Stem cell transplant

A stem cell transplant — also called a blood or marrow transplant — is the injection or infusion of healthy stem cells into your body to replace damaged or diseased stem cells.

A stem cell transplant may be necessary if your bone marrow stops working and doesn't produce enough healthy stem cells.

This procedure also may be performed if high-dose chemotherapy or radiation therapy is given in the treatment of blood disorders such as leukemia, lymphoma, multiple myeloma or sickle cell anemia.

A stem cell transplant can help your body make enough healthy white blood cells, red blood cells or platelets, and reduce your risk of life-threatening infections, anemia and bleeding.

Although the procedure to replenish your body's supply of healthy blood-forming cells is generally called a stem cell transplant, it's also known as a bone marrow transplant, peripheral blood stem cell transplant or an umbilical cord blood transplant, depending on the source of the stem cells.

Stem cell transplants can use cells from your own body (autologous stem cell transplant), from a donor (allogeneic stem cell transplant) or from an identical twin (syngeneic transplant).

Why it's done Risks How you prepare What you can expect Results

Stem cell transplants are used to treat people whose stem cells have been damaged by disease or the treatment of a disease, or as a way to have the donor's immune system fight a blood disorder such as leukemia.

Stem cell transplants can benefit people with a variety of both cancerous (malignant) and noncancerous (nonmalignant) diseases.

A stem cell transplant may help treat blood disorders by:

  • Killing cancer cells. In a stem cell transplant procedure, you'll first be given powerful drugs (chemotherapy) with or without radiation therapy to kill the cancer cells.

    Doctors then infuse into your body healthy stem cells that previously have been collected from you or a donor. The new stem cells migrate to your bone marrow and, over time, produce healthy new cells.

    In addition, the donor cells also have the ability to kill some types of cancer cells.

  • Helping you recover faster from high doses of chemotherapy and radiation. The healthy cells infused in a stem cell transplant may allow you to recover faster from chemotherapy and radiation, as these cells haven't been exposed to either treatment.

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