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Peripheral blood stem cell (PBSC) donation is one of two methods of collecting blood-forming cells for bone marrow transplants. The same blood-forming cells that are found in bone marrow are also found in the circulating (peripheral) blood.

PBSC donation is a nonsurgical procedure, called apheresis. The donation takes place at an experienced blood center or outpatient hospital facility that participates in PBSC collections for NMDP.

Jeff, PBSC donor

For 5 days leading up to your PBSC donation, you will be given injections of a drug called filgrastim to increase the number of blood-forming cells (also called blood stem cells) in your bloodstream.

On the day of your PBSC donation, your blood is removed through a needle in one arm and passed through a machine that will collect only the blood-forming cells. The remaining blood is returned to you through a needle in the other arm. This process is similar to what is used when donating blood platelets.

90% of all PBSC donations are completed in 1 apheresis session, which may take up to 8 hours. The remaining 10% of the donations are completed in 2 apheresis sessions, which will take 4 to 6 hours each.

Possible side effects and recovery with PBSC donation

Jeff, peripheral blood stem cell (PBSC) donor, explains the donation process.

You may experience headaches, or bone or muscle aches, for several days before PBSC donation. These are side effects of the filgrastim injections and will go away shortly after your PBSC donation.

While recovery times vary depending on the individual, most PBSC donors report a full recovery within 7 to 10 days of donation. We will follow up with you until you report a full recovery.

Recovery after PBSC donation - 22% of donors fully recover 2 days after donation, 53% of donors fully recover 7 days after donation, 93% of donors fully recover 30 days after donation, 99% of donors fully recover 180 days after donation, >99% of donors fully recover 1 year after donation. The median time to full recovery for a PBSC donation is 1 week (7 days).

Learn more about what happens after donation.