How to prepare for a bone marrow transplant?

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Bone marrow is a spongy and soft tissue situated inside your bones. They are responsible for generating blood stem cells. These stem cells further develop into RBC (Red Blood Cells) that transport oxygen throughout the body, platelets to prevent blood clotting, and the WBC (White Blood Cells) that combat infections. Bone marrow disease occurs in cases of:

  • Leukaemia or blood cancer, where the bone marrow generates the abnormal WBC
  • Aplastic Anaemia, a condition where the bone marrow fails to produce RBC
  • Myeloproliferative disorders caused due to excess production of WBC by the bone marrow
  • Lymphoma can spread its infection to bone marrow and adversely impact blood cell production.
  • Environmental and genetic factors also give rise to bone marrow diseases.

What is bone marrow transplant?

A Bone Marrow Transplant is a medical procedure that is performed for replacing the infected or damaged bone marrow. Bone marrow can be destroyed by complex chemotherapy or infected by a disease. Blood stem cells are transplanted in this process that produces healthy blood cells in the bone marrow and encourage growth in new marrow. Transplants are of two types; autologous transplant (usage of own stem cells) and allogeneic transplant (usage of stem cells from the donor)

Why is a Bone Marrow Transplant Done?

When a patient’s bone marrow is not healthy to function correctly, a bone marrow transplant is performed. Cancer treatments, chronic diseases, and infections can damage the healthy bone marrow. Some common causes of bone marrow transplants are:

  • Aplastic Anaemia
  • Leukaemia, multiple myeloma, lymphoma
  • Chemotherapy
  • Congenital neutropenia
  • Thalassemia
  • Sickle Cell Anaemia

Checklist before the procedure

Bone marrow transplant is a complicated medical procedure. You need to undergo various tests to determine the type and nature of the cells you will require. The doctor may also suggest you to first go for chemotherapy or radiation therapy to kill the marrow or cancerous cells. It is a week-long procedure, and you should make all necessary arrangements before you admit yourself to medical care. These are:

  • Check your insurance cover, financial liabilities, and bill payments
  • Sanctioning medical leave from office
  • Care arrangements for your kids and pets
  • Renting a house for your loved ones near the hospital
  • Travel arrangements from the hospital
  • Packing of necessities for the hospital

Many hospitals have expert counsellors to help bone marrow, transplant patients. Prepare a checklist and questionnaire and discuss all your concerns before going under the knife. It is essential that you feel relaxed and comfortable with the upcoming procedures.

What questions should I ask my doctor?

Here are some relevant questions that you can ask your doctor before your bone marrow transplant:

  1. How long will the surgery last?
  2. What are my survival chances?
  3. For how many days do I need to stay in the hospital?
  4. What about the follow-up procedures?
  5. When can I get back to work?
  6. Do I have any other treatment options?
  7. Can I live a normal and healthy life after a bone marrow transplant?
  8. Who can donate bone marrow to me?
  9. What are the relapse chances?
  10. What are the side-effects of this procedure?

Risks and Complications associated with Bone Marrow Transplant

Bone marrow transplant is a detailed procedure and can give rise to several temporary and permanent complications. Some temporary issues are a headache, low blood pressure, chills, pain, nausea, fever, breathlessness, and so on. However, the extent of complications can entirely depend on your age, overall health, medications, type of transplant, and so on.

Some significant complications are:

  • Internal bleeding in the brain, lungs, or other body organs
  • Vomiting, diarrhoea, nausea
  • Anaemia
  • Mucositis
  • Early menopause
  • Cataracts
  • Graft Vs. Host Disease, a condition where donor cells pose a threat to the body
  • Graft failure, a condition where new marrow doesn’t produce healthy cells
  • Damage to vital body organs

Outlook and Prognosis

Bone marrow transplant is a complex and advanced surgical procedure. The primary aim of an operation is to cure or control the disease, offer a better quality of life, and extend your life. The results depend entirely upon a patient’s metabolism and immunity strength. Some patients show positive effects of transplants with faster recovery, while some have to face several temporary and permanent complications. These complications are sometimes difficult to predict before the operation.

Line after Bone Marrow Transplant: Lifestyle Changes and Precautions

The recovery phase can be quite long after a bone marrow transplant. However, with an active and healthy lifestyle, you can try to curb it down. Here are some essential tips that can help you in faster recovery:

  • Protect yourself from infections. Wear a mask wherever you go.
  • Start light to moderate exercises after consulting the doctor
  • Drinking alcohol and smoking is prohibited after this surgery
  • Make sure you eat a healthy and nutritious diet
  • Immediately consult your doctor if you experience tiredness or fatigue all of a sudden

Living with a bone marrow transplant can be challenging initially. But with a positive outlook and a healthy lifestyle, you can lead a perfectly normal life in some time. Make sure you keep your family and friends closer for mental support.

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