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Bone Marrow Transplant for Aplastic Anemia | Sheba

Bone Marrow Transplant for Aplastic Anemia

Bone marrow transplants, a potentially life-saving treatment, offer hope to patients with aplastic anemia, a serious condition where the bone marrow fails to produce enough blood cells. This condition can lead to severe anemia, increased risk of infections and uncontrolled bleeding. A bone marrow transplant involves replacing the damaged or deficient bone marrow cells with healthy ones, which can regenerate and restore the bone marrow’s function. The success of this treatment depends on various factors, including the patient’s overall health, the severity of the anemia, and the compatibility of the donor. The procedure can offer a potentially curative solution for patients with aplastic anemia, significantly improving their quality of life and survival rates. However, it also carries risks such as graft-versus-host disease and infections, which makes careful consideration and management essential.

aplastic anemia

What is aplastic anemia, and how does it develop?

Aplastic anemia is a rare but serious blood disorder caused by the bone marrow’s failure to produce enough blood cells — red cells, white cells and platelets. This condition can develop suddenly or gradually at any age. It occurs when the bone marrow’s cells, which are responsible for generating blood cells, are damaged or depleted. This damage can be caused by various factors, including exposure to toxic chemicals, radiation, certain medications and autoimmune diseases. In many cases, the exact cause remains unknown (idiopathic aplastic anemia). This deficiency in blood cells leads to symptoms like fatigue, shortness of breath, skin pallor, increased susceptibility to infections and a heightened risk of bleeding. The severity of aplastic anemia can range from mild to life-threatening, requiring prompt and appropriate medical intervention.

What is a bone marrow transplant?

A bone marrow transplant is a medical procedure used to replace damaged or diseased bone marrow cells with healthy ones. The bone marrow is a vital tissue found in the bones, responsible for producing blood cells, including red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. In this procedure, undifferentiated cells, which can develop into new, healthy marrow, are infused into the patient’s bloodstream. These cells then migrate to the bone marrow cavities and begin the process of hematopoiesis, producing new, healthy blood cells. Bone marrow transplants can be autologous, where the patient’s own cells are used, or allogeneic, using cells from a donor. This treatment is essential for conditions where the bone marrow fails, such as leukemia, aplastic anemia and certain immune system disorders. The success of a transplant largely depends on the match between donor and recipient, the patient’s condition and the course of the transplant.

How does a bone marrow transplant treat aplastic anemia?

In treating aplastic anemia, a bone marrow transplant works by replacing the patient’s faulty bone marrow with healthy cells, thereby restoring the marrow’s ability to produce blood cells. The process begins with identifying a compatible donor, whose cells closely match the patient’s tissue type. Prior to the transplant, the patient undergoes conditioning treatment, which typically involves chemotherapy and/or radiation to eliminate the diseased marrow and make room for new cells. After this preparation, the healthy cells, collected either from the donor’s blood or bone marrow, are infused into the patient’s bloodstream. These cells travel to the bone marrow cavities and start producing new, healthy blood cells, a process known as engraftment. This treatment can potentially cure aplastic anemia, significantly improving the patient’s blood cell counts and overall health. However, it requires careful monitoring for complications like graft-versus-host disease and infections.

When do you need a bone marrow transplant for aplastic anemia?

A bone marrow transplant is typically considered for aplastic anemia treatment when other treatments have failed or when the condition is severe. In cases of severe aplastic anemia, the bone marrow’s ability to produce blood cells is critically impaired, leading to life-threatening shortages of red and white blood cells as well as platelets. Patients in this condition often experience frequent infections, severe anemia and a high risk of bleeding, which are not adequately controlled by standard treatments like blood transfusions or immunosuppressive therapy. Additionally, younger patients or those with a matched sibling donor are often prime candidates for transplant, as they tend to have better outcomes. The decision to proceed with a bone marrow transplant is based on various factors, including the patient’s age, overall health, availability of a suitable donor, and the risks associated with the transplant procedure versus the potential benefits of treatment.

What are the possible side effects of bone marrow transplant for aplastic anemia?

Bone marrow transplant for aplastic anemia, while potentially lifesaving, carries several possible side effects. These can range from short-term to long-lasting and vary in severity. Immediate side effects often include nausea, fatigue, hair loss and mouth sores due to the high dose chemotherapy or radiation used in preparation for the transplant. Patients are also at an increased risk for infections as their immune systems are weakened both by the treatment and the temporary absence of functioning white blood cells. Graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) is a significant concern in allogeneic transplants, where the donor cells may attack the patient’s tissues, leading to symptoms like skin rashes, liver problems and digestive issues. Long-term side effects can include infertility, cataracts and the potential development of other cancers. The severity and occurrence of these side effects depend on various factors, including the patient’s overall health, the match between donor and recipient and the specifics of the transplant procedure.

The Bone Marrow Transplantation Department at Sheba Medical Center

The Bone Marrow Transplantation Department at Sheba is globally recognized for its advanced treatments and comprehensive care in the field of hematopoietic bone marrow transplantation. The department combines state-of-the-art medical technologies with a highly skilled team of specialists dedicated to providing personalized care. Specializing in both autologous and allogeneic transplants, we cater to a wide range of hematological disorders, including aplastic anemia. The department is known for its innovative approaches to matching donors and recipients while also focusing on holistic care, offering psychological support and rehabilitation services to address the emotional and physical challenges patients and their families face.

Why should you choose Sheba for an aplastic anemia bone marrow transplant?

Choosing Sheba Medical Center for a bone marrow transplant, particularly for aplastic anemia, offers several advantages. First, Sheba is renowned for its exceptional patient care and multidisciplinary approach, ensuring that each patient receives a personalized treatment plan tailored to their specific needs. The center is equipped with the latest medical technologies and follows international protocols, ensuring high standards of care. Furthermore, Sheba’s team of experts is highly experienced in handling complex cases of aplastic anemia, often achieving successful outcomes even in challenging situations. The center’s commitment to research and innovation means patients have access to the latest treatments and clinical trials, potentially offering more effective therapies.

Patient “AM” Shares Her Success Story

Diagnosed with aplastic anemia in January 2018, Russian-born AM faced a daunting battle against this rare blood disorder. After six months of treatment in Russia brought no results and with her condition rapidly deteriorating, it was clear she needed a bone marrow transplant. AM decided to look for treatment abroad and eventually chose Sheba. Happily, a suitable donor was located rather quickly, and the transplantation was completed successfully.

According to AM: “I was anxious about the upcoming procedure and all the preparations it entailed, but the positive atmosphere in the department and the cheerful staff helped me overcome all the hardships.”
AM was discharged a few weeks later, having achieved remission. Click here to learn more:

Read the full story here.

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