How to recover after bone marrow transplant? - Cancer Rounds

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How to recover after bone marrow transplant?


A bone marrow transplant is a life-saving procedure that gives the patient a new life.

Many patients receive bone marrow transplants as the main type of treatment for blood disorders and cancer such as leukemia and lymphoma. The main part of this process is to remove damaged bone marrow with healthy bone marrow obtained from the donor. 

These are the following in which a patient might require a bone marrow transplant: 

  • Blood cancer includes every type of leukemia and lymphoma. 
  • Blood disorders that arise from any immune or genetic defect include sickle cell anemia and thalassemia 
  • Bone marrow disorders such as aplastic anemia 
  • Any bone marrow damage due to chemotherapy or radiation therapy for cancer 


These are some of the common disorders and defects that will require a bone marrow transplant.

After getting a transplant it becomes more crucial to take good care of your health.

You may also experience some complications after the treatment; hence it is advised to visit the hospital for the following checkups. 

This article mainly focuses on the recovery of bone marrow transplants. 


Common complications that occur after a transplant 

Many different issues arise after the procedure is done. It is not necessary that every patient experience the side effects.

Some of the common complications that a person suffers from after getting a bone marrow transplant are listed below: 

  • Infection 

Getting an infection is quite common after a bone marrow transplant. Until the stem cells engraft into the patient’s body, the risk of getting infected by any organism is very common. This is due to the destruction of white blood cells in the procedure, which makes it more difficult to fight any foreign infection-causing organism.  

To avoid such complications, the patient is kept under observation for a few weeks. There are several precautions that are taken to keep the patient healthy such as: 

  • Maintain personal hygiene. 
  • Taking antibiotics to prevent infection. 
  • Visitors are advised to wash their hands before meeting the patient. 
  • Avoiding fresh flowers and fruits from the outside. 
  • Implementing an air filter into the room of the patient. 

Apart from these precautions other steps are taken by the patient to avoid getting an infection. Always consult your doctor before taking any medication for the infection. 


  • Vomiting and Diarrhea 

Other symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea are also commonly observed in patients who have received bone marrow transplants. If the condition gets worse, doctors can prescribe other drugs to help control these symptoms.

Medications like antiemetics are commonly used to control such effects but it is observed in a few patients that new complications may arise, which include anxiety, restlessness, drowsiness, muscle contraction, or uncontrolled muscle movements.  

Although these side effects may sound serious, they can be treated using other drugs. These side effects may not persist for a longer period of time.  


  • Mouth and throat soreness 

Apart from the side effects mentioned above, mouth and throat soreness are also commonly observed in a few patients. These sores in the mouth and throat make it difficult for the patient to swallow food and hence also affect the appetite of the patient. But it is an important part of the recovery process, that the patient must intake the required number of calories.  

Many transplants have nutritionists that take proper care of the calorie intake of the patient. If the patient is sent home after transplant, they are advised to take a proper diet and discuss with their doctor before taking any medication on their own. 


  • Hair loss and skin issues 

Hair loss is a temporary side effect of bone marrow transplant which affects most patients. In almost all cases, hair grows back after some time of the treatment process. Apart from hair loss, many skin issues are also seen in many patients. Skin rashes are commonly observed in many patients with dark spots which last for a few weeks. 


  • Muscle spasms 

Muscle spasms and cramps are usually caused by a deficiency of electrolytes in the body of the patient. This is a common effect that is observed in many patients after transplantation. This problem can be easily resolved by taking supplements and electrolyte-rich fluids. 


  • Bladder irritation 

Bladder irritation and other bladder-related problems such as painful urination, blood in urine, etc. can be seen in patients. Though it is not a very common symptom, the complication can be severe. Consult your doctor immediately if you experience such issues. 


  • Liver issues 

Liver damage due to chemotherapy is often experienced by many patients. Although, in many cases, it is temporary and does not last for long. It occurs due to a high dose of chemotherapy. Normally, 50% of patients suffer from liver damage after a bone marrow transplant but it is reversible and does not affect the whole liver. Avoiding heavy medications for some time can provide the liver enough time for the liver to regenerate.  


  • Lung and heart issues 

Often due to infection, certain lung problems arise such as breathing difficulties, cough, irregular breathing, etc. These problems do not necessarily occur in every patient, but they can be seen in a few. Lung issues are temporary and can be reversed by taking antibiotics and other medications. Similarly, heart issues can be seen in many patients. Heart problems can be seen as irregular heartbeat.  


  • Fatigue 

During and after bone marrow transplant, fatigue is commonly observed in almost all patients. But with time and care, a patient can recover easily. Some exercise and proper diet have helped many bone marrow transplant patients to recover quickly.  


  • Graft versus host diseases 

 One of the most common compilations in any type of transplant is graft versus host diseases. It refers to the rejection of donor organs from another person. Usually, people who get donor stem cells from another person get these diseases. This can be treated with immunosuppressants etc.   


Other lifestyles change to heal quickly 

The complications and issues that are mentioned above can be treated through different medications and methods, but some lifestyle changes can help you recover quickly. Some of the changes that you can implement in your daily life are: 


  • Diet – 

 The weakness after a transplant is common in many patients. Feeling nausea, vomiting and other symptoms are very common in any transplant patient. To get relief from these symptoms, one must take a proper diet that is rich in nutrients and calories.

The diet of the patient must include calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and vitamin D as these are the main nutrients that will help the patient to recover faster. 


  • Exercise –  

Exercising daily, even if it just involves walking for some time, is very beneficial for the patient. These movements will help the body to circulate blood and keep the heart healthy. Exercise will also help the patient to maintain a healthy weight.  


  • Supplements –  

It is often observed that bone marrow transplant patients lose their appetite and do not feel like eating anything. But in the recovery phase taking multivitamins is very crucial hence often doctors prescribe supplements to these patients as a source of vitamins and minerals.  


  • Avoid these substances –  

While taking care of the health of a transplant patient, one must keep in mind that there are several things that need to be avoided in order to recover.

As the patient has a weak immune system, they must avoid ingesting unpasteurized food items, such as raw milk, uncooked eggs or meat, junk food, etc. As the liver could be severely damaged after taking a high dose of medications, it is also advised to avoid alcohol and other such drinks.  


These are some of the main things to keep in mind to recover quickly and also consult a specialist before taking any medication. 

Posted by, magneto
October 27, 2022

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