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Bone Marrow Transplant FAQs

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Q. What is the meaning of bone marrow transplant?

Ans. A bone marrow transplant is a procedure to replace damaged or destroyed bone marrow with healthy bone marrow stem cells. A bone marrow transplant is a blood and marrow stem cell transplant. This replaces a person's abnormal stem cells with healthy ones.

Q. Why a bone marrow transplant is needed?

Ans. The main objective of a bone marrow transplant is to treat many diseases (non-cancerous) and different types of cancer. High doses of chemotherapy / radiation given to cure a cancer result in permanent damage of a person's bone marrow stem cells. In that case, bone marrow transplant is essential to save a cancer patient’s life.

The stem cells are delivered into the bloodstream usually through a tube called a central venous catheter. The process is similar to getting a blood transfusion. The stem cells travel through the blood into the bone marrow.

Q. Who gets bone marrow transplant?

Ans. A bone marrow or cord blood transplant is a process to replace unhealthy bone marrow with healthy bone marrow.

Bone marrow transplants can be used to treat patients with life-threatening blood cancers like leukaemia and other diseases which result in bone marrow failure like aplastic anemia.

Q How does a bone marrow transplant procedure work?

Ans. A stem cell transplant is done after chemotherapy and radiation treatment is complete. Patients receive high doses of chemotherapy to prepare their body for the transplant.

In a bone marrow transplant process, donor's healthy blood-forming cells are transferred into the patient's bloodstream usually through a tube called a central venous catheter. The process is similar to getting a blood transfusion.

The stem cells travel through the blood into the bone marrow where they begin to grow and make healthy red, white blood cells and platelets.

Q. What are the kinds of transplant done for bone marrow?

Ans. There are three types of transplants:

1) Autologous Transplant — In this transplant patient's own blood-forming stem cells are collected and stored. These stem cells are used to replace damaged or destroyed bone marrow; Syngeneic transplants use the donated cells of an identical twin, so is essentially the same as an autologous transplant.

2) Allogeneic Transplant— The term ‘allo’ means other. When the stem cells come from another person (donor), it is called an allogeneic transplant. The donor may be a relative or a complete stranger.

These closely matching stem cells from donor are transplanted into the patient, allowing them to grow as new healthy bone marrow.

3) Umbilical Cord Blood (UCB Transplant)— Like bone marrow and peripheral blood, UCB is also a rich source of stem cells for transplantation. The stem cells taken from donated umbilical cord and placental blood and frozen shortly after childbirth are transplanted to stimulate production of healthy bone marrow.

There may be advantages for certain patients to have cord blood stem cell transplants instead of transplants with marrow or peripheral blood stem cells (PBSCs).

Q. When is umbilical cord blood used for a transplant?

Ans. When a patient needs a transplant, their doctor will determine the source of cells that best meets their needs. Cord blood is one of three sources of blood-forming cells used in transplant. The others are bone marrow and peripheral blood stem cells (PBSC).

Q. What is a haploidentical transplant?

Ans. An allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell (HPC) transplant involves matching a patient's tissue type, specifically their human leukocyte antigen (HLA) tissue type, with that of a related or unrelated donor.

Q. How long does it take to recover from a bone marrow transplant?

Ans. The initial recovery period normally lasts about three months after an allogeneic transplant and about one month after an autologous transplant.

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