Bone Marrow Transplant (BMT) Treatment: Procedure, Cost & Hospitals In India

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Bone marrow transplantations have emerged as one of the major success stories in the healthcare landscape. It has proved to be a life-saving treatment option for people stricken with cancer and blood-related diseases. In fact, studies have shown it to improve survival rates from nearly 0% to as good as 85% in some forms of blood cancers.

This post tries to look at how bone marrow transplant or stem cell transplant helps to treat a different type of potentially life-threatening illnesses. You will get valuable information on the treatment duration, road to recovery, and probable questions to ask your physician. In the end, we cover cost-effective options available in popular healthcare tourism destinations like India. This way, you can ensure that the budget isn’t a barrier to availing world class BMT treatment.

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A glimpse at Bone Marrow Transplant or Stem Cell Transplant

Simply put, bone marrow transplant replaces disease-stricken bone marrow with healthy bone marrow stem cells. It is used in treating multiple myeloma, leukemia, several kinds of lymphoma and other cancer-related diseases. Physicians leverage stem cell transplants to cure blood-related diseases. This way, the damaged bone marrow is removed and is replaced with healthy bone marrow stem cells.

Importance of bone marrow and stem cells

Bone marrow has a spongy and soft tissue texture and stays inside your bones and contain stem cells. These special types of cells can create different kinds of blood cells like white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets. If a patient is suffering from one of several types of cancers, it can restrict the normal development of blood cells (or hematopoietic cells) in bone marrow.

In such scenarios, a BMT or stem cell transplant provides the new hematopoietic kind of stem cells. These new cells turn into multiple healthy and disease-free blood cells and improve the quantity and quality of blood produced by the body. This way, the patients get a new life.

Diseases cured by BMT or Bone Marrow Transplant

There are several cancers, chronic infections, and diseases that impact the normal development of bone marrow. So, here are most of the diseases that can be cured using BMT treatments:

Aplastic Anemia: In this disorder, the patient’s marrow loses its ability to create blood cells.
Cancers: The cancers that impact the ability of marrow are also curable with BMT. Such cancers include lymphoma, leukemia as well as multiple myeloma.
Bone marrow damage: Many times, patients, who go through chemotherapy, suffer from bone marrow damage. Such patients receive treatment using a bone marrow transplant.
Sickle cell anemia: This is a blood disorder, which patients inherit from their family. This disorder causes the problem of deformed red blood cell type.
Thalassemia: This is another blood disorder, which patients inherit from their family. This condition interrupts the normal formation of hemoglobin.

There are certain malignant conditions, for which, BMT treatments work:

  • Hodgkin’s lymphoma
  • Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma
  • Multiple Myeloma (MM)
  • Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML)
  • Chronic Myeloid Leukemia (CML)
  • Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL)
  • Neuroblastoma
  • Myelofibrosis

Different types of stem cell transplant

There are two major types are practiced for stem cell transplant across the globe:

1. Autologous Transplants (AUTO)
Also known as an AUTO transplant, this type of transplant involves the rescue of stem cells during a high-dose of chemotherapy. The patient receives his or her own collected stem cells at the end of the cancer treatment.

The process begins with the collection of stem cells prior to cancer treatment. The collected stem cells are frozen and stored. After this, the patient goes through intense chemotherapy. In rare cases, patients also require radiation therapy.

Completing themotherapy, the patient can receive thawed stem cells. The stem cells are carefully inserted in the blood, using a tube that penetrates one of the veins.

Within 24 hours of insertion, stem cells reach the patient’s bone marrow. There, they begin the process of growing, multiplying and improving the quality of blood cells.

2. Allogeneic Transplants (ALLO)
Also known as ALLO transplant, allogeneic transplants involve the transfer of stem cells from a healthy person to a patient’s body. The success of this procedure is possible only if the bone marrow of both the patient and the donor matches.

Each person’s white blood cells include a special protein called HLA or Human Leukocyte Antigens. Doctors find the best stem cell donor by matching the HLA of a patient with the available donors. This match is extremely necessary to avoid the condition of Graft-Versus-Host Disease or GVHD. This condition arises when foreign cells start attaching the domestic cells in a patient’s body.

Usually, the patient’s sibling or other family members easily match for the donation. However, a volunteer can also provide the stem cells if matched.
ALLO transplants also have two separate types. These types are defined with respect to the patient’s age, disease, and health.

  • Ablative type involves a high dosage of chemotherapy
  • Reduced intensity involves relatively a milder dosage of chemotherapy.

The selection and approach of a transplant

An expert doctor recommends between AUTO and ALLO types of transplants. This selection depends on the type of disease. Along with that, the patient’s health, the quality of bone marrow and age also matter. For instance, a patient with bone marrow cancer is most likely to require ALLO type of stem cell transplant, because his/her own bone marrow cells may be ravaged by cancerous cells. This is why the ALLO transplant is preferred over self or AUTO transplant.

It is of extreme importance that you choose a specialist for the procedure. This will ensure the quality of the transplant along with its cost. So, instead of looking for general BMT cost, a patient can specifically search for the cost of bone marrow transplant for thalassemia which is one of the best ways to minimize the effects of this blood disorder i.e. low hemoglobin leading to anemia, substantially. The prevention of severe anemia resulting from thalassemia can help prevent fatal organ damage in the long run.

Similarly, a patient looking for BMT treatment for sickle cell should identify bone marrow transplant for sickle cell cost.

Before moving ahead with the bone marrow transplant, a patient should consider the following factors:

  • A person who can accompany you during the whole treatment.
  • A time frame, during which, you should expect to stay away from family responsibilities and work.
  • The insurance guidelines regarding the required transplant.
  • Arranging accommodation near the healthcare facility for people who join you in the journey.
  • Getting all your necessary items including clothing, gadgets, and others.
  • Ensuring comfortable medical tourism for yourself and your loved ones.
  • The approach to transplant depends on the type a patient goes through.

Timeline of an AUTO transplant

Stem cell collection: An injection is given to increase the stem cell count in your blood. The stem cells are collected from the blood via a vein running in the patient’s chest. A hospital environment or a clinic facility is required to fulfill this procedure. The process can take several days.

Transplant treatment: A patient, then, receives intense chemotherapy. Some cases can include radiation therapy as well. The whole process takes about 5-10 days in total and you receive proper healthcare.

Insertion of stem cells: The collected and secured stem cells are inserted into the bloodstream of the patient again. The transplant is divided into several infusions. Each infusion requires about 30 minutes or less.

Recovery: The healthcare team assists in the recovery with antibiotics, blood transfusions, and other required care. Experts keep an eye on the side effects, if any. The overall recovery takes about 2 weeks, during which, you stay in the hospital.

Timeline of an ALLO transplant

Collecting donor’s stem cells: The donor receives injections that increase the count of white cells in his or her blood. The stem cells are collected afterward. In some cases, donors go through bone marrow extraction, which takes a few hours.

Transplant treatment: The patient goes through the required intensity of chemotherapy. In some cases, a patient might require radiation therapy as well. The process of treatment can take up to 7 days.

Infusing donor’s stem cells: Infusing the donor’s stem cells into a patient’s blood is a 1-hour process. The process takes about a whole day.

Recovery: Antibiotics and other medications are utilized to prevent GVHD. The catheter remains in the cell transplant location to provide blood transfusions. The side-effects are monitored and the whole recovery takes about 1 to 4 weeks, depending on the intensity of a transplant.
The road beyond a bone marrow transplant

After the bone marrow transplant, you can expect a gradual recovery, which takes about 3 months. Expert doctors monitor engraftment every day. The completion of engraftment can take 10-28 days beyond the procedure of transplantation. The white blood cells increase in your body, which says that your blood is getting new cells.

Overall recovery will depend on:

  • The disease, for which, the transplant has been utilized.
  • The intensity of chemotherapy.
  • The use of radiation therapy.
  • The accuracy with which donor matches the patient in ALLO transplant.
  • The expertise and the facilities available in the hospital or the clinic.

What to ask your healthcare team

When you opt for the skilled healthcare expertise of physicians, you need to check on some factors that can ensure successful outcomes in bone marrow transplant. These are as follows

  • Which transplant type would you suggest and why?
  • What are the chances of getting an accurate match if I undergo ALLO transplant?
  • Which treatments will you provide prior to the transplant?
  • Will I be needing radiation therapy?
  • What will be the time period of staying in your hospital?
  • What changes should I expect in my life, work and activities after the transplant?
  • What if the conducted transplant fails? What to do after that?
  • What sort of side effects will I be facing during and immediately after the treatment?
  • Are any long-term issues I should know about?
  • Is there any way you can help me with cost management of the whole treatment?

These questions should sort you in every aspect of getting a transplant.

Conclusion

With BMT or stem cell transplant, you can acquire your original health and tackle dangerous diseases like cancer conveniently. It all comes down to the quality of the facility you obtain the transplant at.

India is a leading nation renowned for bone marrow transplant and stem cell transplant all over the world. There are many hospitals as well as reputed clinics offering affordable and successful BMT transplant services.

So, arrange your medical tour to India and be ready to receive the best in class stem cell transplant along with a comfortable stay.

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