Skip Navigation

When you are selected as a potential match, we will ask you to complete a health screening and discuss any concerns you have about the donation process.

Bone marrow donation guidelines

These bone marrow donation guidelines provide an overview of many medical conditions. They do not include every medical situation that may prevent you from donating. It’s important to note that marrow donation guidelines are not the same as blood donation guidelines.

If you have questions about these guidelines or a medical condition not listed here, please call 1 (800) MARROW-2.

Age

You will remain on the registry until your 61st birthday unless you request to be removed. Be The Match Registry® members are changed to an inactive status on the registry on their 61st birthday and are no longer available for patient searches. There are two main reasons:

Donor safety: As one ages, the chances of a hidden medical problem that donation could bring out increases, placing older donors at increased risk of complications. Since there is no direct benefit to the donor when they donate, for safety reasons we have set age 60 as the upper limit. It is important to note that the age limit is not meant to discriminate in any way.

To provide the best treatment for the patient: Studies have shown that patients who receive donated cells from younger donors have a better chance for long-term survival.

AIDS/HIV

If you have been diagnosed with HIV (AIDS) you cannot donate. If you are at risk for the HIV virus, your current medical status will be carefully evaluated. More information about HIV/AIDS and how it is transmitted may be found at the Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Website at http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/pubs/faqs.htm.

Allergies

If you suffer from common allergies to animals, the environment, or medications, etc., you may be able to donate. If you have serious or life-threatening allergies to medications or latex, your health condition and allergies will need to be carefully evaluated.

See Asthma.

Arthritis

In general, if you have mild to moderate osteoarthritis or degenerative arthritis, you may be able to donate. Mild to moderate arthritis is defined as having little impact on daily activities, and is relieved by taking occasional medications. If you have arthritis affecting the spine, your condition will need to be carefully evaluated. If you have severe medical arthritic conditions such as rheumatoid, reactive, psoriatic and advanced stages of other types of arthritis, you will not be allowed to donate.

Asthma

If you have asthma that is exercise-induced or is well-controlled and have had no attacks requiring oral (pill) or intravenous (IV) steroids or emergency care in the past two years, you may be able to donate. If you have asthma requiring regular/daily use of oral (pill) steroids, you will not be allowed to donate.

Autoimmune diseases

Most diseases which may be defined as autoimmune disorders, such as multiple sclerosis, systemic lupus, chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia, will prevent you from donating marrow or blood-forming cells. However, if you have a condition such as Hashimoto's or Graves' disease, you may be allowed to donate as long as the disease is well-controlled and you are medically stable.

Back, Neck, Hip, and Spine

Common back problems such as sprains, strains and aches should not interfere with a marrow donation. If you have had a single back surgery more than 5 years ago, and have no ongoing symptoms, you may be able to donate. If you have chronic/ongoing back pain (including persistent sciatica and/or numbness) requiring medical treatment (i.e., daily pain meds, physical therapy (PT), chiropractic treatments, etc.) you will not be able to donate.

The following back-related issues must be carefully evaluated to determine whether or not you may donate:

  • Single surgery 2-5 years ago
  • Multiple surgeries, no matter how long since procedures
  • History of fracture 2-5 years ago from an injury
  • History of herniated, bulging or slipped disc in any location of the back
  • Mild osteoarthritis involving the spine, neck or hip
  • Diagnosis of scoliosis, if no history of surgery or if the rods/pins have been removed and you are fully recovered
  • Diagnosis of degenerative disc disease

If you have significant back problems and/or any questions regarding your medical condition, contact your local donor center.

Blood pressure

If you have elevated blood pressure (hypertension), you may donate if your condition is well-controlled by medication or diet and if there is no associated heart disease.

See Heart Disease, if applicable.

Breathing problems/sleep apnea

If you have breathing problems such as shortness of breath, sleap apnea, and/or a history of chronic bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema, pneumonia, a pneumothorax, pulmonary emboli, etc., please contact your local donor center to discuss your current health status.

Cancer

If you have a history of pre-cancerous cells, you are able to donate. If you have had cured, local skin cancer (basal cell or squamous cell), you may also be able to donate. If you have healed melanoma in situ, skin cancer, cervical cancer in situ, breast cancer in situ, or bladder cancer in situ you will be able to donate. (In situ cancer is diagnosed at a very early stage [stage 0] and is specifically called "in situ.")

If you have been diagnosed and treated for a solid tumor type cancer and it has been more than 5 years since completion of treatment and no reoccurence, you may be able to donate. If your treatment included chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy, you will not be able to donate. If you have had any other form of cancer, you will not be able to donate — no matter the length of time since treatment or recovery.

Chemical dependency/mental health

If you have a history of chemical dependency and/or mental health issues, you may be allowed to donate after careful evaluation of your current situation. In general, if you have completed chemical dependency treatment, it has been at least 12 months since therapy, and you have no physical ailments that may put you at risk for donation, you may be able to donate. 

If you have a condition such as attention deficit disorder (ADD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), bipolar or manic-depressive disorder, or depression, you may be allowed to donate as long as the condition is well-controlled and you are medically stable. Mental health conditions such as schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder or delusional disorder will prevent you from donating marrow or blood-forming cells.

It is important that you are committed and able to follow through with the donation process. Guidelines used to evaluate your current chemical dependency/mental health status are not meant to judge. They are meant to protect your safety and well-being and provide the best possible outcome for the patient.

Cold/flu

If you are called to donate marrow or blood-forming cells, you may not be able to donate if you show signs of a serious cold or flu at the time of donation. If you have been called as a potential match, it is important that you contact your local donor center if you develop cold or flu symptoms. Symptoms such as a fever greater than 100.0 degrees Fahrenheit, a productive cough, sore throat, headache(s), etc., need to be carefully evaluated.

Depression

If you have a history of depression that is stable and well-controlled, you may be able to donate. Contact your local donor center to discuss any other mental health conditions.

See Chemical Dependency/Mental Health, if applicable.

Diabetes

If your diabetes is well-controlled, you may be allowed to donate after careful evaluation of your current health status. In general, if your diabetes is well-controlled by either diet or oral (pill) medications, you may be able to donate. If you require insulin or any injected medications to treat diabetes or if you have diabetes-related serious health issues such as kidney, heart or eye disease, you are not able to donate. If you have questions regarding your diabetes, contact your local donor center.

Epilepsy

If you have epilepsy, you may be able to donate after careful evaluation of your seizure history. Certain situations may be associated with developing epilepsy. Examples include a family history, head injuries, stroke or other vascular diseases, and brain infections. In general, if you have not had any seizures in the past 12 months and the underlying reason for the seizures is acceptable, you may be allowed to donate.

See Heart Disease/Stroke, AIDS/HIV, or Hospitalizations/Surgery/Trauma, if applicable.

Heart disease/stroke

In general, if you have heart disease, you may not donate. This includes a prior heart attack, any history of angioplasty, cardiac bypass surgery, heart valve replacement surgery or pacemakers. However, some heart conditions such as well-controlled irregular heartbeats (arrhythmias), mitral valve prolapse or successful cardiac ablation do not necessarily prevent donation. Your situation will be evaluated on an individual basis.

If you have a history of a stroke, a transient ischemic attack (TIA), an intracranial hemorrhage (epidural, subdural, subarachnoid), or other significant brain injury or surgery in the brain -- even if currently recovered and without symptoms -- you are not able to donate.

Hepatitis

You may donate if you have a history of fully-recovered documented hepatitis A. If you have received a vaccine to prevent hepatitis, you will also be permitted to donate.

If you have any of the following, you will be carefully evaluated to determine if you can donate:

  • History of, or at risk for, hepatitis B or C
  • History of hepatitis or yellow jaundice (age 11 or older) without a known cause
  • Close or intimate contact with someone with active hepatitis in the past year
  • If you have questions regarding hepatitis and donation, contact your local donor center

More information about hepatitis and how it is transmitted may be found at the Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Website at http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/diseases/hepatitis/.

Hospitalizations/surgery/trauma

If you have been injured, hospitalized and/or had surgery in the past year, you may be able to donate after careful evaluation of your experience and recovery. Medical conditions that require surgery, hospitalization, or treatment in an emergency room setting must be evaluated to protect your safety and provide the best possible outcome for the patient.

Immunizations

If you have received a common immunization, you may donate. Receiving an investigational vaccine in the past year, however, must be evaluated. Some immunizations (such as smallpox) will require assessment if you are selected as a potential donor.

Kidney disease

If you have serious or chronic kidney problems, such as polycystic kidney diseases or glomulonephritis, you will not be able to donate. If you have had a kidney removed due to disease, you may not be able to donate. However, if you donated a kidney to another person and are now fully recovered from that surgery, you may donate. You are able to donate if you have a history of kidney stones.

Liver disease

If you have a serious liver disease such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C, or Wilson's Disease, you are not able to donate. 

You are able to donate if you have Gilbert's syndrome. See Hepatitis, if applicable.

Lyme/tick-borne disease

If you have fully recovered from a tick-borne disease, such as Lyme disease, Ehrlichiosis, human anaplasmosis, or Rocky Mountain spotted fever, you will be able to donate. However, if you have chronic Lyme disease, you will not be able to donate. The other tick-borne diseases mentioned are not believed to have chronic forms in humans.

Medications

Treatment with some medications may affect your ability to donate. Most often it is not the actual drug itself but the condition requiring the medication that would determine your suitability. Some medications may prevent you from undergoing one type of donation procedure but not the other (marrow donation or PBSC donation). For example, taking a medication called lithium would prevent you from donating PBSC. If you are currently taking medication(s), you may want to contact your local donor center to discuss the medication(s) and/or underlying condition.

Organ or tissue transplant

If you have received human tissues, such as bone (including bone powder for dental procedures), ligaments, tendons, skin and corneas, you may be allowed to donate, depending on the reason for the procedure.

If you received any of the following types of transplants you will not be able to donate:

  • Human organs such as heart, lung, liver or kidney
  • Marrow or blood-forming cells
  • Xenotransplant (live tissues from animals)

Piercing (body, skin, ear)

If you have had ear or body piercing in the past year you may be able to donate if non-shared instruments were used. The use of shared non-sterile needles/instruments requires evaluation for possible signs/symptoms of infection for 12 months from the date of the piercing.

Pregnancy

Marrow or blood-forming cells cannot be collected at any time during pregnancy. If you are pregnant (or attempting to become pregnant), you must be temporarily deferred from donating until fully recovered from the delivery.

If you have been called as a possible match and are currently breastfeeding, you may want to contact your local donor center to discuss your options.

If you are currently pregnant or planning on becoming pregnant, you may want to consider donating umbilical cord blood after your baby is born. To see if this is an option at your hospital, see Where to Donate Cord Blood.

Sexually transmitted diseases

If you have or have had a sexually transmitted disease such as herpes, HPV, chlamydia or syphilis you may be able to donate. Your case will be evaluated on an individual basis.

See AID/HIV and/or Hepatitis, if applicable.

Tattoos

If you received a tattoo in the past year, your current medical status will be carefully evaluated for possible signs/symptoms of infection.

Travel/Malaria

You may be able to donate regardless of where you have traveled. If you are selected as a potential donor, recent travel to areas at risk for infections such as malaria or mad cow disease will be evaluated.

Tuberculosis (TB)

You may be able to donate if you have a history of a positive Mantoux (PPD). You may be able to donate if you have completed treatment for TB, if it has been more than 2 years, and you have a clear chest x-ray. If you have had active pulmonary tuberculosis (TB) within the last 2 years, your current health status will require careful evaluation.

Weight

A formula that measures body fat — called Body Mass Index (BMI) — is used to evaluate weight when determining your ability to donate. You may not be able to donate if your BMI (both underweight and overweight) presents a risk to your safety. See the weight guidelines when you match a patient for more information regarding upper weight limits. While we do not have a guideline table listing minimum weight criteria, if you are extremely underweight for your height, your current health status will require careful evaluation.