Blood and Marrow Collection Program | MedStar Health

Every year, thousands of people of all ages are diagnosed with blood cancers or other life-threatening conditions of the blood such as leukemia, lymphoma, or sickle cell anemia.  Many of them will die unless they get a stem cell transplant from a matching donor. 

Could you be that perfect match?

The Blood and Marrow Collection Program at Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center located at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital is the country’s leading bone marrow and peripheral stem cell donation center. We provide, expeditiously and in accordance with current cellular therapy regulations:

  • Personalized and comprehensive care to our patients and donors
  • Quality stem cell and marrow products to transplant patients
  • Responsiveness and flexibility to donor and transplant centers

At a glance

To date we have performed

  • More than 2,500

    allogeneic PBSC collections 

  • More than 250

    autologous PBSC collections

  • More than 4,000

    marrow collections

  • More than 30%

    of the marrow donations in the United States are collected at MedStar Health

How can I donate?

First, join the Be The Match® Registry to find out if you are a match for someone in need of a stem cell transplant. We partner with The National Marrow Donor Program® (NMDP), a nonprofit organization, and the global leader in providing stem cell transplants to patients in need. NMDP operates the Be The Match Registry, the world’s largest listing of potential marrow donors.

To join the registry, simply submit your online form. Be the Match will send you a cheek swab to self-administer and send back through the mail, postage paid. Be the Match will notify you with next steps if or when you are a match.

Why choose us? 

At MedStar Health, we are committed to serving the unique needs of stem cell and bone marrow donors, to create innovative solutions to provide timely access to collection services, and to satisfy the growing demands of patients in need of stem cell transplants. Our highly experienced and specialized team is trained to respond to the needs of patients, donors, and their transplant or donor coordinating centers.

The Blood and Marrow Collection Program is a team of healthcare professionals who only care for bone marrow and stem cell donors. We prioritize donor safety above all else. All of the individuals who care for our donors have specialized training and are dedicated to caring for the selfless volunteer donors who have agreed to give someone the hope for a cure.

The Blood and Marrow Collection Program is the nation’s leading program providing blood and marrow collection. When some marrow collection centers had to cease operations during the COVID-19 pandemic, MedStar Health increased capacity by 40% to support the continued need for life-saving blood and marrow donations. We worked closely with Be The Match to ensure plans were in place to have donors tested for COVID and results delivered in time to make quick decisions in the event of a positive result, mitigating the risk to a patient’s treatment plan. The team also acquired approval for same-day COVID testing to accommodate the special needs of donors who traveled to the area from all over the country, receiving the NMDP’s “Be There” Award in November 2021 in recognition of these efforts. The MedStar Georgetown University Hospital 7 West PACU, working with the Blood and Marrow Collection Program, also received the "Be There" Award in 2018. The BMCP received the DKMS Americas' "Delete Blood Cancer" Award in June 2014, and the NMDP's Donor Management Service Award in November 2008.

The Blood and Marrow Collection Program is affiliated with the National Marrow Donor Program® (NMDP), CW Bill Young Department of Defense Marrow Donor Program, DKMS Americas, and Gift of Life, among others.

Collection procedures 

Preliminary medical examination

If you are matched with a recipient and agree to move forward with donation, you will receive a thorough medical evaluation to ensure it is safe for you to undergo a bone marrow harvest or stem cell collection. This medical visit will include a physical examination, lab work, and sometimes imaging studies.

We schedule these evaluations in our outpatient clinic. After your assessment, you will have the opportunity to meet with a member of the medical team to discuss details of the collection procedure to understand logistics, preparation, the procedure, and the recovery period.

Peripheral blood stem cell collection

Peripheral blood stem cell collection is a non-surgical procedure that collects stem cells directly from a donor’s blood. There are 2 steps in this procedure: 1) filgrastim mobilization and 2) stem cell collection.

Stem cell mobilization using filgrastim

Mobilizing stem cells from the bone marrow, deep in the bones, into the bloodstream is done using a medication called filgrastim. Filgrastim is given to the donor for 5 days by a shot. 

  • Common side effects of filgrastim include:
  • Bone and muscle pain
  • Headaches
  • Tiredness
  • Rapid heart rate

Stem cell collection by apheresis

During the apheresis procedure, the donor’s blood is drawn out of one arm, circulated through the apheresis machine where the stem cells are separated and collected in a bag, and then the blood is returned back to the other arm of the donor. The donor will need two venous accesses and, in some cases, when the donor’s veins are small, a special apheresis catheter. The peripheral blood stem cell collection procedure can last between 3 to 7 hours. The majority of collections go smoothly, and the donor can return to the hotel or home the same day.

Bone marrow collection

Bone marrow collection is a safe and relatively quick surgical procedure where the bone marrow is collected through a series of aspirations from the posterior pelvic bone.

This procedure requires anesthesia. General anesthesia is considered the safest option for bone marrow donation. Typically, the procedure lasts between 30 to 90 minutes. For most donors, the operation goes smoothly. Once finished, a compressive bandage is applied and donors are observed by physicians and nurses during the immediate recovery period.

Following the collection, the marrow cells are filtered, placed in sterile transfusion bags, transported to the recipient, and given to the recipient intravenously like a blood transfusion.

Most donors stay in the hospital overnight but occasionally some are discharged to the hotel or home the same day. As with any other surgical procedure, there are important steps to follow in the days leading up to the donation:

How to prepare for bone marrow donation:

Iron Supplementation is recommended for most donors to prepare for the blood loss associated with bone marrow donation. Iron supplements can cause stomach upset such as nausea or constipation. It can be helpful to take the supplement with food to avoid nausea and use a stool softener as needed if constipation occurs. Do not take iron supplements if you have an inherited condition called hemochromatosis.

We recommend two pre-procedure showers. You can use Hibiclens soap to wash the low back both the night before and again the morning of your collection.  If you are unable to obtain Hibiclens soap, plain soap and water can be used to wash the low back. Do not shave the area.

Avoid aspirin and ibuprofen products for at least 10 days before the procedure to prevent bleeding complications. Remember, do not eat or drink anything by mouth after midnight before your procedure. This includes water, food, candies, gum, and medications. Do not take anything by mouth. Remove all jewelry and contact lenses including all body piercings from all parts of the body on the morning of the procedure.

Instructions for after donating 

Peripheral stem cell collection

Bone pain or generalized discomfort is common and may continue for up to a week after the procedure. Keep needle sites covered, clean, and dry for at least 24 hours. Avoid ibuprofen and all NSAIDS for at least 2 days following the procedure, as these can interfere with the blood’s ability to clot and increase the risk of bleeding. While light activities may be resumed 90 minutes after donation, donors may experience light-headedness or dizziness after donating. If this occurs, donors are encouraged to immediately lie down and elevate their feet above the head by resting them on a cushion or chair.

Contact our clinic during working hours on weekdays at 202-444-7253 or page the on-call physician 202-444-7243 with any of the following symptoms which may be an indication of a more serious complication: Temperature of 100.5 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, muscle weakness, swollen lymph nodes or severe headache, severe skin rash, abdominal pain, inflammation of the eyes, increased redness, bleeding, swelling or pain at the needle sites within two weeks of donation.

Bone marrow collection

The recovery period after a bone marrow collection is 2 to 4 weeks. During this convalescent period, donors will experience soreness or pain at the incision sites which will improve over time. It is important to refrain from taking aspirin and all NSAIDS for 3 days following the procedure. These medications may interfere with the blood’s ability to clot and increase the risk of bleeding. Stiffness is also to be expected at the posterior pelvic and lumbar area, and is related to swelling on the procedure sites that takes place before the healing. Intermittent application of ice packs on the site is encouraged for the first 3 days. In addition, donors are encouraged to change body positions, stretch, and move about soon after the procedure. After the first 3 days, warmth can be applied in the area for increased comfort.

It is important to look at the incision sites every day to monitor for bleeding or an increase in redness. Some bruising is normal. In order to recover properly, it is advised to avoid strenuous activity, including running or jogging for two weeks after the procedure. Additionally, donors should not lift more than 20 pounds for two weeks. After two weeks, donors may gradually return to their normal activities as they feel comfortable doing so. Donors are encouraged to start walking as early as the day of collection to aid recovery.

Contact our clinic during working hours on weekdays at 202-444-7253 or page the on-call physician 202-444-7243 with any of the following symptoms, which may be an indication of a more serious complication: Temperature of 100.5 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, severe pain, numbness or tingling in the lower extremities, change in consciousness, severe headache within two weeks of donation or increased redness, bleeding, swelling, or drainage at the incision site.

Our team

  • Catherine Broome, MD Medical/Facility Director (Apheresis)

    Catherine Broome
  • Wolfgang Rennert, PhD, MD Medical Director (Marrow)

    Wolfgang Rennert
  • Gary Bernard DiNardo, MSHSA, BSN, RN Program Manager

    Gary DiNardo
  • Katie Cormier, FNP-C Nurse Practitioner

    Katie Cormier
  • Jenna Smith, FNP-BC Nurse Practitioner

    Jenna Smith
  • Monica Roberts, Scheduling Coordinator

  • Sam Sprott, MPA Data Manager

    Samantha Sprott
  • Keith Jackson, MA Medical Technician

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