Blood and Marrow Transplantation

Also known as: Blood and or Marrow Transplant, Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplant

What is blood and marrow transplantation?

The Hematopoietic stem cells are the cells within the bone marrow and in smaller numbers in the blood as well, that produce new blood for the body. The blood cells include Red cells- important for energy, White cells- that protect from infection and platelets that are preventing uncontrolled bleeding.

The transplantation of blood or bone marrow is the procedure of transferring and replacing the hematopoietic stem cells. This procedure is being used for:

  • conditions where there is poor production of blood cells (such as in Aplastic Anemia)
  • conditions where there is a missing enzyme (such as in Hurler disease)
  • the production of sick cells (such in Sickle Cell Disease)
  • or when there is a disease in the bone marrow and blood (such as leukemia)

What happens during the procedure?

First, the body has to be prepared for the new Hematopoietic Stem Cells from the blood or the marrow. Upon admission, a narrow tube is placed in a large vein; this is where the stem cells will be infused at the time of the transplant. Therapy is used to destroy the existing abnormal stem cells, that also opens the space for the incoming new cells.

Then the Stem Cells for blood or marrow are being infused through the IV without surgery (similar to blood transfusion). Following the infusion there will be several weeks before the new bone marrow is working, during which you will have to stay in the hospital to monitor for possible complications.

Following recovery from the transplant, you will be discharged from the hospital, but will have to continue and be monitored by the medical team. The immune system will take a few months to recover, so you will get specific instructions regarding food, activity and exposure during the months following the transplant.

Is any special preparation needed?

A number of tests and procedures are required in order to prepare for the actual blood and marrow transplantation. This help stem cell physician to prepare the patient for the procedure, but also make personalized adjustment to each individual transplant.

What are the risk factors?

A weakened immune system, infections, stem cell rejection, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, mouth sores, skin rashes, hair loss, liver damage and other organs damage are all possible complications of blood and marrow transplantation. Patients typically have to stay in the hospital for several weeks or months to ensure that the transplant was successful.

There are specific risks that are associated with certain types of transplant. Such as patients who receive the marrow from another individual, may develop graft-versus-host disease. All those potential complications are discussed in length with you and your families. In addition, there are medications to prevent many of these potential complications.

Reviewed by: Jorge Galvez-Silva, MD

This page was last updated on: December 01, 2021 02:27 PM