Thursday, 18 Aug 2022

With radically improved pain control, bone marrow donors can gift stem cells without worry of undue side effects or opioid use

Sharing gifts is a favorite way to sustain connection across peoples and cultures worldwide, but with bone marrow donation the gift-giving act is accompanied by uncomfortable side effects to the donor, making it a truly selfless expression of kindness. Recognizing this good will and wanting to improve the donor experience, Nicole McCoy, M.D., an anesthesiologist at MUSC, started looking for a new way to manage pain during and after the harvest procedure.

In a recent article published in Frontiers in Medicine, she and her colleagues describe a pain control method that has revolutionized the experience for donors and slashed the need for opioids.

“We were able to really decrease the amount of IV pain medicine we gave in the operation as well as IV and oral pain medicine that we gave in the recovery room,” McCoy said. “And it came down to almost zero.”

Bone marrow transplant can be a lifesaver for patients with cancers like leukemia or lymphoma or for people with certain blood or immune system diseases, but it still relies on collection of stem cells from the patient or a donor, either related or unrelated.

And while stem cells can be collected from the blood or the bone marrow, oncologists may prefer the bone marrow option because it decreases the risk of a dangerous complication called graft-versus-host disease.

McCoy and her colleagues believed that improved pain management would mean a better experience for donors and might lead to more willingness to donate among other people who were previously fearful of the pain.

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