Bone marrow is a soft, spongy tissue found within some bones, including those in the hips and thighs. A transplant that replaces infected cells with healthy cells, possibly from a donor, is beneficial to people with certain blood-related disorders. Stem cells are special cells that can make copies of themselves and change into the different types of cells that your body needs. There are several types of stem cells and they are found in different parts of the body at different times.
What is a Bone marrow transplant?
A bone marrow transplant is a medical procedure done to replace bone marrow that has been damaged or destroyed by disease, infection, or chemotherapy. This procedure involves the transplantation of blood stem cells, which travel to the bone marrow, where they produce new blood cells and promote the growth of new marrow. When hematopoietic stem cells are damaged, they may not turn into red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. These blood cells are very important and each has a different function:
Red blood cells carry oxygen throughout the body. They also carry carbon dioxide into your lungs so you can breathe it out.
Your immune system is made up of white blood cells. They fight pathogens, which are viruses and bacteria that can make you sick.
Platelets form clots to stop bleeding.
A bone marrow/stem cell transplant is a medical procedure in which healthy stem cells are transplanted into the bone marrow or blood. Your body's capacity to produce red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets is restored as a result of this
Why is a Bone marrow transplant performed?
You may need a transplant if you have:
- Acute or chronic leukemia
- Hodgkin's lymphoma or non-Hodgkin's
- Waldenstrom's macroglobulinemia
- Multiple myeloma
- Aplastic anemia
- Myeloproliferative disorders
- Germ cell tumors
- Some autoimmune diseases like lupus.
- Cancer treatments, such as high-dose chemotherapy or radiation.
Bone marrow transplant Procedure
It will start with a process called conditioning. This usually involves a high dose of chemotherapy, perhaps radiation, for about 10 days. It is different for everyone and is based on your general health and the condition you are treating. Conditioning leaves room for new cells to grow in the bone marrow. It also briefly weakens your immune system to prevent your body from fighting off the new cells.
Side effects of conditioning can include:
- Mouth ulcers
- Nausea and vomiting
- Eating problems
- Hair loss
- Breathing or lung problems
- Premature menopause
- Fertility problems
A bone marrow transplant is not surgery. It is similar to a blood transfusion.
If a donor is involved, they will provide the stem cells well before the procedure. If the transplant involves the person's cells, the healthcare facility will keep the cells in storage.
The transplant is usually done in several sessions over several days. The integration of cells is staggered in this manner to allow them the greatest chance of interacting with the rest of the system.
The healthcare team may also use the tube to introduce fluids such as blood, nutrients, and medications to help fight infection or stimulate bone marrow growth.
The procedure will temporarily compromise the person's immune system, making them highly susceptible to infection. Most hospitals have a dedicated, isolated space for people undergoing bone marrow transplants to help reduce the risk of infection.
Recovery after Bone Marrow Transplant
The success of a bone marrow transplant depends mainly on the degree of genetic compatibility between the donor and the recipient. Sometimes it can be very difficult to find a good match between unrelated donors. The typical recovery time for a bone marrow transplant is about three months. However, it can take up to a year for you to fully recover. Recovery depends on many factors, including:
- The condition being treated
- compatible donor
- where the transplant is performed
- There is a chance that some of the symptoms you experience after transplant will stay with you for the rest of your life.
Risks of Bone Marrow Transplant
A bone marrow transplant has many risks. Some people experience minimal problems with a bone marrow transplant, while others may have serious complications that require treatment or hospitalization. Sometimes complications are life-threatening. Your particular risks depend on many factors, including the disease or condition that caused you to need a transplant, the type of transplant, and your age and general health.
Possible complications of a bone marrow transplant include:
- Graft versus host disease (allogeneic transplant only)
- Stem cell (graft) failure
- Organ damage
- New cancers
Your doctor can explain your risk for complications from a bone marrow transplant. Together you can weigh the risks and benefits to decide if a bone marrow transplant is right for you.
A bone marrow transplant is an important medical procedure that requires preparation. This involves determining the best type of transplant, finding a donor, if necessary, and preparing for an extended stay in the hospital.
The time it takes for the body to recover from a transplant varies depending on factors such as the person's age and general health and the reason for the transplant.