The autologous transplant procedure

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Learn what happens during your child's autologous blood and marrow transplant (BMT) procedure.

Key points

  • The transplant procedure is similar to a blood transfusion.
  • Most patients do not experience side effects or pain during the procedure.
  • After the transplant, your child may experience side effects including nausea, an unusual taste in their mouth, and a sweet, garlicky smell in the breath.

After your child’s finishes their conditioning regimen, they will be ready for the autologous blood and marrow transplant (BMT). This is usually one to two days after they finish chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy. The harvested stem or bone marrow cells will be thawed in the blood bank before the transplant.

The transplant procedure is relatively straightforward and does not involve any surgery.

During the transplant

The transplant procedure is similar to a blood transfusion. It takes place in your child’s room, not an operating room. You can stay in the same room with your child during the transplant.

During your child's transplant:

  1. Your child lies in bed.
  2. The nurse will attach your child to a monitor which checks your child’s:
    • temperature
    • blood pressure
    • breathing and pulse
  3. The BMT nurse infuses the transplanted cells intravenously (IV). This is done through the central venous line (CVL) that is already inserted inside your child’s chest.

The transplant takes about 45 minutes to an hour. Your child’s nurse will check for any side effects your child might experience, which include:

However, most patients do not experience any side effects during the transplant procedure.

While the stem cells are being infused, your child can do other activities, such as reading, watching TV, and playing video games. Some children even fall asleep.

How will your child feel during the transplant?

The transplant is painless and many children are awake during the procedure. Some may be lightly sedated.

After the transplant

After your child finishes receiving the transplanted cells, the nurse will shut off the monitor.

Every few hours, the nurse will check your child’s:

  • breathing
  • heart rate
  • blood pressure

Your child may experience some side effects after the transplant. Many of these are due to the preservative called DMSO, which is used to freeze the harvested stem or bone marrow cells. Usually, these side effects are temporary and go away within a day or two.

These include:

  • nausea. Usually, anti-nausea medicines are given to your child before the transplant.
  • an unusual taste in your child’s mouth
  • a sweet, garlicky smell in the breath. If your child is old enough, sucking on hard candy or chewing gum may help.

Your child’s urine may turn dark red. This is only temporary and will go away within a day or two.

Last updated: March 5th 2010