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What to Expect From a Stem Cell Transplant

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During the Stem Cell Transplant

  1. You will have an infusion of the stem cells. You'll sit in a comfortable chair for several hours as the infusion is given through a central line (a surgical port in your neck).
  2. Nurses will monitor you. They will check to be sure you are not developing fever, chills, hives, or a drop in blood pressure.
  3. You might have mild side effects, including headache, nausea, flushing, or shortness of breath.

After the Stem Cell Transplant

  1. Your new immune system starts to work. After two to four weeks, the new stem cells graft to your bone marrow and start to make new white blood cells. Next, your body starts making platelets, then red blood cells.
  2. If you received donor cells, you will get antibiotics and anti-rejection drugs to help your body accept the transplanted cells. You may also need transfusions of red blood cells and platelets as well as intravenous nutrition.
  3. You must stay in a germ-free environment for the first few weeks. If you have a transplant with donor cells, you will probably stay in the hospital for about a month until your new immune system starts working. You will need filtered air and your visitors must wear masks.
  4. You will make regular visits to the outpatient clinic for six months. The transplant staff will test your blood or bone marrow for levels of healthy blood cells and check for any complications. After that, your own doctor will continue to care for you.

During Recovery From Your Stem Cell Transplant

You'll feel tired for the first few weeks. It may be several months before you can resume your normal schedule. About two months after the transplant, your doctor will draw blood and may take a sample of bone marrow from your hip to see that you are producing all types of blood cells. The bone marrow will also show which cells are being formed, yours or, preferably, the donor's. This is known as chimerism. Your doctor will also want to see that you have no major complications.

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