In order to understand the causes, symptoms and treatment of the bone marrow transplant procedure, it is important to understand the nature of bone marrow. The marrow refers to spongy, fatty tissue inside your bones that is responsible for creating red blood cells. These cells carry oxygen and nutrients throughout the body. White blood cells, which fight all kinds of infections and diseases, are also created by the bone marrow. Apart from this, the marrow manufactures platelets which help in the formation of clots.
An important component of bone marrow is the presence of hematopoietic stem cells or HSCs that are responsible in the formation of blood. These stem cells create red and white blood cells along with platelets that are essential for the survival of the human body. When a person’s bone marrow is deemed unhealthy, they are unable to produce enough white blood cells to fight potential diseases or infections. Thus, a bone marrow transplant is the only option available. Bone marrow transplant is generally done through a tube called the central venous catheter. The transplant is similar to that of a blood transfusion. Surgery is usually not needed for a bone marrow transplant.
The transplant aims to replace the damaged stem cells with healthy cells so that the body is capable of preventing disorders. Patients suffering from cancers such as leukemia and lymphoma will have to undergo bone marrow transplant if the bone marrow has been damaged due to chemotherapy.
Symptoms and Types of Bone Marrow Transplant
There are several symptoms that indicate a transplant is imminent. Some of these are: chest pain, drop in blood pressure, fever, chills, funny taste in mouth, nausea, hives and headaches.
The type of bone marrow transplant depends on the patient and their condition. Different patients require a different procedure. There are three major types of transplants:
Autologous Bone Marrow Transplant: This is also known as a rescue transplant. Stem cells are removed from your own body and stored in a freezer prior to radiation or chemotherapy. Post this, they are put back into your body so that that they can produce healthy cells.
Allogenic Bone Marrow Transplant: This form of transplant requires a donor. Stem cells are taken from the donor’s body and infused into the patient’s body. Doctor’s must conduct tests to match the genes of the donor and patient. It is helpful if the donor is a member of the patient’s family as there are higher chances of the genes matching.
Umbilical Cord Blood Transplant: This transplant involves removing a new born baby’s stem cells from its umbilical cord right after its birth. These cells are frozen and stored until they are needed for a transplant. Since these cells are immature in nature, there is a lesser need for perfect matching.
A bone marrow transplant is usually done in a hospital or medical centre that specializes in the same. Most patients do not require an overnight stay and are treated as outpatients. Bone marrow transplant patients are usually isolated to avoid the risk of infection. Recovery from the transplant largely depends on how well the donor’s bone marrow matches with the patient and the at-home care received by the patient.