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Stem cell transplantation (bone marrow transplantation)

Blood consists of platelets and red and white blood cells, which are made by stem cells. When the blood is not good, sometimes healthy new stem cells have to be transplanted. During a stem cell transplantation, healthy stem cells enter the child's bloodstream via an IV drip. These healthy stem cells may come from the child or from a donor.

Stem cells are found in bone marrow, blood and, at birth, in the umbilical cord blood. Stem cells from bone marrow and umbilical cord blood are mainly used for children. During a stem cell transplantation, healthy stem cells enter the child's bloodstream via an IV drip. No operation, therefore, is required.

We remove these stem cells in advance from the child or from a donor. The donor may be a sibling, for example, or someone selected from a global donor pool. It is also possible to use frozen umbilical cord blood. The stem cells travel through the blood into the bone marrow cavity, where they make new healthy blood cells. To make room for the donor's stem cells, it is usually necessary to first 'deactivate' the child's bone marrow. This is accomplished with chemotherapy, sometimes in combination with total body irradiation. 

Stem cell transplantation is an invasive, risky treatment. The treatment can even damage the body of the child. We keep a close eye on this both during and after the treatment.

When is a stem cell transplant performed?

Stem cell transplants are only performed in children with serious conditions. For example, a child with leukemia who does not respond well to chemotherapy or a child with a metabolic disorder that leads to severe neurological damage. Sometimes, stem cell transplants are one of the last options for children with congenital diseases who have a weak immune system or whose bone marrow is not functioning sufficiently.

 

 
What are the potential side effects of a stem cell transplant? 

Because of the medication that your child received to prevent the rejection of the donor transplant, his/her taste can change significantly. This is only temporary. If your child develops a transplant disease, he/she will usually receive prednisone. Behavioral changes are a side effect of this drug.

 
Post Transplant Regimen

After the stem cell transplant, your child will have a weakened immune system for several months. Your child will also need plenty of rest and will easily tire. The most important regimen rule for the initial period after being discharged from the hospital:

  • Avoid confined spaces where many people gather (stores, the cinema, buses and trains, receptions and church).
  • Do not let your child go to school until you have consulted with the attending physician.
  • Avoid busy public areas and poorly ventilated spaces.
  • Your child may not swim with the Hickman catheter inserted.
  • Try to maintain your child's normal diet as much as possible
 
Visitations for Your Child

You can receive visitors at home, but limit this to no more than four people at the same time. Pay attention that visitors do not suffer from the following symptoms:

  • the common cold
  • the flu
  • a stomach pain (diarrhea)
  • childhood diseases such as chickenpox, measles, etc.
  • a cold sore or shingles