A bone marrow transplant is basically a medical process which is carried out to restore bone marrow which has been destroyed or damaged by infection, disease, or chemotherapy. This process consists of transplanting blood stem cells, which move to the bone marrow where they make new blood cells and endorse growth of new marrow. This treatment is often referred to as BMT. With so many doctors out there offering bone marrow transplant procedure, it is always recommended to seek assistance of the best BMT doctors in India who have several years of experience and knowledge in the field.
About Bone marrow
Bone marrow is essentially a soft, spongy like tissue which is present within the bones that makes blood stem cells. These cells include the following:
- Red blood cells which are used to carry oxygen all through the body
- White blood cells help to fight infections
- Platelets help in controlling bleeding by forming clots
Bone marrow makes over 200 billion new blood cells each day. The bone marrow comprises of two types of stem cells, hematopoietic and mesenchymal. Hematopoietic stem cells are blood forming stem cells while mesenchymal stem cells produce bone, cartilage and fat.
When a bone marrow transplant is needed?
Bone marrow transplants are done especially when an individual’s bone marrow is not healthy enough to function in the right manner. This can be because of disease, chronic infections, or cancer treatments. Few reasons for a bone marrow transplant are mentioned below:
- Damaged bone marrow because of chemotherapy
- Thalassemia, a genetic blood disorder where the body makes an anomalous form of hemoglobin, an essential part of red blood cells
- Cancers which affect the marrow, for instance lymphoma, leukemia, and multiple myeloma
- Aplastic anemia which prevents the marrow from making new blood cells
- Sickle cell anemia, a hereditary blood disorder that causes distorted red blood cells
- Congenital neutropenia, a hereditary disorder that causes chronic infections
Bone marrow transplants can thus treat blood cancers, immune system and genetic diseases as well as bone marrow diseases.
Common types of Bone marrow transplant
Bone marrow transplants can be of two types such as
- Allogeneic Transplants: This includes the use of cells from a donor who must be a close hereditary match. It is important to keep in mind that the success of allogenic transplant can depend on how closely the donor cells match with the patient.
- Autologous Transplants: This includes the use of a patient’s own stem cells. This type of transplant can only be done if the patient has healthy bone marrow.
The type of bone marrow transplant depends on the reason one needs a transplant.
How to prepare for bone marrow transplant?
A number of tests are recommended to the patient before the transplant. The patient may also need to go through chemotherapy or radiation as this helps to kill cancer cells. During treatments, the immune system of the patient will get compromised and this may affect its ability to fight infections. Therefore, the patient needs to stay in a special section of the hospital which is set aside for people receiving bone marrow transplants.
Things to expect after a bone marrow transplant
The success of a bone marrow transplant is mainly reliant on how closely the recipient and donor hereditarily match. At times, it can be very hard to find a good match among unrelated donors. Usually it takes about three months for a bone marrow transplant. However, it may take a complete year as well to recover fully. Recovery may depend on a number of factors, such as:
- the condition being treated
- where the transplant is carried out
- Donor match
Complications that can occur after a bone marrow transplant
A bone marrow transplant is regarded a major medical process and increases the risk of certain health complications such as:
- drop in blood pressure
- shortness of breath
The chances of developing these complications usually depend on a number of factors, such as:
- Overall health
- the type of transplant that they have received
- the disease that the patient is being treated for
Complications may range from mild to very serious, and this may include:
- Graft failure: This occurs when transplanted cells do not start producing new cells
- GVHD or Graft-versus-host disease: This is a condition where donor cells attack the patient’s body
- Cataract: This causes clouding in the lens of the eye
- Anemia: This occurs when the body cannot produce enough red blood cells
- Mucositis: This causes soreness and inflammation in the stomach, throat, and mouth
Apart from these, there are some other health complications which may also take place such as bleeding in the brain, lungs, and other parts of the body, early menopause damage to vital organs, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea and infections. It is recommended to take appropriate precautions for the effective dealing of these complications.
How a bone marrow transplant is performed?
In case of an allogeneic transplant, bone marrow cells are yielded from the donor at least a couple of days before the procedure. In case the patient’s own cells are being used, they will be recovered from the stem cell bank. Cells are usually collected in two ways. Cells are collected during a bone marrow harvest from both hipbones via a needle. Anesthesia is administered to the patient for this procedure, which means they cannot feel the pain.
On the other hand, in case of leukapheresis, a donor is given five shots to assist the stem cells move into the bloodstream from the bone marrow. Blood is then extracted via an IV or intravenous line and a machine separates out the white blood cells which contain stem cells. The fluid then flows through the central venous catheter directly into the heart.
Thus, it can be concluded by stating that a bone marrow transplant is a procedure that comes to the rescue where the replacement of the destroyed or damaged bone marrow with healthy bone marrow stem cells are essential.