Bone marrow is a soft, fatty tissue found inside the bones. Bone marrow is comprised of stem cells that give rise to red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.
In bone marrow transplant, a sick person will receive healthy stem cells from a donor, which is usually a family member of the sick person (ie, a parent or a sibling), or the donor can be a non-family member.
Bone marrow transplant has 3 types, namely:
1. Autologous bone marrow transplant – As the word "Auto" indicates, stem cells are usually taken from the patient himself. Bone marrow is harvested first before the patient undergoes chemotherapy.
2. Allogenic bone marrow transplant – In this type of transplant, the stem cells are harvested from the blood of a family member that matches with the patient. Aside from a family member, it can also be from a donor who is not related to the patient. "Allo" means others.
3. Umbilical cord blood transplant – Stems cells are harvested right after delivery of an infant. The stems cells are counted, typed, and frozen until they become needed for transplant.
Why is it Performed?
Bone marrow transplant is performed as treatment for patients with cancer like leukemia, multiple myeloma, and other conditions like sickle cell anemia, thalassemia, and aplastic anemia.
Symptoms During and After the Procedure
During the transplant, the patient receiving the stem cells may have symptoms like pain, fever, hives, chest pain, chills, nausea, low blood pressure, and headache. But these symptoms slowly fade after the transplant is done.
After the procedure is done, they will be hospitalized for about 4 to 6 weeks. During these days, they will be isolated and closely monitored for complications like increased risk for infection, pain, anemia, bleeding, nausea, vomiting, and damage to kidneys, liver and heart.
Aside from that, the patient is also monitored for:
- graft failure, which means that the stem cells transplanted are not settling down in the body to produce new stem cells.
- graft versus host disease (GVHD), which means that the donor's stem cells attack the patient's own body. Symptoms of this kind of disease include skin rash, abnormal liver test, dry mouth and eyes, and scarring in the lungs.
Along with the physical discomfort that patients experience in bone marrow transplant, they also undergo emotional and psychological discomforts. Most patients will feel helplessness because of the condition they have and the anticipation of the procedure. In times like these, it is important for them to have support groups, especially from their families.
The usual result of bone marrow transplant is complete cure of the illness, partial cure, or death. Death may occur due to complications of the procedure. If the transplant is a success, the patient can go back to his/her normal life activities. Mostly, it takes 12 months to recover from the transplant and the disease.