Sunday, January 13, 2008

How to Understand the Side Effects of Bone Marrow Transplants


Bone marrow transplants occur when dysfunctional or diseased bone marrow needs to be replaced with healthy marrow. Chemotherapy and radiation usually accompany bone marrow transplant, so the side effects of this procedure are many.


Difficulty: Easy



Step One

Know the patient who will experience bone marrow transplant. Because bone marrow transplant is a treatment for multiple myeloma, immune deficiency disorders and many types of cancer, fear of the future and anxiety are common side effects of bone marrow transplants.

Step Two

Understand why a bone marrow transplant patient may be irritable or depressed. Because of the extreme nature of their isolation to protect against germs and infection, patients may feel alone or helpless.

Step Three

Expect the patient to undergo an immediate lifestyle change. Infection is one of the most common side effects of bone marrow transplant, so extreme precautions must be taken in order to keep the possibility of infection at bay.

Step Four

Realize that anemia is a possible side effect. Red blood cell count may fall after the transplant, leaving the patient feeling tired and without energy. If the count falls too low, a condition called anemia, a blood transfusion may be necessary.

Step Five

Comprehend that platelets will decrease after a bone marrow transplant, and so the patient may be at risk of bleeding. Blood may be present in urine, gums may bleed and nosebleeds may occur. It is important to notify the doctor immediately, as the patient may need a platelet transfusion.

Step Six

Anticipate the same side effects present after chemotherapy and radiation, as both of these may be used in conjunction with the bone marrow transplant. Vomiting and diarrhea are very common, and anti-nausea medication may be prescribed.

Step Seven

Understand that mouth sores are common after receiving chemotherapy or radiation. Painkillers are usually available to ease the pain.

Step Eight

Expect difficulties with eating and lack of appetite due to nausea, diarrhea and mouth sores. Liquid supplement drinks may be required, and in more extreme cases, nutrition may be obtained through a central line.

Step Nine

Recognize that infertility due to chemotherapy may be a long-term side effect, though precautions such as sperm banking and treatments like hormone replacement therapy may be an option.

Step Ten

Ask your oncologist about follow-up procedures to deal with graft-versus-host disease, or GVHD. This occurs when the bone marrow transplanted comes from someone other than the patient. With the bone marrow comes the donor's immune system, which may attack the recipient's body.

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