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:
- How PBSC donation works and how long it takes
- Real life donor stories
- How and where your donation is organised
- What if you need a central line?
- Precautions to take ahead of your donation
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 when donating for a patient.
In research, PBSC are used to understand how the human immune system works, and what happens when it goes wrong. These cells are special as they can turn into all other cells in the blood. This makes them a valuable source of information about how the immune system develops.
Using this knowledge, researchers can develop new innovative treatments for life-threatening conditions which were previously difficult to treat If you are donating for research you can find out more about the specific research study you've been invited to take part in by reading the study information sheet sent to you, and ask your Coordinator if you have any questions
How does the donation work?
As our donation animation shows, donating your stem cells via PBSC to a patient 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 or research study, 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 apheresis 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 donation so when you need to use the toilet you'll need to flag a nurse to assist you. Due to the location of the needles this will have to happen bedside with the necessary steps taken to assure your privacy.
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
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 or when the researchers have requested the donation to take place. 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.
Precautions to take ahead of your donation
- Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)
If you’re sexually active, particularly with a new partner or more than one partners, please take extra precautions to prevent any risk of contracting an STI.
If you become sexually active with a new partner in between your medical and donation, please inform us.
If an undiagnosed infection is transmitted to the patient or research cells it could have serious consequences. The NHS has lots of advice on safer sex: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/sexual-health/sex-activities-and-risk/
If you’re sexually active, please use a reliable form of contraception until after your donation. Pregnant donors are not able to go ahead with their donation as this could be a risk to the baby.
- A note on Hep E
Over the last few years there has been a rise in the number of people acquiring Hepatitis E in the UK. Most healthy people are symptomless, and the infection clears by itself, but it can be very risky if transmitted to a patient or research cells.
The most common way for people to catch Hepatitis E is through eating raw or undercooked meat (especially pork products) and shellfish, so from now until after your donation, please be very careful with what you eat.
COVID-19 is a continued risk so where possible we ask you to please take precautions to minimise your exposure. In the lead up to your donation it’s important that you let me know if you test positive, or if you have close contact with someone who tests positive for COVID-19.
Being asked to donate again
After donating PBSC you may be asked to consider donating a second time to the patient. 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. You could be asked to donate PBSC again or via a different kind of white blood cell called lymphocytes.
You will not be asked to donate for research more than once but you could still be asked to donate to a patient if you later come up as a match for someone.