How you prepare

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Pre-transplant tests and procedures

You'll undergo a series of tests and procedures to assess your health and the status of your condition, and to ensure that you're physically prepared for the transplant.

In addition, a surgeon or radiologist will implant a long thin tube (intravenous catheter) in your chest near your neck.

The catheter, often called a central line, usually remains in place for the duration of your treatment. Your doctors will use the central line to infuse the transplanted stem cells and other medications and blood products into your body.

The conditioning process

After you complete your pre-transplant tests and procedures, you begin a process known as conditioning. During conditioning, you'll undergo chemotherapy and possibly radiation to:

  • Destroy cancer cells
  • Suppress your immune system so that your body doesn't reject the transplanted stem cells

The type of conditioning process you'll be given depends on a number of factors, including your disease, overall health and the type of transplant planned.

You may have both chemotherapy and radiation or just one of these treatments as part of your conditioning treatment.

Side effects of the conditioning process can include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Hair loss
  • Mouth sores or ulcers
  • Infections, such as pneumonia
  • Bleeding
  • Infertility or sterility
  • Anemia
  • Fatigue
  • Cataracts
  • Organ complications, such as heart, liver or lung failure
  • New cancers

You may be able to take medications or other measures to reduce such side effects.

Mini stem cell transplants

A mini stem cell transplant, also called reduced-intensity conditioning or a nonmyeloablative (non-my-uh-loh-ab-LAY-tive) transplant, is a type of allogeneic transplant that involves a less intense conditioning option.

Reduced-intensity conditioning, which includes lower doses of chemotherapy and radiation, kills some cancer cells and somewhat suppresses your immune system. Then, the donor's cells are infused into your body.

Donor cells replace cells in your bone marrow over time. Immune factors in the donor cells may then fight your cancer cells.

A less intense conditioning regimen may seem attractive because it involves less intense chemotherapy and radiation. However, this kind of transplant isn't appropriate for all situations.

Your doctor will advise you on the most appropriate type of conditioning for your specific situation. This can depend on many factors, including your disease, your age and your overall health.

July 17, 2014