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Bone marrow transplant, also called stem cell transplant, is a procedure that replaces bone marrow that has been destroyed or damaged by infection, disease, or chemotherapy with healthy ones. A person may need this procedure if their bone marrow stops producing enough healthy cells. The procedure can be done on people with cancerous (malignant) or noncancerous (benign) diseases, such as acute leukemia, aplastic anemia, bone marrow failure syndromes, hemoglobinopathies, inborn errors of metabolism, immune deficiencies, plasma cell disorders, and many more.
Bone marrow transplant is not a surgery; it is very similar to blood transfusion. The transplant may use cells from your body (autologous transplant) or from a donor (allogeneic transplant). If you undergo an autologous transplant, the first step is harvesting your healthy stem cells from your blood or hipbone and you will be given a local or general anesthetic. After the harvest and before you get the new cells, you will go through a process called conditioning to kill any cancer cells and to clear out your bone marrow with chemotherapy or radiation therapy, then, within a few days of conditioning, you will receive your new stem cells through your central line.
Some people are able to leave the hospital a few days after the transplant, others need to stay for a couple of weeks. Aim to stay in India for at least 4 to 8 weeks for the whole process and initial recovery.
Typically, you should be able to return to most of your normal activities within three months, but it can take as long as a year to fully recover. Your recovery period depends on various factors, including chemotherapy, radiation, donor match, and the condition being treated.
Your doctor will give you detailed instructions regarding diet, exercise, and restrictions. You will remain under close medical care after the procedure and you may need periodic transfusions of platelets and blood cells until your new bone marrow starts to produce enough cells on its own. You will also have regular lifelong checkups with your doctor to monitor your condition.
Bone marrow transplant is generally safe and effective. According to the National Marrow Donor Program, the one-year survival rate among people who have received their transplant from unrelated donors increased from 42% to 60%. The side effects and risks are graft-versus-host disease (for the allogeneic transplant), stem cell (graft) failure, infections, cataracts, infertility, new cancers, infection, and death.
It is important to discuss with your doctor the best alternative to bone marrow transplant as the alternatives will depend on your specific condition. In some cases, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, or radiation therapy is enough.
Before bone marrow transplant, you may have a disease that causes painful symptoms or may be life-threatening. After the procedure, some people are cured of their diseases or put into remission.
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