Peripheral Blood Stem Cell Harvesting

What is peripheral blood stem cell harvesting?

  • 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.

Why should I have my blood stem cells harvested?

Healthy blood stem cells are needed to treat people with certain diseases. Often times, the only way to collect healthy blood stem cells is through donation from people like you. A person may need blood stem cells to replace cells destroyed by treatments for cancer. Blood stem cells also may be needed to treat immune system problems or blood diseases.

How do I donate my blood stem cells?

You may volunteer (ask) to be a donor through a stem cell or bone marrow bank. In a stem cell bank, a sample of your blood is tested and the results are kept on file. If someone who needs a transplant is a match, you will be asked to donate stem cells. A match means that your cells are like the cells in the body of the person who needs them.

What tests may I need before peripheral blood stem cell harvesting?

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 may need to have an x-ray, electrocardiogram (ECG), or ultrasound. These tests show caregivers 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.

What medicine do I need to have before peripheral blood stem cell harvesting?

Before harvesting, you will receive medicine to increase the number of stem cells in your blood. This medicine will be given by injection (shots) for about five days before stem cell harvesting. While receiving these injections, your muscles and bones may become painful. You may also need to take medicine to decrease nausea (feeling sick to your stomach) and pain.

What happens during peripheral blood stem cell harvesting?

  • Caregivers will insert intravenous (IV) tubes or a central line into your body. An IV is a tube that is put into a vein, 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 the 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.

What are the risks of peripheral blood stem cell harvesting?

  • 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 are cells that help you stop bleeding when you get hurt and bleed. 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.

Where can I find support and more information?

Stem cell harvesting can be stressful. You may feel worried or depressed (very sad). You may feel guilty if your stem cells do not help someone else. These feelings are normal. Talk to caregivers, friends, or family about your feelings. Contact the following:

  • National Marrow Donor Program
    3001 Broadway Street NE, Suite 100
    Minneapolis , MN 55413-1753
    Phone: 1- 888 - 999-6743
    Web Address:
  • Blood and Marrow Transplant Information Network, BMT InfoNet
    2310 Skokie Valley Road, Suite 104
    Highland Park , IL 60035
    Phone: 1- 888 - 597-7674
    Web Address:

When should I call my caregiver?

Call your caregiver if:

  • You cannot make it to your procedure.

  • You have a fever.

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

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

When should I seek immediate care?

Seek immediate care or call 911 if:

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

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

  • Your fingers or the area around your mouth are tingling after your procedure.

  • You have any new trouble with your breathing after your procedure.

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. 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.

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