Recovery and complications of stem cell transplants

During transplant the stem cells are delivered through your central line, similar to having a blood transfusion or chemotherapy.

The process is relatively straightforward and will only take between 30mins and 4 hours to complete. You will be carefully monitored during your stem cells infusion.

Your treating team will monitor you very closely in the days following your transplant. They will take your blood often to ensure your body has accepted the new stem cells and the stem cells are doing their job in your bone marrow.

Infection

Infections are common after a stem cell transplant due to the high dose therapies you receive in the lead up. If you have a fever (feeling very hot or cold or are shivering) you should alert your doctor or nurse immediately.

Please see Stem Cell Transplants and Infection Prevention for important information for patients and visitors.

Other complications

There are several conditions that are commonly associated with high dose chemotherapy and radiotherapy, or with the transplant itself. There is also a risk with allogeneic transplant that your new stem cells will not engraft, however this is rare. Your treating team will take every precaution to prevent these and monitor you closely to ensure they are quickly detected and treated.

You treating team will discuss with you at length any complications associated with both autologous and allogeneic stem cell transplantation. If you experience any new symptoms you should alert your doctor or nurses immediately.

Please see Treatment Related Side Effects for other common side effects from treatment.

Recovery

It will take some time to recover from a stem cell transplant. It varies from person to person and is dependent on your disease, the other treatments you received and any complications you may have experienced.

Generally speaking recovery takes:

  • 3 to 6 months for an Autologous Transplant
  • 12 to 18 moths for an Allogeneic Transplant

When you leave hospital you will still need to return regularly to monitor the progress of your transplant and your general well-being.

When to contact the hospital urgently

If it is a medical emergency call 000

If you have any of the following symptoms please contact Peter Mac straight away and ask for the registrar on call, on (03) 8559 5000:

  • A temperature over 38˚C or fever and chills (these might indicate an infection)
  • Diarrhoea or stomach cramps
  • Persistent vomiting or nausea
  • Any abnormal bruising and bleeding e.g. blood in you urine, bowel movements, bleeding gums or nose bleeds.
  • Constipation: if you have not opened your bowels for more than two days
  • Persistent cough or shortness of breath
  • A persistent headache
  • Unexplained and persistent soreness
  • Pain, swelling, redness or puss around your central line
  • A sudden decline in your health.
  • A rash or itching

If you present to an emergency department, please ensure you let them know immediately that you have had a stem cell transplant and do not wait in the emergency cue.

More information

This content was adapted from the Leukaemia Foundation's Guides for Patient and Families.