What you can expect

By Mayo Clinic Staff

During your stem cell transplant

After conditioning, the stem cell transplant can take place. On the day of your transplant, called day zero, you are given the stem cells through your central line using a process known as infusion. 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 called dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) 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 DMSO may include:

  • 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

When the new stem cells enter your body, they begin to travel 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 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 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 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.

May 05, 2015