A bone marrow transplant is a procedure to replace damaged or destroyed bone marrow with healthy bone marrow stem cells.
Bone marrow is the soft, fatty tissue inside your bones. The bone marrow produces blood cells. Stem cells are immature cells in the bone marrow that give rise to all of your different blood cells.
Transplant - bone marrow; Stem cell transplant; Hematopoietic stem cell transplant; Reduced intensity nonmyeloablative transplant; Mini transplant; Allogenic bone marrow transplant; Autologous bone marrow transplant; Umbilical cord blood transplant; Aplastic anemia - bone marrow transplant; Leukemia - bone marrow transplant; Lymphoma - bone marrow transplant; Multiple myeloma - bone marrow transplant
Before the transplant, chemotherapy, radiation, or both may be given. This may be done in two ways:
There are three kinds of bone marrow transplants:
A stem cell transplant is usually done after chemotherapy and radiation is complete. The stem cells are delivered into your bloodstream, usually through a tube called a central venous catheter. The process is similar to getting a blood transfusion. The stem cells travel through the blood into the bone marrow.
Donor stem cells can be collected in two ways:
A bone marrow transplant replaces bone marrow that is either not working properly or has been destroyed (ablated) by chemotherapy or radiation. Doctors believe that for many cancers, the donor's white blood cells may attack any remaining cancer cells, similar to when white cells attack bacteria or viruses when fighting an infection.
Your health care provider may recommend a bone marrow transplant if you have:
A bone marrow transplant may cause the following symptoms:
Possible complications of a bone marrow transplant depend on many things, including:
Complications may include:
Your provider will ask about your medical history and do a physical exam. You will have many tests before treatment begins.
Before transplant, you will have 1 or 2 tubes, called central venous catheters, inserted into a blood vessel in your neck or arms. This tube allows you to receive treatments, fluids, and sometimes nutrition. It is also used to draw blood.
Your provider will likely discuss the emotional stress of having a bone marrow transplant. You may want to meet with a counselor. It is important to talk to your family and children to help them understand what to expect.
You will need to make plans to help you prepare for the procedure and handle tasks after your transplant:
A bone marrow transplant is usually done in a hospital or medical center that specializes in such treatment. Most of the time, you stay in a special bone marrow transplant unit in the center. This is to limit your chance of getting an infection.
Depending on the treatment and where it is done, all or part of an autologous or allogeneic transplant may be done as an outpatient. This means you do not have to stay in the hospital overnight.
How long you stay in the hospital depends on:
While you are in the hospital:
After you leave the hospital, be sure to follow instructions on how to care for yourself at home.
How well you do after the transplant depends on:
A bone marrow transplant may completely or partially cure your illness. If the transplant is a success, you can go back to most of your normal activities as soon as you feel well enough. Usually it takes up to 1 year to recover fully, depending on what complications occur.
Complications or failure of the bone marrow transplant can lead to death.
Published Date: January 25, 2022
Published By: Todd Gersten, MD, Hematology/Oncology, Florida Cancer Specialists & Research Institute, Wellington, FL. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
American Society of Clinical Oncology website. What is a bone marrow transplant (stem cell transplant)? www.cancer.net/navigating-cancer-care/how-cancer-treated/bone-marrowstem-cell-transplantation/what-bone-marrow-transplant-stem-cell-transplant. Updated July 2020. Accessed June 10, 2022.
Heslop HE. Overview and choice of donor of hematopoietic stem cell transplantation. In: Hoffman R, Benz EJ, Silberstein LE, et al, eds. Hematology: Basic Principles and Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 103.
Im A, Pavletic SZ. Hematopoietic stem cell transplantation. In: Niederhuber JE, Armitage JO, Kastan MB, Doroshow JH, Tepper JE, eds. Abeloff's Clinical Oncology. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 28.