What you can expect

During your bone marrow transplant

Your bone marrow transplant occurs after you complete the conditioning process. On the day of your transplant, called day zero, stem cells are infused into your body through your central line.

The transplant infusion is painless. You are awake during the procedure.

The transplanted stem cells make their way to your bone marrow, where they begin creating new blood cells. It can take a few weeks for new blood cells to be produced and for your blood counts to begin recovering.

Bone marrow or blood stem cells that have been frozen and thawed contain a preservative that protects the cells. Just before the transplant, you may receive medications to reduce the side effects the preservative may cause. You'll also likely be given IV fluids (hydration) before and after your transplant to help rid your body of the preservative.

Side effects of the preservative may include:

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Shortness of breath
  • A strange taste in your mouth as the preservative is infused

Not everyone experiences side effects from the preservative, and for some people those side effects are minimal.

After your bone marrow transplant

When the new stem cells enter your body, they begin to travel through your body and to your bone marrow. In time, they multiply and begin to make new, healthy blood cells. This is called engraftment. It usually takes several weeks before the number of blood cells in your body starts to return to normal. In some people, it may take longer.

In the days and weeks after your bone marrow transplant, you'll have blood tests and other tests to monitor your condition. You may need medicine to manage complications, such as nausea and diarrhea.

After your bone marrow transplant, you'll remain under close medical care. If you're experiencing infections or other complications, you may need to stay in the hospital for several days or sometimes longer. Depending on the type of transplant and the risk of complications, you'll need to remain near the hospital for several weeks to months to allow close monitoring.

You may also need periodic transfusions of red blood cells and platelets until your bone marrow begins producing enough of those cells on its own.

You may be at greater risk of infections or other complications for months to years after your transplant.

Oct. 13, 2016
References
  1. AskMayoExpert. Hematopoietic stem cell transplant. Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2015.
  2. Hoffman R, et al. Overview of hematopoietic stem cell transplantation. In: Hematology: Basic Principles and Practice. 6th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2013. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed July 8, 2016.
  3. Blood-forming stem cell transplants. National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/types/stem-cell-transplant/stem-cell-fact-sheet. Accessed July 8, 2016.
  4. Majhail NS, et al. Recommended screening and preventive practices for long-term survivors after hematopoietic cell transplantation. Biology of Blood and Marrow Transplantation. 2012;18:348.
  5. Diseases treatable by transplants. National Marrow Donor Program. https://bethematch.org/transplant-basics/how-transplants-work/diseases-treatable-by-transplants/. Accessed July 8, 2016.
  6. AskMayoExpert. Graft-versus-host disease. Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2014.
  7. Blood and marrow stem cell transplantation. Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. http://www.lls.org/resource-center/download-or-order-free-publications. Accessed July 8, 2016.
  8. Barbara Woodward Lips Patient Education Center. Autologous stem cell transplant. Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2014.
  9. Riggin EA. Allscripts EPSi. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. July 20, 2016.