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Biol Blood Marrow Transplant. 2013 Jul;19(7):1046-58. doi: 10.1016/j.bbmt.2013.04.012. Epub 2013 Apr 18.

Motivations, experiences, and perspectives of bone marrow and peripheral blood stem cell donors: thematic synthesis of qualitative studies.

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Sydney School of Public Health, University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.


Hematopoietic stem cell (HSC) transplantation using bone marrow and peripheral blood stem cells is a lifesaving treatment for patients with leukemia or other blood disorders. However, donors face the risk of physical and psychosocial complications. We aimed to synthesize qualitative studies on the experiences and perspectives of HSC donors. We searched MEDLINE, Embase, PsycINFO, CINAHL, Google Scholar, and reference lists of relevant articles to November 13, 2012. Thematic synthesis was used to analyze the findings. Thirty studies involving 1552 donors were included. The decision to donate included themes of saving life, family loyalty, building a positive identity, religious conviction, fear of invasive procedures, and social pressure and obligation. Five themes about the donation experience were identified: mental preparedness (pervasive pain, intense disappointment over recipient death, exceeding expectations, and valuing positive recipient gains), burden of responsibility (striving to be a quality donor, unresolved guilt, and exacerbated grief), feeling neglected (medical dismissiveness and family inattention), strengthened relationships (stronger family ties, establishing blood bonds), and personal sense of achievement (satisfaction and pride, personal development, hero status, and social recognition). Although HSC donation was appreciated as an opportunity to save life, some donors felt anxious and unduly compelled to donate. HSC donors became emotionally invested and felt responsible for their recipient's outcomes and were profoundly grieved and disappointed if the transplantation was unsuccessful. To maximize donor satisfaction and mitigate the psychosocial risks for HSC donors, strategies to address the emotional challenges of anxiety, sense of coercion, guilt, and grief in donors are warranted.

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