A Bone Marrow Transplant (BMT) is an extensive medical procedure performed by replacing bone marrow that has been damaged by chemotherapy, infection, or disease. Blood stem cells are transplanted in order to allow them to reach the bone marrow and facilitate the production of new blood cells for creating new marrow.
As it is a complicated procedure, receiving the best bone marrow transplant in India from reputed professionals is a necessity. The success of the procedure will majorly depend on the genetic match between the recipient and donor. Finding a good match is usually a challenge for caregivers.
The doctor performs the procedure with a group of professionals with extra precision. The time period after a bone marrow transplant can be divided into three stages.
Stage 1: Transplantation – Engraftment
Engraftment occurs when the stem cells travel through the bloodstream and reach the bone marrow for producing new blood cells. Engraftment is usually seen 10 to 30 days after the bone marrow transplant. The duration falling between the conditioning therapy and engraftment is quite crucial. The recipient may feel generally tired and unwell. There is also a risk of infection, anemia, fever, bleeding, nutritional problems and damage to important organs (like kidneys, liver, lungs, and heart). The initial few weeks after the transplantation, these problems will be at the peak. The patient will have to be monitored closely.
To reduce the risk of infection, the patient might be kept in isolation. If necessary, medications for infections and blood transfusions may be given. Nutritional supplements are also given in certain situations.
Stage 2: Engraftment – Discharge
Engraftment is usually confirmed with a bone marrow sample or blood tests. The blood cells count gradually increase. As the marrow keeps producing more blood cells, the complications reduce. The recipient can now go home or be moved somewhere close to the transplant center. But, it is important to stay close in case of any problem or complication.
If it is an allogeneic transplant (where the stem cells are taken from a donor), the recovery is longer. The patient might have to spend about four to six weeks in the hospital. On the other hand, patients who have undergone an autologous transplant (where the patient uses his/her own stem cells) will have to spend lesser time in the hospital.
The recovery will vary from one person to the other. If any complication arises, the hospital stay will increase. In the initial 6 to 12 months, the patient will feel weak and get tired easily because the immune system will be still recovering.
Stage 3: Discharge – Follow-up
Post discharge, the patient will have to undergo frequent check-ups to ensure that:
- there are no serious complications
- the cancer is in control
- the new bone marrow is functioning properly
The follow-up check-ups will include:
- imaging tests, like CT scan, gallium scan, or PET scan
- blood tests
- bone marrow biopsy and aspiration
- general physical examination
In the first three months, the patient will have to go for a check-up once every week. The doctor will check to see if the blood cell count is normal. Antiviral drugs and antibiotics are given to reduce the risk of infection. At times, blood transfusions may also be necessary.
After the first three months, the doctor will decide the frequency of follow-up depending on the patient’s overall health.