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Bone Marrow or Stem Cell Transplantation


  • A stem cell transplant is a procedure where stem cells are put into your blood. Stem cells are found in bone marrow (spongy tissue inside bone), blood, and the umbilical cords of newborns. The umbilical cord is attached to a baby's abdomen and brings nutrition to a child before he is born. Stem cells are able to become other cells, such as red blood cells (RBCs) or white blood cells (WBCs). RBCs deliver oxygen to parts of your body and WBCs help fight infection caused by germs. If you have an autologous transplant, the stem cells come from your own body. During an allogeneic transplant, the stem cells come from a family member or someone not related to you. Once stem cells are transplanted into your blood, they travel to your bone marrow and start growing into new cells.
  • Your cells may become damaged from cancer (such as leukemia) or cancer treatment, such as chemotherapy (chemo) or radiation. Cells also may become damaged by non-cancer diseases, such as sickle cell anemia or problems with your immune system. Your immune system is the part of your body that fights infection. When new stem cells enter your body, they may turn into healthy cells that replace damaged cells. New cells may help decrease the symptoms from your disease or treatment, such as fatigue (feeling very tired). If you have cancer, new cells may help kill cancer cells in your body and you may be less likely to get your cancer again.


Take your medicine as directed:

Call your primary healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not working as expected. Tell him if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a current list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when, how, and why you take them. Take the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency. Throw away old medicine lists.

  • Antirejection medicine: Your body tries to attack your new organ like it would attack an infection. These medicines are given to help your body accept your new organ and to keep your body from rejecting it. You may need to take this medicine for the rest of your life.
  • Antibiotics: This medicine is given to fight or prevent an infection caused by bacteria. Always take your antibiotics exactly as ordered by your primary healthcare provider. Do not stop taking your medicine unless directed by your primary healthcare provider. Never save antibiotics or take leftover antibiotics that were given to you for another illness.
  • Antifungal medicine: This medicine helps kill fungus that can cause illness.
  • Antiviral medicine: This is given to prevent or treat an infection caused by a germ called a virus. Antiviral medicine may also be given to control symptoms of a viral infection that cannot be cured.
  • Pain medicine: You may need medicine to take away or decrease pain.
    • Learn how to take your medicine. Ask what medicine and how much you should take. Be sure you know how, when, and how often to take it.
    • Do not wait until the pain is severe before you take your medicine. Tell caregivers if your pain does not decrease.
    • Pain medicine can make you dizzy or sleepy. Prevent falls by calling someone when you get out of bed or if you need help.
  • Steroids: Steroid medicine may be given to decrease inflammation, which is redness, pain, and swelling. Steroid medicine also may help stop your body from attacking your new stem cells.

Ask for information about where and when to go for follow-up visits:

For continuing care, treatments, or home services, ask for more information.

  • You will need to see your caregiver for follow-up blood and urine tests. If you have cancer, you may need more chemo or radiation treatment. If you do not have enough healthy blood cells in your body, you may need another stem cell transplant. Ask your dental caregiver about the best way to take care of your teeth.

Hand washing safety measures that help prevent an infection:

Use warm, soapy water to wash your hands frequently. Your caregiver may tell you that it is okay to clean your hands using antibacterial hand rub. Wash your hands before or after the following:

  • After touching your mouth or nose.
  • After touching or being near bowel movements.
  • After changing diapers.
  • After touching dirt, such as when gardening or touching plants.
  • After going outdoors.
  • Before and after touching wounds (sores) on your body.

Cooking safety measures that help prevent an infection:

There are several cooking safety measures that you may take to help decrease your chances of getting an infection. These safety measures include:

  • Wash your hands with warm, soapy water before eating and preparing food.
  • Keep raw meat (such as beef and poultry), fish, and seafood on separate surfaces than other foods. Do not use a cutting board that has already touched raw foods. Wash your hands and cooking tools (such as knives) after touching raw foods.
  • Cook all meat thoroughly so that it is not rare. Never eat rare meat. When in a restaurant, order all meat well done. Do not eat rare or undercooked eggs. Avoid salad dressings and other sauces that may contain undercooked eggs.
  • Wash all fresh produce (such as fruits and vegetables) thoroughly under running water.
  • Carefully clean your kitchen, including your counters, shelves, and refrigerator.
  • When preparing leftovers, put small portions in separate containers. Refrigerate all leftovers within two hours or throw them away. When reheating leftovers, make sure that they are reheated completely, inside and out. If reheating soup, make sure that it comes to a rolling boil and boils for at least one minute.
  • Ask your caregiver if a special diet, such as a low microbial diet, is right for you.

Drinking safety measures that help prevent an infection:

It is important that you do not drink tap water. Tap water comes from a faucet, such as in your kitchen or bathroom. Do not use tap water even when brushing your teeth. If you must drink tap water, you must bring it to a boil and then keep it boiling for at least one minute. You also may be able to use a filter for your tap water. Ask your caregiver for tap water instructions that are right for you. Other drinking safety measures include:

  • Do not drink from private or public water wells.
  • Do not have drinks made from frozen concentrates, such as juices.
  • Make sure that all milk or orange juice that you drink has been pasteurized. Milk and orange juice containers will be marked if the drinks have been pasteurized. Do not drink milk or orange juice unless it came from a sealed container.
  • Avoid drinking sodas, coffee, or other drinks in restaurants and movie theatres. Ask your caregiver which drinks are okay for you, such as bottled or canned soda.

Personal care safety measures that help prevent an infection:

After your stem cell transplant, you will need to use safety measures while you take care of yourself. After your transplant, do not put anything into your rectum (anus). Other safety measures include:

  • Bathing and showering: Take a shower or bath every day. Use a mild soap. After showering or bathing, look at your skin for sores or signs of inflammation (redness and swelling).
  • Going to the bathroom: Do not use outhouses or portable toilets. Avoid public toilets. If you are female, always wipe from front to back after going to the bathroom. Do not use tampons.
  • Sex: Use latex condoms during sex to help prevent sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Follow your caregiver's instructions for safely having sex.

Animal safety measures that help prevent an infection:

Being around a pet or other animals may increase your risk of getting an infection. If possible, you should try to avoid direct contact with animals, such as petting. Your caregiver also may want you to do the following:

  • Wash your hands after you touch your pets or other animals.
  • Ask someone else to clean litter boxes or cages. If you must clean a litter box or cage yourself, wear gloves and wash your hands afterwards. Do not put a litter box near where you eat or prepare food, such as your kitchen or dining room.
  • Do not allow your pet to drink from the toilet.
  • Take your pet to his veterinarian (vet) for regular checkups. Do not adopt or touch stray or sick pets.
  • Do not touch reptiles (such as lizards) or primates (such as monkeys or gorillas).
  • Avoid going near chicken coops or other places where birds may roost.
  • Feed your pets only high quality food. Cats should only have canned or dry food. If you cook your pets' meals, cook all food thoroughly so that it is not rare.
  • Keep your cats inside your home. Avoid letting your cats outside.

Certain people and places to avoid to help prevent an infection:

After a stem cell transplant, you should avoid being around certain places and people. Your caregiver may give you the following instructions to help prevent infection:

  • Avoid being around people who are sick or have a rash.
  • Avoid crowded places, such as malls and elevators.
  • Avoid going to places that may have dirt that has been dug up, such as farms and construction sites.
  • Do not go into a pond or lake.
  • Do not go to another country unless your caregiver says it is okay.
  • If someone you know has recently had a vaccine, ask your caregiver when it is okay to be near that person again.

Safety measures for my friends and family members to help prevent me from getting an infection:

Your family members should get vaccines for certain illnesses, such as influenza (flu). All sexual partners should be tested for STDs. If someone else is cooking for you, he should follow your caregiver's instructions for touching and preparing food.

Do not smoke:

Smoking causes lung cancer and other long-term lung diseases. It increases your risk of many cancer types. Smoking also increases your risk of blood vessel disease, heart attack, and vision disorders. Not smoking may help prevent such symptoms as headaches and dizziness for yourself and those around you. Smokers have shorter lifespans than nonsmokers.


  • You have stomach pains, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
  • You have a fever (high body temperature), gain weight, or get a rash.
  • You have a faster heart rate than normal, even at rest.
  • You have sores, swelling, or redness in your mouth.
  • Your skin or the whites of your eyes turn yellow.
  • You have a cough that does not go away.
  • You have blood in your stool or urine.
  • You have chest pain or trouble breathing that is getting worse over time.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition, transplant, or care.


  • You have a seizure (uncontrolled shaking).
  • You suddenly feel lightheaded and have trouble breathing.
  • You have new and sudden chest pain. You may have more pain when you take deep breaths or cough. You may cough up blood.
  • Your arm or leg feels warm, tender, and painful. It may look swollen and red.
  • You have one or more of the following. These signs and symptoms may happen suddenly:
    • A very bad headache. This may feel like the worst headache of your life.
    • Too dizzy to stand.
    • Weakness or numbness in your arm, leg, or face. This may happen on only one side of your body.
    • Confusion and problems speaking or understanding things.
    • Not able to see out of one or both of your eyes.
    • This is an emergency. Call 911 or 0 (operator) for an ambulance to get to the nearest hospital. Do not drive yourself!

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Learn more about Bone Marrow or Stem Cell Transplantation (Aftercare Instructions)

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