Along your road to recovery, your team will need to make adjustments to your treatment and support. Knowing what to expect and what signs and symptoms to look for can be useful. These are some of the side effects you might experience after a stem cell or bone marrow transplant:
It’s not unusual to feel or be sick after your bone marrow or stem cell transplant. This can last weeks or months. Diarrhoea can also be a troublesome symptom. These side effects can impact on your appetite and can lead to weight loss or malnutrition, if you’re not absorbing all the energy, vitamins and minerals you need.
There are several possible causes for these side effects which might include medication, infections and graft versus host disease (GvHD). That’s why it’s important to let your team know about these symptoms so that they can investigate and take action quickly.
Read our tips on eating and drinking that might help with nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea after a transplant.
Your kidneys regulate the levels of calcium, water and other substances in your body. They also act as a filter for your blood, removing waste products via your urine.
After a transplant, it’s common to have mild problems with your kidneys. This might be related to your medication, an infection, or simply dehydration.
Your transplant team will monitor your kidneys as part of your normal follow-up. If there are any problems, they might adjust to your medication and you give you extra fluids through a drip if you’ve become dehydrated.
Some people might need to go back into hospital for treatment. Very rarely, the kidneys can become damaged and may not work properly for quite some time.
Your liver needs to be monitored after your transplant, as occasionally it stops working properly. This could be because of your medication, an infection, graft versus host disease (GvHD) or veno-occlusive disease (VOD).
What is veno-occlusive disease (VOD)?
Veno-occlusive disease (VOD) is where the blood-flow through the small veins of the liver is partially blocked. VOD can cause symptoms such as yellowing of the eyes and skin (known as jaundice), swelling or enlargement of the abdomen, and fluid build-up in your body. It’s usually very mild and disappears quickly – often you won’t even be aware of it.
Occasionally VOD can be a serious problem, and treatment is aimed at minimising its effects.
New treatments are available which have improved the outcome for patients with severe VOD, and it’s more rarely a life-threatening disease. Recovery is helped by your liver’s own great ability to recover and regenerate from the effects of diseases such as this. Find out more in our booklet The Seven Steps: The Next Steps.
You may have had transfusions of platelets just after your transplant, and you may still need to have them after you go home. Platelets help the blood to clot, and when you have a low platelet level you are at risk of bruising and bleeding.
Contact the hospital straight away if you notice any new bruising, bleeding – for example, blood in your urine or stools – or a persistent nosebleed.
There can be many possible reasons for bleeding. Remember that these effects don’t mean that the transplant hasn’t worked. It’s quite normal to make adjustments to your treatment as you progress through your recovery.