Why Bone Marrow Transplant is Done

Bone marrow transplantation (BMT), also known as hematopoietic stem cell transplant (HSCT), is a medical procedure in which healthy bone marrow cells are infused into a patient's body to replace diseased or damaged bone marrow. This life-saving treatment is often the last resort for various conditions that affect blood and immune system function.

Why is a Bone Marrow Transplant Necessary?

Bone marrow, the soft tissue found inside bones, plays a crucial role in producing blood cells. These cells include red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets, each with unique functions in maintaining overall health. When bone marrow becomes diseased or damaged, it can disrupt the production of healthy blood cells, leading to various health issues.

Conditions Treated with Bone Marrow Transplant

BMT is primarily used to treat a wide range of blood cancers, including:

  • Leukemia: This cancer affects blood-forming tissues, leading to the overproduction of abnormal white blood cells.
  • Lymphoma: This type of cancer affects lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell that plays a crucial role in the immune system.
  • Myeloma: A cancer of plasma cells, a type of white blood cell responsible for producing antibodies.

Other Conditions Treated with Bone Marrow Transplant

In addition to blood cancers, BMT can also be used to treat non-cancerous conditions, including:

  • Sickle Cell Anemia: A genetic disorder causing red blood cells to become sickle-shaped, leading to pain, anemia, and organ damage.
  • Thalassemia: Another genetic disorder that affects the production of hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen.
  • Aplastic Anemia: A condition in which the bone marrow fails to produce enough blood cells.

The Bone Marrow Transplant Process

BMT involves several steps, including:

  1. Patient Preparation: The patient undergoes extensive medical evaluation to assess their overall health and determine their eligibility for BMT.
  2. Donor Selection: A suitable donor is identified, either a related donor (such as a sibling) or an unrelated donor from a national registry.
  3. Bone Marrow Collection: Bone marrow is typically collected from the donor's hip bone using a needle and syringe.
  4. Conditioning Treatment: The patient receives high-dose chemotherapy or radiation therapy to eliminate diseased bone marrow and make room for the transplanted bone marrow.
  5. Transplantation: The collected bone marrow is infused into the patient's bloodstream through a vein.

Risks and Complications of Bone Marrow Transplant

BMT is a complex procedure with potential risks and complications, including:

  • Infection: The patient's immune system is weakened during the conditioning treatment, increasing the risk of infection.
  • Graft-versus-Host Disease (GvHD): In this condition, the transplanted bone marrow cells attack the patient's healthy tissues.
  • Organ Damage: High-dose chemotherapy and radiation therapy can damage the heart, lungs, liver, and kidneys.
  • Relapse: The disease may return after BMT, requiring additional treatment.


Bone marrow transplant is a potentially life-saving treatment for various blood cancers and non-cancerous conditions. However, it is a complex procedure with potential risks and complications. Patients considering BMT should have a thorough discussion with their healthcare team to weigh the benefits and risks and determine if it is the best treatment option for them.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What is the success rate of bone marrow transplant?

The success rate of BMT varies depending on the underlying condition being treated, the patient's age, and overall health. For some conditions, such as acute leukemia, BMT can be curative.

  1. How long does it take to recover from a bone marrow transplant?

Recovery from BMT is a gradual process that can take several months or even years. During this time, patients may experience side effects from the transplant, such as fatigue, nausea, and hair loss.

  1. Can a bone marrow transplant cure cancer?

BMT can be curative for some types of blood cancers, such as acute leukemia. However, it is not a cure for all types of cancer.

  1. What are the risks of bone marrow transplant?

The risks of BMT include infection, graft-versus-host disease (GvHD), organ damage, and relapse of the underlying condition.

  1. Who is eligible for a bone marrow transplant?

Eligibility for BMT depends on the patient's age, overall health, and the underlying condition being treated. Patients with blood cancers or certain non-cancerous conditions may be eligible for BMT.



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