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Bone Marrow Transplant: Before Your Procedure

What is a bone marrow transplant?

Bone marrow is the tissue inside your bones. This tissue makes special cells called stem cells. The stem cells turn into the cells that make up your blood. These are red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.

Blood does a lot in your body to help you stay healthy. If your bone marrow is damaged or destroyed, it can't make normal blood cells. It becomes harder to stay healthy.

You may need a stem cell transplant if you have a disease that damages or destroys the bone marrow. Lymphoma and leukemia are two of the diseases that can damage bone marrow. Bone marrow also may be damaged by radiation or chemotherapy.

The stem cells may come from your own blood or bone marrow, or they could come from another person.

  • If the stem cells are yours, the transplant is called autologous. You may be able to have all or part of your treatment in a clinic. If you need to be in the hospital, you may stay for up to 3 weeks.
  • If the stem cells come from another person, the transplant is called allogeneic. You will need to be in the hospital. You may need to stay for 4 weeks or longer.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

What happens before the procedure?

Preparing for the procedure

  • Understand exactly what procedure is planned, along with the risks, benefits, and other options.
  • Tell your doctors ALL the medicines and natural health products you take. Some of these can increase the risk of bleeding or interact with anesthesia.
  • If you take blood thinners, such as warfarin (Coumadin), clopidogrel (Plavix), or aspirin, be sure to talk to your doctor. He or she will tell you if you should stop taking these medicines before your procedure. Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do.
  • Your doctor will tell you which medicines to take or stop before your procedure. You may need to stop taking certain medicines a week or more before the procedure. So talk to your doctor as soon as you can.
  • If you have an advance care plan, let your doctor know. Bring a copy to the hospital. If you don't have one, you may want to prepare one. It lets your doctor and loved ones know your health care wishes. Doctors advise that everyone prepare these papers before any type of surgery or procedure.

Procedures can be stressful. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for your procedure.

What happens on the day of the procedure?

  • Follow the instructions exactly about when to stop eating and drinking. If you don't, your procedure may be cancelled. If your doctor told you to take your medicines on the day of the procedure, take them with only a sip of water.
  • Take a bath or shower before you come in for your procedure. Do not apply lotions, perfumes, deodorants, or nail polish.
  • Take off all jewellery and piercings. And take out contact lenses, if you wear them.

At the hospital or surgery centre

  • Bring a picture ID.
  • The doctor will put a tube called a catheter into a vein in your chest. The stem cells flow through the catheter into your blood and bone marrow. The stem cells will begin to produce new cells in 1 to 3 weeks. During this time:
    • You may be kept away from other patients. This is to help prevent infection. You may also get antibiotics to prevent or treat infection.
    • Your blood will be tested often to check the levels of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.
    • You may need several transfusions of blood cells and platelets until your body begins to produce its own.
    • You may need to limit visitors and avoid having flowers in your room.
    • You may need to avoid eating certain foods, such as salads.
  • The transplant may take about 1 to 5 hours.

Going home

  • You may need someone to drive you home.
  • You will be given more specific instructions about recovering from your procedure.

When should you call your doctor?

  • You have questions or concerns.
  • You don't understand how to prepare for your procedure.
  • You become ill before the procedure (such as fever, flu, or a cold).
  • You need to reschedule or have changed your mind about having the procedure.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

Enter D848 in the search box to learn more about "Bone Marrow Transplant: Before Your Procedure".

Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.