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Peripheral Blood Stem Cell (PBSC) Donation

Douglas Mbang donating stem cells

To help you know what to expect when donating your stem cells via the PBSC method, this page has the key things to remember, including: 

If you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to contact your Donor Provision Coordinator at Anthony Nolan.  

What is 'PBSC'? 

Peripheral blood stem cells (PBSC) are blood stem cells that can be collected straight from the blood stream. This method is used 90% of the time. 

How does the donation work? 

As our donation animation shows, donating your stem cells via PBSC is very straightforward. Here are the steps you can expect: 

Injections before your donation 

You will receive a course of GCSF injections in the four days leading up to your donation date. G-CSF injections are a synthetic version of a naturally made growth factor. They are given before you donate to boost the amount of stem cells produced in the bone marrow and to release stem cells into the bloodstream ready to collect. The GCSF can make you feel a bit run down, with the most common side effects being bone and muscle aches, back pain, fatigue, fever and headache. Your symptoms will dissipate quite quickly after donation, but we recommend to still take it easy for a few days post-donation. Read our complete guide to G-CSF injections.

You may also choose to self-administer your G-CSF injections.

If you need any more information, please contact your coordinator. 

How long does the donation take? 

All PBSC donations are scheduled to take place over two consecutive days. This is to make sure we can collect enough stem cells for the patient, which may take two donations.  

The donation itself lasts four or five hours, plus an hour afterwards where the hospital’s lab will process and count the stem cells before letting you know if they’ve collected enough. 

It is common for the process to only require one day on the machines however this is not a guarantee and you will be asked to return the following day if not enough cells are collected. If more cells are needed, you will be given one last GCSF injection and asked to stay in a local hotel overnight, before returning the next day to donate again.  

What happens when you donate? 

PBSC donation is a common procedure. It happens on an outpatient ward, and a nurse will be available to support you during your donation.

During the 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 along with some plasma, which the cells are suspended in, and collected in a special bag. The red blood cells and remaining plasma are then put back into your bloodstream through the second needle. You’ll be asked to stay fairly still throughout the whole process.  

What to expect after your donation: 

After you have donated our donor follow-up team will contact you to provide our post donation care and ensure you have a full recovery, to find out more about this, please view our post donation care advice page

Real life donor stories 

Donor Niraj - PBSC

The donation was really straightforward. Anthony Nolan organised everything and the hospital staff were ever so friendly. It was weird to be hooked up to the machine for four hours, but I was well fed and watered and managed to read a book. I just sat there whilst the machine did its thing!

Donor Georgia - PBSC

The donating itself was mostly painless, I spent 5 hours browsing Facebook and playing games, and sharing pictures of animals with the nurses! I'd been pretty achey/mopey with the pre donation injections, but luckily that mostly subsided after I donated.

Donor Francis - PBSC

The Anthony Nolan team were so reassuring and helpful throughout. I don’t think anyone gets particularly excited about being in a hospital for five hours and having a couple of needles stuck into you, but you just remind yourself why you are doing this... you are going to potentially save someone’s life, and the rest just kind of happens.


You can read more donor stories on our blog.

Organising your donation and medical 

Your Donor Provision Coordinator will arrange everything for your donation and medical, including transport and accommodation.  

When will you donate? 

Your coordinator will let you know the dates the patient’s hospital have requested in line with the patient’s treatment. These requested dates are what is ideal for the hospital, but they’re not set in stone and can be moved to suit your availability too.  

You’ll be booked in at the Collection Centre in the weeks leading up to your donation for your medical, and two consecutive days for your donation. 

Your medical and donation will happen at the same collection centre, with the medical usually being 2-4 weeks before the donation. The medical should take around 2-3 hours, during which time you will have an ECG, a COVID test, a blood draw and be asked to provide a urine sample. You will also be counselled for the procedure, be asked about your general health, any family health history and be asked to sign the consent forms. 

If you have any questions, please contact your coordinator. 

Where do you donate? 

We try and find the most convenient Collection Centre for where you live, and your Donor Provision Coordinator will chat through the locations that are available for the proposed dates. 

We currently have Collection Centres in London, at the London Clinic in Marylebone, UCH in Euston and King’s in south London, as well as in Sheffield, Manchester and Oxford.  

Please note: We cannot guarantee a booking at your preferred hospital.

Travelling to your donation 

We cover all travel costs for you and a companion. We can also provide a hotel close to the Collection Centre if you have to travel a long distance. Any travel or food costs you have can be reimbursed in line with our policy. Find out more about our donor expenses.

Donating during Covid-19 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, we are taking extra precautions to make sure we keep our donors safe, and we ask that you do the same to ensure the donation can go ahead. Where possible, we will ask you to follow comprehensive social distancing guidelines in the 10 days prior to your donation.

You will be tested for COVID-19 and during these restrictive times, you unfortunately will not be allowed to bring a companion into the Collection Centre. This is for safety reasons.

For more information on donating during COVID-19 please contact your coordinator. 

Being asked to donate again

After donating PBSC you may be asked to consider donating a different kind of white blood cell called lymphocytes.  This happens in approximately 10% of cases and it could be months or years after your donation, but it is usually within the first year.