Blood and Marrow Transplant

A bone marrow transplant (BMT), also called a stem cell transplant, is a procedure in which diseased or damaged bone marrow cells are replaced with healthy ones. This procedure is performed after a patient has high-dose chemotherapy or radiation treatment for conditions that don’t respond to standard doses.

Bone marrow is the spongy tissue inside bones that produces blood cells, including white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets. Cells in the bone marrow that normally develop into the blood cells are called stem cells. When bone marrow is damaged, it no longer produces these cells. As a result, weakness, anemia, infections, excessive bleeding and even death can occur.

When high doses of chemotherapy and radiation are used to kill cancer cells, bone marrow cells also may be destroyed. Bone marrow and stem cell transplants enable doctors to treat cancer with aggressive chemotherapy and radiation because they can replace the bone marrow cells destroyed in the treatment.

Conditions successfully treated with BMT include cancers, such as leukemia, lymphoma, multiple myeloma and solid tumors, as well as aplastic anemia.

Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Medical Center.