What you can expect

By Mayo Clinic Staff

During your stem cell transplant

Stem cell transplantation involves infusing donor stem cells through your central line into your body after completion of several days of chemotherapy, radiation therapy or both. The infusion usually takes one to five hours, and you will be 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 to recover.

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
  • Fever
  • Diarrhea
  • Chills
  • Hives
  • Red urine

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

After your stem cell transplant

In the days and weeks after your stem cell 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 stem cell transplant, you'll need to remain under close medical care. If you're experiencing infections or other complications, you may need to remain in the hospital for several days.

Depending on the type of transplant and the risk of complications, you'll need to remain nearby 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.

July 17, 2014