Under general anaesthetic, doctors will take some bone marrow from your pelvis using a needle and syringe.

You’ll probably feel tired and have a little bruising and pain in your lower back after donation. But this generally passes within a week or so.

Read more and join the donor register!