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Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation
(HSCT; Bone Marrow Transplantation (BMT); Peripheral Blood Stem Cell (PBSC) Transplantation; Cord Blood Transplantation)
by Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Hematopoietic stem cells make red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. Sometimes, stem cells in your bone marrow do not work well or need to be destroyed to help treat a disease. Hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) can replace these stem cells.
It may take about a month for the new stem cells in the bone marrow to start to function fully. If the HSCT works, new bone marrow cells will make healthy red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.
HSCT may be done using stem cells from:
Reasons for Procedure TOP
HSCT is done if the stem cells in your bone marrow are not working or are lacking. This may be caused by:
Possible Complications TOP
Problems are rare, but no procedure is free of risk. If you are planning to have HSCT, your doctor will review a list of problems that may happen, such as:
Possible problems for the donor are:
HSCT is usually avoided if you have:
Talk with your doctor about your risks before having HSCT.
What to Expect TOP
Prior to Procedure
The donor will be tested to check for diseases. Both you and the donor will be tested to make sure that your tissues match. Certain markers on the blood cells and bone marrow cells must match for HSCT to work.
The person having HSCT will be given medicine to lower the immune system. This is to try to stop your body from rejecting the donor stem cells. In the weeks before HSCT, you may need to have:
This process is called conditioning. It will rid the body of diseased cells and clear the bone marrow cavities for the new bone marrow.
Description of the Procedure TOP
If the stem cells will be from the donor's bone marrow, an area of the donor's hip will be cleaned. A hollow needle and syringe will be used to remove the bone marrow. The doctor will make several small punctures. This is to harvest enough bone marrow for the transplant (1-2 quarts). Lastly, the wounds will be covered with bandages.
If the stem cells will be from the donor's blood, the doctor will stick a needle in the donor's large vein or veins in the arms. A machine will collect blood from the vein. This machine will spin the blood so that the stem cells are concentrated. The rest of the blood will be given back to the donor. The puncture wounds will be covered with bandages. You may need more than one blood donation. The donor may also need to take pills that cause more stem cells from the bone marrow to go into the blood.
The donated stem cells will be filtered. The cells will be delivered into one of your large veins through a small, bendy tube called a catheter.
Immediately After Procedure TOP
The donor will get better quickly. You, the recipient, will need to be placed in a room by yourself. This is so you don’t get an infection before the new stem cells in the bone marrow start to make infection-fighting cells.
How Long Will It Take? TOP
How Much Will It Hurt? TOP
Average Hospital Stay TOP
Post-procedure Care TOP
The donor may receive:
While you are recovering at the hospital, you may have:
Call Your Doctor TOP
Contact your doctor if your recovery is not progressing as expected or you have problems, such as:
If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.
Be the Match—National Marrow Donor Program
Canadian Association of Transplantation
Canadian Blood Services
Blood-forming stem cell transplants. National Cancer Institute website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated August 12, 2013. Accessed September 6, 2016.
Stem cell transplant for cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed September 6, 2016.
Last reviewed May 2016 by Mohei Abouzied, MD
Last Updated: 5/17/2018
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