Blood cancer can be particularly aggressive, especially in children. It can be natural to assume that nothing can be done for cancers like this but that’s not the case. One of the most important treatment options for blood cancers is a bone marrow transplant.
Bone marrow is the tissue found inside the bones. One of the major functions of bone marrow is the production of blood cells via a process called hematopoiesis. Bone marrow forms a large part of the human body and is responsible for generating approximately 500 billion blood cells every day.
Bone marrow transplant is done to treat diseases and disorders that affect the bone marrow, most commonly cancers of the blood like leukemia.
What Is Bone Marrow Transplant?
Bone marrow transplant, also known as Hematopoietic stem cell transplant, is the process of transplanting healthy bone marrow stem cells to a person in need. The cells to be transplanted can be taken from the patient themselves or can be obtained from a donor. When the cells are taken from the patient it is known as autologous transplant and when a donor is used, it is known as an allogeneic transplant. In some cases, a twin may be used which is known as synergic bone marrow transplant.
Who Needs A Bone Marrow Transplant?
A bone marrow transplant is needed in people with disorders or diseases of the bone marrow, as diagnosed by a hematologist. Cases in hematology (study of blood and blood disorders) that may require a bone marrow transplant include:
- Malignancies or cancerous conditions like multiple myeloma, leukemia, and lymphoma
- Aplastic anemia, in which the bone marrow stops functioning.
- Damage to bone marrow due to chemotherapy or radiation therapy used to treat cancer
- Inherited or genetic conditions in which the functions of the bone marrow are insufficient.
- Hematology conditions like sickle cell anemia and thalassemia
- Immune-related and autoimmune conditions.
How Is Bone Marrow Transplant Performed?
Bone marrow transplant procedures are performed under the guidance of a medical team, including a hematologist. The procedure is similar to a blood transfusion.
In one method, bone marrow is aspirated with a long needle from the two pelvic bones. The patient is under anesthesia and doesn’t feel any pain during the procedure.
In another method, the person from whom the bone marrow stem cells are being harvested is given medications to cause the stem cells to move out of the bones and into the blood. The blood is then drawn out with an I.V line and the stem cells are separated from the rest of the blood with a machine. The blood is then returned back to the body.
Risks Of Bone Marrow Transplant
As any hematologist will tell you, there are certain risks and complications that may occur during the bone marrow transplant. These risks range from mild to severe and can include:
- Low blood pressure
- Graft rejection if the marrow cells are not autologous
- Internal bleeding
- Graft failure if the transplanted cells don’t function.
A bone marrow transplant is a delicate and precise procedure which requires the best hematologist. In Hyderabad, there are a number of good hematologists and hospitals specialised in hematology that are experienced with this procedure.
When in doubt, consult with a hematologists to know more. Knowledge can save lives.