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Bone Marrow Transplant: When Do I Need It and What to Expect

Medically reviewed by Kristina Campos, MD · General Practitioner

Written by Angeli Del Rosario · Updated Nov 09, 2021

Bone Marrow Transplant: When Do I Need It and What to Expect

A bone marrow transplant (BMT) is a treatment to create new blood cells, or to replace a bone marrow damaged by diseases, infections, or high doses of chemotherapy. It is also known as a stem cell transplant.

During the bone marrow transplant, the patient will receive new healthy blood stem cells  in order to be able to form new blood cells, and aid in the growth of new bone marrow.

The bone marrow is the soft tissue located inside a person’s bones. This creates blood cells. Stem cells produced in the bone marrow, once matured enough, will grow into the different kinds of blood cells your body needs. A BMT is necessary when your bone marrow cannot carry on with its functions, or when it is unable to produce healthy blood cells.

The new bone marrow stem cells received by the patient may come from the patient themselves or from a donor.

Kinds of bone marrow transplant


An autologous transplant is when the patient’s own stem cells were saved before the procedure and is now being used as replacement.


An allogeneic transplant on the other hand uses the stem cells of a donor in order to promote the growth of new bone marrow.


In some cases, the healthy stem cells may have been donated by the identical twin of the patient. This procedure is called syngeneic bone marrow transplant.

What is it used for?

A bone marrow transplant may be done to:

  • Safely allow the treatment of chemotherapy or radiation by saving or replacing the bone marrow damaged in the process.
  • Replace a damaged marrow with new stem cells in order to continue blood cell generation.
  • Supply new stem cells to aid in the elimination of growing cancer cells.

It is also a treatment option for those who suffer from leukemia, blood disorders like sickle cell disease, and many more blood related complications.

Bone marrow transplants helps people with cancerous or non-cancerous diseases, some of which include:

  • Aplastic anemia
  • Sickle cell anemia
  • Acute leukemia and chronic leukemia
  • Adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD)
  • Hemoglobinopathies
  • Hodgkin’s lymphoma and Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
  • Multiple myeloma
  •  Myelodysplastic syndromes
  •  Neuroblastoma
  • Plasma cell disorders
  •  POEMS syndrome
  • Immune deficiencies
  • Inborn errors of metabolism
  • Bone marrow failure syndromes

How do you prepare for a bone marrow transplant?

Before the procedure, you will undergo tests in order to determine the type of bone marrow stem cells you require. Radiation or chemotherapy may also be performed to eliminate remaining marrow cells, as well as cancer cells, before getting the new stem cells.

Prior to the procedure, physical exam and other lab tests are also done to check if it would be for the patient’s best interest to push through with the procedure or how much they would benefit from it.

Your immune system may be weaker and unable to fend infections off during treatment, so you must stay in a special section in the hospital reserved for immunocompromised patients .

Remember to ask your doctor questions regarding the transplant to lessen your worries in order to go through the procedure comfortably.

 What should you expect during the transplant?

The bone marrow transplant will be done after completing the required conditioning process. During the transplant session, the transplant infusion will occur.

Take note that though you will be awake during the transplant, and the procedure itself will be painless.

What should you expect after the bone marrow transplant?

Temporarily weak immune system

When the newly transplanted stem cells have entered your bloodstream, the cells will multiply and will eventually create healthy blood cells in your bone marrow. It may take weeks before the amount of stem cells in your body return to normal, making your immune system vulnerable to infections or diseases.

During the weeks after the transplant, you will undergo multiple blood tests for doctors to monitor your current state. Regular blood transfusions may be necessary until you fully regain the normal number of stem cells in your body.

You will be in close medical care and may be advised to take medications to combat nausea and diarrhea. This is to avoid any possible infections or complications that may further harm you.

Remember that even years after your transplant, you may remain at higher risk of infections. Schedule regular appointments with your doctor to avoid complications.

Dietary changes

There may be a need to adjust or completely change your diet in order to stay healthy. Medical practitioners who are responsible for your transplant will aid you in making a diet plan.

Recommendations may include the following:

  • Be careful of foodborne infections and follow food safety protocols
  • Manage your salt intake
  • Eat healthy food like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, non-fatty meat, fish, and healthy fats like olive oil
  • Avoid excessive drinking of alcohol
  • Avoid grapefruits in general since they may affect the efficacy of medications you are taking.

Lifestyle changes

Physical activity will aid in keeping your heart health. Remember that you should not overdo your workouts and to only increase the amount of physical activity you do as you recover.

If you are at risk of cancer, do not smoke after your transplant. Be sure to get regular appointments with your doctor regarding your condition.

Key takeaway

A bone marrow transplant is a procedure wherein a person who either has damaged bone marrow or weak blood cells receives an infusion of blood stem cells in order to encourage the growth of new bone marrow.

Following the procedure, the patient must continue having blood tests and remain within medical supervision to avoid complications. Many changes in terms of lifestyle and diet will occur once the transplant is done in order to keep your body healthy.

Learn more about Medical Procedures and Surgeries here.


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Kristina Campos, MD

General Practitioner

Written by Angeli Del Rosario · Updated Nov 09, 2021

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