Peripheral Blood Stem Cell Harvesting

What you should know

  • Stem cells are important cells because they can divide and change into many different types of cells that your body needs. Blood stem cells can be used to treat certain types of cancer and other diseases. Peripheral blood stem cell harvesting is a procedure that removes stem cells from your blood. You will be connected to a machine by tubes that enter your blood vessels. Your blood will run through this machine and back into your body. During this process, your stem cells will be pulled out of the blood.

  • After harvesting the stem cells, they can be put back into your body or given to someone else. When your healthy stem cells are given to a person with a disease, they will become more healthy and may even be cured of their disease. If your stems cells are being harvested for your own use, you will get treatment for your disease after harvesting. Once this treatment is complete, your stem cells will be put back in your body. Ask your caregiver for more information about stem cell transplant.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.


  • Before harvesting, the medicine that you take may cause body aches, bone pain, or headaches. You may be tired during the day, feel sick to your stomach, or have trouble sleeping at night. There have been very rare reports of the medicine causing serious problems. These problems include your spleen (an organ in your abdomen) bursting and blood clots forming in your blood vessels.

  • During harvesting, you may feel tingling in your fingers or around your mouth. Let your caregiver know if this happens. You may have chills, feel shaky, or be nauseated during harvesting. You may also feel uncomfortable because of the IV or central line. If you are going to have a central line inserted, ask your caregiver about any additional risks this procedure has.

  • After harvesting, you may feel tired and not have much energy. This may last for a few days. The amount of platelets in your blood may become low after harvesting. Platelets help you stop bleeding if you are cut. You may bleed more easily if your platelets are low. If more stem cells are needed, blood stem cell harvesting may need to be done a second time.

Getting Ready

Before your procedure:

  • Ask your caregiver if you need to stop using aspirin or any other prescribed or over-the-counter medicine before your procedure or surgery.

  • Bring your medicine bottles or a list of your medicines when you see your caregiver. Tell your caregiver if you are allergic to any medicine. Tell your caregiver if you use any herbs, food supplements, or over-the-counter medicine.

  • Your caregiver will examine you and ask about your health history. Caregivers will take a sample of your blood to check your blood type and count your blood cells. You also may need to have an x-ray, electrocardiogram (ECG), or ultrasound. These tests are done to check if you are healthy enough to donate your stem cells. If you are female, caregivers may take a sample of your blood or urine to check if you are pregnant. Tell your caregiver if you know or think that you may be pregnant. Ask your caregiver for more information about the tests you may need before harvesting. Write down the date, time, and location of each test.

  • Before harvesting, you will take medicine to increase the number of stem cells in your blood. You will have an injection (shot) of this medicine each day for about five days before your blood stem cells are harvested. You also may be given medicine to decrease pain and nausea (feeling sick to your stomach).

The night before your procedure:

  • Ask caregivers about directions for eating and drinking.

The day of your procedure:

  • Write down the correct date, time, and location of your procedure.

  • You or a close family member will be asked to sign a legal document called a consent form. It gives caregivers permission to do the procedure or surgery. It also explains the problems that may happen, and your choices. Make sure all your questions are answered before you sign this form.

  • Caregivers will test your blood to make sure you have enough stem cells to donate.


What will happen:

  • You will be taken to the room where the harvesting will be done. Caregivers will insert intravenous (IV) tubes or a central line into your body. An IV is a tube that is put into a vein. The vein is usually in your arm. A central line is a tube put into a large blood vessel near your collarbone, neck, or groin. You will be given medicine to help make you comfortable during harvesting. The end of the IV or central line is attached to a machine. A small amount of blood leaves your body through the tubing, and goes into the machine.

  • The machine removes stem cells from your blood. The rest of your blood is given back to you through another IV tube. Tell caregivers if you feel tingling in your hands or mouth, or any pain during the procedure. You may need to have stem cell harvesting done for 3 to 5 hours each day, for 1 to 3 days. After your stem cells are collected, they will be checked to make sure they are healthy. Stem cells can be used right away, or they may be frozen and used later. If the stem cells are being harvested for your own use, they can be frozen and stored until you need them.

After your procedure:

You will be taken to a room to rest. Do not get out of bed until caregivers say it is okay. After caregivers see that you are okay, you may be able to go home. If you are staying in the hospital, you will be taken to your room.

Waiting area:

This is an area where your family and friends can wait until you are able to have visitors. Ask your visitors to provide a way to reach them if they leave the waiting area.

Contact a caregiver if

  • You cannot make it to your procedure.

  • You have a fever.

  • Your bones and muscles become too painful due to the medicine before harvesting.

  • You feel sick to your stomach or you throw up and need medication to feel better.

Seek Care Immediately if

  • You feel dizzy or lightheaded, or you faint at any time.

  • You have severe (very bad) abdominal pain before your procedure.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.