What Happens During Bone Marrow Transplants- The Patient and the Donor’s Perspective
A bone marrow transplant is required if your body is not able to produce enough blood cells on its own- typically due to a bout of chemotherapy along with radiation therapies as well.
That being said, the bone marrow is needed by our bodies because it is the site where the red, white, and platelet cells are created.
Because the bone marrow is also a site for stem cells, the procedure is also known as “Stem Cell Transplant.”
Why is It Required?
Bone marrow transplants are typically done so that you can replenish your bone marrow for it to produce the much-needed blood cells that are required by your body. Before receiving the new bone marrow cells, your body is subjected to a series of chemotherapy sessions as well as radiation therapies to go along with it.
Both of the procedures are required so that your body is conditioned well to not only kill your existing cancer cells, but also to prime it to receive stem cells that are going to be infused later on.
The Two Types
There are two primary types of bone marrow transplants: Autologous and Allogeneic. The former is where the stem cells that are transplanted are gained from the patient’s own body while the latter is where a donor will give some of their bone marrow cells to be transplanted to you.
Both have advantages and disadvantages and it will ultimately depend upon what your doctor will say. The major advantage of the Autologous procedure is that it has the highest chance of not being rejected by the body and it also eliminates the possibility of having the GVHD or the Graft Versus Host Disease. The said disease is characterized by the new immune system attacking the tissues of the host which can prove to be fatal.
Allogeneic Transplant primarily involves a donor- particularly a family member, but can also be someone who is completely unrelated. This person will then be harvested for their stem cells and it can be acquired from their own bone marrow. The downside to this is contracting GVHD, but it is much better in terms of treatment versus the previous type.
What the Donor Experiences
Now that you pretty much know the procedure, what do the people involved in the process feels about it? Well, for the donor as for the stem cell donation, it is a relatively easy process. Once they’ve passed the battery of tests that are given to them, they are then implanted a tube known as the Intravenous Catheter and it serves as the gateway for the stem cells to flow through.
The process is relatively pain-free and it only takes a couple of hours for the entire extraction to finish.
What the Patient Feels
Whereas the donor doesn’t feel any pain, the patient doesn’t have the same fate. The patient will have to be subjected through a series of chemotherapy and radiation therapy sessions to kill cancer cells in their body. The process can be painful depending on the severity of the disease.
Once the procedures are done, the stem cells are then infused intravenously just like how a blood transfusion works. After a couple of weeks, the bone marrow cells will then graft with your own bone marrow to induce blood cell production.