A bone marrow transplant is like other transplants in that the patient has a defective organ replaced with a healthy one. In this case, the “organ” is a tissue that’s inside some of the bones of the body. This tissue contains cells that can mature into white blood cells, red blood cells or platelets.
The uses for bone marrow transplant are many. A bone marrow transplant can be used to treat disease like leukemia, which is a cancer of the blood. They can be used to treat diseases like sickle cell anemia, where the red blood cells are deformed into a sickle shape and can’t deliver oxygen properly. Bone marrow transplants can also be used to treat multiple myelomas, which are cancers of the patient’s plasma cells and autoimmune diseases.
A patient who gets a bone marrow transplant will need to find a donor. In some cases, the patient’s own blood marrow can be taken and stored for use later on. This eliminates the risk that the body will reject the bone marrow. On the other hand, the person who donates can be a family member or someone who the patient doesn’t even know. Whoever they are, the donor and the patient’s blood must be compatible.
A bone marrow transplant does pose some risks for the patient. In order to receive a bone marrow donation, the patient will need to have their old, diseased marrow destroyed. This necessitates very high amounts of chemotherapy. Radiation can also be used to destroy the defective bone marrow. This also weakens the patient’s immune system and makes it less likely that the new bone marrow will be rejected. However, it makes the patient vulnerable to other diseases.
Before receiving new bone marrow or donating bone marrow both patient and donor might wish to know just how it works. The bone marrow, whether from the patient or another person, is injected into the patient. The immature cells, or stem cells, then start to make healthy new blood cells that will hopefully reverse the disease for which the patient is being treated. The patient might need to stay in the hospital for some weeks to make sure that all is going as it should. The patient will also need to keep his or her aftercare appointments after he or she is released.