Bone marrow is the spongy tissue inside some of your bones, such as your hip and thigh bones. It contains immature cells, called stem cells. The stem cells can develop into red blood cells, which carry oxygen throughout the body, white blood cells, which fight infections, and platelets, which help the blood to clot.
A bone marrow transplant is a procedure that replaces a person's faulty bone marrow stem cells. Doctors use these transplants to treat people with certain diseases, such as
- Severe blood diseases such as thalassemias, aplastic anemia, and sickle cell anemia
- Multiple myeloma
- Certain immune deficiency diseases
Before you have a transplant, you need to get high doses of chemotherapy and possibly radiation. This destroys the faulty stem cells in your bone marrow. It also suppresses your body's immune system so that it won't attack the new stem cells after the transplant.
In some cases, you can donate your own bone marrow stem cells in advance. The cells are saved and then used later on. Or you can get cells from a donor. The donor might be a family member or unrelated person.
Bone marrow transplantation has serious risks. Some complications can be life-threatening. But for some people, it is the best hope for a cure or a longer life.
NIH: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
- Blood and Bone Marrow Transplant? (National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute)
- Blood-Forming Stem Cell Transplants (National Cancer Institute) Also in Spanish
- Finding a Donor (National Marrow Donor Program)
- Learn About Bone Marrow Transplantation as a Treatment Option (Health Resources and Services Administration)
- What Is a Bone Marrow Transplant? (National Marrow Donor Program)
- What is it Like to Get a Stem Cell Transplant? (American Cancer Society) Also in Spanish
- Life After Transplant (National Marrow Donor Program)
- Choosing a Transplant Center (National Marrow Donor Program)
- Graft-Versus-Host-Disease (National Marrow Donor Program)
- Learning about Your Disease (National Marrow Donor Program)
- Physical Health and Recovery (National Marrow Donor Program)
- Planning for a Bone Marrow Transplant (BMT) (Health Resources and Services Administration)
- Stem Cell Transplant Patients and Fungal Infections (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
- Stem Cell Transplant Side Effects (American Cancer Society) Also in Spanish
- Treatment Before Transplant (National Marrow Donor Program)
- What's It Like to Donate Stem Cells? (American Cancer Society) Also in Spanish
- Donation FAQs (National Marrow Donor Program)
Videos and Tutorials
- Becoming a Blood Stem Cell Donor (National Cancer Institute)
Statistics and Research
- Donation and Transplantation Statistics (Health Resources and Services Administration)
- ClinicalTrials.gov: Bone Marrow Transplantation (National Institutes of Health)
Journal Articles References and abstracts from MEDLINE/PubMed (National Library of Medicine)
- Patients and families (National Marrow Donor Program) - PDF