FAQs About Bone Marrow

Many people don’t know that you are able to donate bone marrow. Here we are going to answer some frequent questions people have about bone marrow.

What is bone marrow?

Bone marrow is a spongy tissue inside our bones, in places such as your thighs and hip. The reason why some people donate their bone marrow is because it contains stem cells that develop into the red blood cells that carry oxygen throughout your body and the white blood cells that are developed fight off infections that might come along the way. Some people’s marrows get destroyed due to underlying illnesses and treatments. 

How is it extracted from your bones?

A bone marrow aspiration is usually done first. They will use a syringe to pull a small liquid sample of the bone marrow cells through the needle.

 It is common to feel pressure and a pinch as the needle is pressed into your bone. You will have a pulling feeling when the marrow is removed.

The provider will remove a small, solid piece of bone marrow using a special hollow needle called a core biopsy. 

How does a bone marrow transplant work?

A bone marrow transplant takes a donor’s healthy blood-forming cells and puts them into the patient’s bloodstream, where they begin to grow and create healthy red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. 

Before this, patients receive high doses of chemotherapy to prepare their body for the transplant. Then on transplant day, the patient receives the donated cells in a process that is like getting blood or medicine through an intravenous (IV) catheter, or tube. 

What are the steps leading up to donating bone marrow?

First you would need to sign up to be a donor and will ask you some health related questions. Next would be participating in an information session and signing and consent form. Following that would be taking a physical exam and taking blood samples. Finally, if you are a match to one of the patients, you would be able to donate and save a life. 

Amanda Goh, Executive Intern