You'll undergo a series of tests and procedures to assess your general health and the status of your condition, and to ensure that you're physically prepared for the transplant. The evaluation may take several days or more.
In addition, a surgeon or radiologist will implant a long thin tube (intravenous catheter) into a large vein in your chest or neck. The catheter, often called a central line, usually remains in place for the duration of your treatment. Your transplant team will use the central line to infuse the transplanted stem cells, medications and blood products into your body.
If a transplant using your own stem cells (autologous transplant) is planned, you'll undergo a procedure called apheresis to collect blood stem cells.
Before apheresis, you'll receive daily injections of growth factor to increase stem cell production and move stem cells into your circulating blood so that they can be collected.
During apheresis, blood is drawn from a vein and circulated through a machine. The machine separates your blood into different parts, including stem cells. These stem cells are collected and frozen for future use in the transplant. The remaining blood is returned to your body
If you're having a transplant using stem cells from a donor (allogeneic transplant), you will need a donor (see Finding A Match) . Once a donor is found, stem cells are gathered from that person for the transplant.
Stem cells can come from your donor's blood or bone marrow. Your transplant team decides which is better for you based on your situation.
Another type of allogeneic transplant uses stem cells from the blood of umbilical cords (cord blood transplant). Mothers can choose to donate umbilical cords after their babies' births. The blood from these cords is frozen and stored in a cord blood bank until needed for a bone marrow transplant.
After you complete your pretransplant tests and procedures, you begin a process known as conditioning. During conditioning, you'll undergo chemotherapy and possibly radiation to:
The type of conditioning process you receive 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.
Based on your age and health history, your doctor may recommend lower doses or different types of chemotherapy or radiation for your conditioning treatment. This is called reduced-intensity conditioning.
Reduced-intensity conditioning kills some cancer cells and 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.
Your bone marrow transplant occurs after you complete the conditioning process. On the day of your transplant, stem cells are infused into your body through your central line.
The transplant infusion is painless. You'll be awake during the procedure.
When the new stem cells enter your body, they travel through your blood 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.
After your transplant, it takes time for your immune system to recover. During this time, you may be given medications to prevent infections.
You may need to adjust your diet to stay healthy and to prevent excessive weight gain. Your nutrition specialist (dietitian) and other members of your transplant team will work with you to create a healthy-eating plan that meets your needs and complements your lifestyle. Your dietitian can also give you food suggestions to control side effects of chemotherapy and radiation, such as nausea.
After your bone marrow transplant, regular physical activity helps you control your weight, strengthen your bones, increase your endurance, strengthen your muscles and keep your heart healthy. As you recover, you can slowly increase your physical activity.