How Long Does Engraftment Take After BMT (And Why)?

Exact Answer: 2 to 6 weeks

BMT is a medical abbreviation that connotes Bone Marrow Transplant for patients with a certain form of cancer. This involves the transfer of healthy stem cells into the patient’s body. The new cells help replace those cells that have been destroyed by cancer treatments and radiation.

Engraftment, on the other hand, refers to the way the newly transplanted stem cells make their way to the bloodstream of the patient and start making new blood cells. This may take some time after the entire BMT process is completed. Producing normal blood cells in the appropriate amounts is necessary for the recovery of the patient.

How Long Does Engraftment Take After BMT?

The cancer battle is a long and arduous one. While new and innovative technological tools are rapidly being invented, BMT or bone marrow transplantation still remains one of the most significant ways of treating blood cancers.

Generally, doctors stipulate that a patient undergoing BMT treatment has to wait for at least 2 to 6 weeks after the last transplant in order to witness a rise in his or her blood cell count. The first month after the treatment is completed is important and crucial.

Some patients may have a steady recovery process after the BMT treatment. Their medical teams may record a stable increase in the white and red blood cell counts of the individual. This would mean that the process of engraftment is optimally working.

However, there can be others who continue to face weakness and experience intense fatigue during the initial days. Their blood count levels may still be low. This is not an indication of the treatment not working. It may simply take longer to show results in some patients.

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As engraftment begins within the first month of the BMT treatment, lab results may show this increase by the end of this period. However, there may be patients who have to wait for a prolonged period to witness this rise in cell counts.

It is important to cognize that during this period the patient’s immunity is not strong enough to fight infections. This necessitates that the patient must remain in the hospital for the initial few weeks after the bone marrow transplant is completed.

In Summary:

BMT RecoveryWaiting Time for Engraftment
Stable and Rapid Recovery2 to 6 weeks
Slow RecoveryMore than 6 weeks

Why Does It Take So Long For Engraftment After BMT?

The production of new blood cells is a long process. It takes days for the newly transplanted stem cells to enter the patient’s bloodstream and initiate the production of new blood cells. Thus, the patient in question has to wait until his or her body can initiate the manufacture of new cells.

The bone marrow in the human body serves as the production site for blood cells. This includes all the components of blood- i.e. WBCs, RBCs, and platelets. However, this production cannot be made instantaneous, especially for patients who have a weakened immune system due to radiation and cancer treatment.

This increase in cell count takes about a month to be visible on lab tests and results. Engraftment teams constantly monitor the progress of the process. They record the increase in white blood cells and red blood cells during the first 30 days after the treatment. The patient is extremely vulnerable during this time and therefore, must be kept away from possible infection sites.

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The ultimate recovery timeframe of the patient will be hinged on not only the stability of the blood cell count but also the ability of the individual’s immune system to ward off infections, the kind of transplant the patient has received, the existence of comorbidities like diabetes, etc.

For patients who receive autonomous transplants, the road to recovery and engraftment is faster than those who receive synthetic or donor transplantations. This is because the chances of infection are higher in the latter. However, the patient has to undergo regular testing even after a successful engraftment procedure.

Conclusion

Bone marrow transplantation is one of the most commonly used methods of managing blood cancers through the transfer of healthy stem cells. Through this process, new stem cells that are injected into the bone marrow produce new blood cells that will help speed up the patient’s recovery.

Generally, it takes almost a month for the engraftment process to begin after the patient’s last BMT session. Doctors usually state that a patient needs to wait for almost 2 to 6 weeks before he or she can see the production of new blood cells through engraftment. In some, it may take longer than 30 days.

References

  1. https://ashpublications.org/blood/article/96/13/4096/176150
  2. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0272271218300830
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