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Your lymphocyte donation via Apheresis

Donor Kirsty - PBSC

To help you know what to expect when donating your lymphocytes, 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 a lymphocyte donation?

Lymphocytes are the white blood cells found naturally in your blood stream. They are usually donated when a patient needs a top-up of these cells after their stem cell transplant – it’s known as a ‘DLI’ or ‘DLC’ and happens in about 15% of patients. This could be part of the original treatment plan, or it could happen if your recipient’s disease returns and their body needs an extra boost.   

How does the donation work?

Donating lymphocytes is very similar to peripheral blood stem cell (PBSC) donation. However there are some key differences. Here are the steps you can expect:

What to expect before your donation: 

You will still need a medical before your donation to ensure you’re healthy, but you may not need to have all the tests repeated as some of them may still be valid from your first donation. 

You will not need any G-CSF injections. This is because we are taking the cells that are already naturally circulating in your bloodstream and don’t need to stimulate more.  

What happens when you donate: 

Donating lymphocytes is a common procedure and takes around 4-5 hours. 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 lymphocytes 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

Will you be asked to donate again? 

It’s very unlikely you’ll be asked to donate again, although it has happened before. We want to remind you that you are under no obligation to do so, and we are very grateful for everything you’ve already done. 

Often the amount collected from this donation is more than enough for the patient, and so their hospital may cryopreserve a portion to use if the patient needs them again in the future. 

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 one day for your lymphocyte donation. You can find out more about what to expect at your medical here. 

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 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 with you. This is for safety reasons.

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

Resources for the donor journey