Bone Marrow Transplant Recovery

Bone marrow transplant recovery begins at the hospital. After you return home, you'll still need to take care of yourself in order to avoid infection and watch for other complications.

Bone Marrow Transplant Recovery at the Hospital

While you recover at the hospital, you might need:

  • Medicine to keep your immune system low to decrease the chance of transplant rejection
  • Antibiotics to prevent infection
  • Platelets, plasma, and red blood cell transfusions to prevent bleeding and anemia
  • Frequent blood tests to monitor whether the new stem cells in the bone marrow are taking hold or being rejected

After a Bone Marrow Transplant

After a bone marrow transplant, several complications can happen. These include:

  • Infection — until the donor blood-forming cells begin to work
  • Rejection — your body rejects donor stem cells
  • Graft vs host disease — immune cells in the donor's bone marrow attack your tissue

To prevent these complications, you’ll need to:

  • Take medication to prevent infection and rejection
  • Remain in the area for a while, so we can follow your progress

When you’re ready, we’ll work with your local providers to return you to their care.

How Long Does it Take to Heal?

Recovery times vary. How long it takes to return to normal life depends on your specific condition. Infections after the transplant can delay healing. Your stem cell team can go over what you can expect.

Infection

With a weakened immune system, your body can’t fight off infections like it normally can. Getting sick during this recovery period could be really dangerous.  

To help prevent infection, we will:

  • Maintain a protective environment
  • Help you maintain good hygiene
  • Check your vital signs often

These can include bacterial, viral, and even fungal infections and include:

  • Pneumonitis, a pneumonia that can occur after transplant
  • Veno-occlusive disease, a blockage of the central veins of the liver that causes damage by slowing blood to your liver

Graft-versus-Host Disease (GVHD)

GVHD occurs when the white blood cells in the donated marrow see your cells as foreign and attack them.

GVHD is divided into acute and chronic:

  • Acute — This occurs within 100 days of transplant, affecting the skin, the gastrointestinal tract, and liver
  • Chronic — typically happens more than 100 days after transplant and affects almost every organ

We usually treat this disease with steroids or other medications.

Signs of an Emergency After BMT

You may experience normal short-term side effects of a stem cell transplant. These can include nausea, vomiting, fatigue, loss of appetite, mouth sores, hair loss, and skin reactions.

However, these and other symptoms can occur because of infection. So, call your provider if you have:

  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Severe pain
  • New onset of pain
  • Signs of infection, such as fever and chills
  • Rash
  • Diarrhea