About the Procedure

Patients undergo a variety of diagnostic tests and physical examinations to begin the transplant approval process. Patients are also required to learn more about the transplant procedure and what will be required of them.

Once you are approved for a transplant, you may then be put on a waiting list to receive bone marrow or begin the process of finding a suitable donor. Depending on your specific condition, possible bone marrow donors include yourself, a living relative who has matching tissue (usually a sibling), or an unrelated donor with matching tissue. A blood test helps determine matches.

If you use your own marrow or stem cells, you will either undergo leukapheresis, in which stem cells are taken from the blood, or surgery, in which bone marrow is taken from the top of the hip bone. 

If the donor is a relative or other person, the marrow will be removed from the top of the hip bone while the donor is under general anesthesia. 

The donor marrow or stem cells may be used immediately, or frozen and used at a later date. 

Procedure

Before the new marrow or stem cells can be put into your body, you must undergo chemotherapy or radiation. This process will destroy the abnormal blood cells or cancer. It will also help dull your immune system so that your body is less likely to reject the donated marrow or stem cells.

The donated marrow is then delivered into your veins through an IV line. Your blood will then carry the new marrow into the bone cavities. 

Recovery

After the transplant surgery, you will remain in the hospital for two weeks to three months while the new bone marrow begins to grow. UT Southwestern Medical Center has special facilities, including a 13-bed, HEPA-filtered unit, that are kept as sterile as possible to help reduce the risk of infection. 

Patients are cared for by experienced hematologists and oncologists as well as ancillary personnel who work toward optimal management of all aspects of patient care. 

Follow-up visits are required, especially during the first two to three months. A full recovery from the transplant usually takes between six and 12 months. Patients who received marrow or stem cells from a donor will need to take immunosuppressive (anti-rejection) drugs.