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Stem Cell Transplant Recovery

My step-mom was diagnosed in January and is considering a SCT. Has anyone had one? How was the recovery? Thanks!


HeartofSoul's picture

Recovery in the Hospital

You’ll stay in the hospital for weeks or even months after your stem cell transplant. In the first few days after the procedure, your blood cell levels will continue to go down. This is because of the chemotherapy and/or radiation you got before the transplant.

Your doctors will test your blood 7 to 10 days after the transplant to see whether new blood cells have begun to grow. They’ll check your blood counts every day to track your progress.

You’ll stay in the hospital until your immune system recovers and your doctors are sure that your transplant was successful. During your time in the hospital, your doctors and nurses will carefully watch you for side effects from chemotherapy and radiation, infection, and graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) and graft failure.

Side Effects From Chemotherapy or Radiation
The chemotherapy and possible radiation you get before the stem cell transplant have side effects. These side effects begin to occur a few days after the transplant. Some of these side effects are painful or uncomfortable; others are very serious.

Side effects include:

Painful sores in the mouth.
Nausea, diarrhea, and intestinal cramps.
Skin rashes.
Hair loss.
Liver damage occurs in about 10% of people who go through the transplant preparation.

Interstitial pneumonia.
This is a type of pneumonia that affects certain tissues in the lungs. It affects about 5 percent of people who go through the transplant preparation. Doctors use mouth rinses, medicines, and other methods to treat these side effects. Some go away on their own once your blood cells begin to grow and your immune system recovers.

You can easily get an infection after the transplant because your immune system is weak. Some infections are serious. Infections can be caused by:
Bacteria, such as those in your mouth or around your central line
Viruses, such as herpes or cytomegalovirus
Fungus or yeast, such as candida

To prevent infections, you’ll stay in a private room. The air will be filtered to keep germs out. Doctors, nurses, and others who visit you will wear face masks and wash their hands very carefully. Your doctor may have you take medicine to fight infections even if you don't already have an infection.

You also can take other steps to prevent infections:
Bathe or shower daily.
Carefully clean your teeth and gums.
Keep the area clean where your central line enters your body.
Avoid foods, such as raw fruits and vegetables, that may have harmful bacteria.

Graft-Versus-Host Disease and Graft Failure
Donated stem cells can attack your body. This is called graft-versus-host disease. Your immune system also can attack the donated stem cells. This is called graft failure. These events can be minor or life threatening. They can happen soon after transplant or can develop slowly over months.

What To Expect After a Blood and Marrow Stem Cell Transplant?
You’ll stay in the hospital for weeks or even months after your blood and marrow stem cell transplant. Your doctors will want to be sure that you're healthy and strong enough to go home.

They’ll want to make sure:
Your bone marrow is making enough healthy blood cells
You have no severe complications
You feel well and any mouth sores and/or diarrhea have improved or gone away
Your appetite has improved
You have no fever or vomiting

During the first weeks and months after you leave the hospital, you’ll make frequent trips to an outpatient clinic. This allows your doctors to track your progress. These visits will happen less often over time.

Staff at the clinic will teach you and your caregiver how to care for your central line (which will stay in place for at least 6 months after your transplant), how to watch for and prevent infections, and other ways to care for you. They also will tell you who to call and what to do in case of an emergency.

Recovery from a stem cell transplant can be slow. It takes 6 to 12 months to recover normal blood cell levels and immune function. During this time, it's important for you to take steps to reduce the risk of infection, get plenty of rest, and follow your doctors' instructions about medicines and checkups.

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