What is Bone Marrow?
Bone marrow is a spongy tissue found inside the bones. The bone marrow in the breast bone, skull, hips, ribs and spine contain “stem cells” that produce the body’s blood cells. Stem cells develop into one of the three types of mature blood cells-red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets and enter the blood stream. White blood cells are needed to fight infection. Red blood cells carry oxygenated blood to the body and platelets aid in clotting of blood. When diseased or damaged, the bone marrow is unable to produce healthy blood cells consistently. This affects your immunity and causes you to have abnormal cell reproduction, which can even be life threatening.
What do you do in cases of bone marrow concerns? A bone marrow biopsy and aspiration is done to check the health of your blood cell. In cases of serious issues, such as cancer, bone marrow transplantation can be done for treatment. This is a risky procedure and has side effects. We have details on these procedures in this article, so read on.
Bone Marrow Biopsy & Aspiration
When there are concerns about blood count and cell reproduction a bone marrow biopsy and aspiration test is conducted. This helps the doctor reach a diagnosis on the disease of the bone marrow. It can aid in finding bone marrow failure syndromes, cancer, and other blood related disorders. The bone marrow aspiration is the first test conducted, followed by the biopsy.
How is a bone marrow biopsy different from an aspiration?
- Bone Marrow Biopsy: In this test, some fluid, blood cells and a little bit of bone are extracted from the bone marrow to be tested.
- Bone Marrow Aspiration: For this bone marrow test, only a bit of the marrow is removed for results. The procedure is done by going into the bone with a needle. The cell reproduction and fluid is tested by the blood cells from the marrow directly. Aspiration helps in checking the bone marrow for infections and blood cells for chromosome issues.
Bone Marrow Cancer (Leukemia)
Bone marrow cancer, also known as leukemia, causes an abnormal number of white blood cells to be produced. This abnormal reproduction of white blood cells, also known as leukemia cells, reproduces at a far more rapid rate than normal. They don’t function normally and are unable to stop growing when needed. This can cause them to crowd out normal blood cells causing issues with immunity, infection and drop in blood count cells. These cells can also spread and infect lymph nodes, which can cause extreme pain.
Bone Marrow Transplantation (BMT)
Patients with cancers that need high dose of chemotherapy to destroy cancer cells, require bone marrow transplant. This is needed in all stages of management of blood cancers-leukemias, lymphomas and myelomas. Also other cancers like germ cell tumors, neuroblastoma and some non-cancerous conditions of the bone marrow.
This is important in order to restore the normal rate of cell reproduction and prevent your body from succumbing to immunity problems. While a bone marrow transplant is an option for treatment, it comes with a lot of risks and side effects. Before you decide to undergo the surgery, ensure you get consultation on what to expect from the transplant, including the after effects.
If you have decided to undergo bone marrow transplantation, you will need a fresh supply of blood cells that suit your body. You can get a transplant from another part of your body, have a family member donate the cells, or get a donor for the procedure. Bone marrow transplantation is either done by extracting the blood cells directly from the bone, or from blood that is either from your body or a donor’s.
Post bone marrow transplant recovery can mean hospitalization for up to a few months. This is so that your body is able to heal and improve its immunity again. You will be prone to infections and illness at this time as your body is weak. It is crucial for this reason that you are under constant observed recovery. You may also have to go through multiple blood transfusions to prevent a relapse and strengthen your immunity.
Overall your complete recovery could take about a year’s time. During this process you will be advised to take as much rest as possible. You will be required to get routine check-ups and medication. Although bone marrow transplantation comes with risks, there have been numerous success stories.