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A to Z: Transplant, Bone Marrow

May also be called: Stem Cell Transplant 

A bone marrow transplant is a medical procedure that replaces damaged bone marrow with healthy bone marrow stem cells.

More to Know

Stem cells are cells in the body that have the potential to turn into any kind of cell, such as a skin cell, a liver cell, a brain cell, or a blood cell. Stem cells that turn into blood cells are called hematopoietic (hee-mat-oh-poy-EH-tik) stem cells. These cells can develop into red blood cells that carry oxygen, white blood cells that fight infection, or platelets that help blood to clot. Hematopoietic stem cells can be found in bone marrow (the spongy tissue inside bones), the bloodstream, or the umbilical cord blood of newborn babies.

A bone marrow transplant (sometimes called a stem cell transplant) can re-supply a person’s healthy hematopoietic stem cells after they’ve been used up. Bone marrow transplants are used to treat a wide range of diseases, including cancers like leukemia, lymphoma, neuroblastoma, Wilms tumor, and some testicular or ovarian cancers; blood disorders; immune system diseases; and bone marrow syndromes.

Transplanted hematopoietic stem cells are put into the bloodstream through an intravenous (IV) line, much like a blood transfusion. Once in the body, they can produce healthy new blood and immune system cells.

Keep in Mind

Bone marrow transplantation is a very complex process that may take several months. How well someone does after a transplant depends on many factors, including the type of transplant, how well the donor cells match, and the patient’s age and overall health. After a successful transplant, people usually recover fully within a year.

All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.