Bone marrow donation and potential side effects

November 12, 2012

Bone marrow donation and potential side effects

Bone marrow donation is needed to transplant healthy blood cells into a patient suffering from a blood disorder. It is a safe procedure but does come with some potential side effects.


A bone marrow donation is an important procedure, which has the potential to save another individual’s life. Blood disorders such as leukaemia affect the blood cells and in some cases the only effective treatment is to replace these blood cells with new healthy ones that have been taken from another individual. It is surgical procedure that is performed in hospital and is considered to be safe. However as with all forms of surgery there are some potential side effects of undergoing such a procedure.


Bone marrow donation can be a painful procedure and the surgery is performed under either general or regional anaesthesia. If regional it may be spinal or epidural. Anaesthesia, taken at any time or for any procedure poses some risks. Such risks and potential side effects or complications include:

  • Drowsiness (in the days following the procedure)

  • Weakness (in the days following the procedure)

  • Abdominal pain

  • Pain located in the back or upper legs

  • Vomiting with spots of blood or a black substance

  • Fever

  • Severe headaches

  • Severe Nausea

  • Loss of appetite

  • Paleness to the skin

  • Shivering

  • Nightmares

  • Blurred vision

Additionally when put under general anaesthesia there is always a low risk of death. Approximately 75 percent of bone marrow donation surgeries are done under general anaesthetic.

Donation Site

Bone marrow donation requires a hollow needle to be inserted into the bone in order to withdraw blood cells. This needs usually enters into the back of the pelvic bones. A side effect relating to the procedure itself is soreness and tenderness at the location that the needle entered. This can last for a few days after the procedure and there is also the possibility of bleeding at the donation site.

Expected side effects and long-term side effects

Most people who have undergone bone marrow donation surgery are able to go home by the following day. There are some side effects which should be expected but rarely require any medical intervention. For example fatigue, pain in the lower back and stiffness when walking. This pain and stiffness can last up to several weeks. Long-term side effects are rare but approximately 1 in 100 donors will experience damage to a bone, muscle or nerve around the site of donation.

Category: Articles