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5 Things You Should Know About Bone Marrow Transplant

Bone marrow transplant also called hematopoietic stem cell transplantation is a life-saving procedure performed on patients with leukemia and other serious diseases affecting blood cells. Bone marrow is the soft, flexible connective tissue within bone cavities. The primary function of bone marrow is to produce blood cells and to store fat. The aim of the bone marrow transplant surgery is to replace the damaged cells by transplantation of the stem cell from the donor’s or patient’s healthy bone.

With the development of medical technology, there are various types of bone marrow transplants performed increasingly. Naturally, stem cell transplant patients are curious about this procedure. Therefore, we have covered in the following article the specifics of bone marrow transplant reasons, types of a bone marrow transplants, criteria, and risks, as well as stem cell transplant success rate. We hope you will find it useful.

1. Bone Marrow Transplant Reasons

There are multiple reasons for bone marrow transplants. One of the most important is leukemia and other types of cancers. In leukemia, one of the symptoms is that white blood cells start to outnumber other blood cells and cause damage to the patient’s body. Lymphoma, another type of blood cancer, which can be treated with stem cell transplant, also affects white blood cells. Apart from various cancers, certain types of anemia can be one of the reasons to perform bone marrow transplants, together with disorders affecting the blood production, metabolism, and immune system of a patient. Finally, extensive chemotherapy may destroy one’s bone marrow, and therefore the stem cell transplant may be deemed necessary.

Some conditions are closely related to unhealthy bone marrow. If there are abnormal levels of white or red blood cells or platelets showed in preliminary blood tests, your doctor may order a bone marrow aspiration. Bone marrow aspiration is a procedure that requires taking a sample of the liquid part of the soft tissue inside the bones.

2. What Are the Types of Bone Marrow Transplant?

There are 2 main types of hematopoietic stem cell transplantation:
1) Autologous stem cell transplant – in this type of transplant, bone marrow donation is performed from the patient’s bones, which are not affected by the medical condition. Autologous stem cell transplant called a rescue transplant and if possible, is the best choice out of all types of bone marrow transplant, since there is no issue of compatibility.

2) Allogeneic stem cell transplant – it is a kind of bone marrow transplant, which involves stem cell donor, often a member of the family. A brother or sister is most likely to be a good match for bone marrow transplant as a donor. Sometimes parents, children, and other relatives are also good matches.

This type of hematopoietic stem cell transplantation bears more risks than autologous stem cell transplant. Additionally, sometimes finding a bone marrow donor may take a significant amount of time.

READ: Bone Marrow Transplant Overview

3. Bone Marrow Transplant Match Criteria

In the case of allogeneic stem cell transplant, the bone marrow match test is performed to establish compatibility of Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) between stem cell donor and the patient. As we mentioned before, generally the best bone marrow donor is siblings. If such stem cell transplant donor is not available, other members of the patient’s family are preferred. If this possibility also is ruled out, suitable stem cell donor can be found in the bone marrow registry.
While most of the countries have their own national bone marrow registry, there are shortages of bone marrow donors. Therefore, finding the right one takes time and is not always successful.

4. Bone Marrow Transplant Risks

Like other medical procedures, stem cell transplant also carries various risks. To less severe bone marrow transplant risks belong to various infections, temporary change in blood pressure, shortness of breath, fever, and nausea. However, hematopoietic stem cell transplantation may be connected with far more dangerous conditions. One of such stem cell transplant risks is graft-versus-host disease (GVHD), in which newly transplanted hematopoietic stem cells attack the body of the patient. Other ones are anemia, internal bleeding, early menopause or development of cataracts.

For this reason, the bone marrow transplant is suggested only when there is no other solution. You should take it into consideration while thinking about bone marrow transplant procedure, especially of allogeneic stem cell transplant type.

5. Bone Marrow Transplant Success Rate

There is no available data regarding general bone marrow transplant success rate. Reasons for bone marrow transplant are various, and therefore the rate of successful stem cell transplants varies as well. However, generally, stem cell transplant success rate is lower in a case of cancer such as leukemia and higher in other conditions, for example, anemia. For more detailed information regarding bone marrow transplant success rate, it is better to ask a specialist who made your diagnosis. Because all clinics and surgeons have recorded their rates separately, to monitor their improvement and success on this special medical field.

READ: Bone Marrow Transplant Costs Around the World


This content is edited by Flymedi Medical Editors in 2023.


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