Returning Home after Transplant

Returning home after a bone marrow or stem cell transplant can be exhilarating, but it has its challenges as well.

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Many patients look forward to going home, thinking it signals the end of treatment. In reality, it is actually the beginning of a new phase of treatment

After you are discharged from the hospital, you will visit the outpatient clinic near your transplant center to monitor your progress and manage any complications that may arise.

If you live near your transplant center, you will be able to return to your home during this period. If not, you will need to stay at lodging near the center until it is safe to send you home.

  • Patients who used their own cells for the transplant (autologous transplant) can expect the monitoring to continue for 2-4 weeks 
  • Patients who were transplanted with cells from a donor (allogeneic transplant) typically remain near the transplant center and are monitored for 100 days.

After that, your care will turned over to your local oncologist or primary care physician. You will need to have periodic visits with your local oncologist or primary care physician for several months to make sure you continue to recover without complications.

Survivorship Care Plan

Most primary care physicians and community oncologists and hematologists have received little or no training in the care of transplant survivors. You will need a good long-term follow-up plan, prepared by your transplant team, to enable your local doctors to provide you with appropriate followup care. This is sometimes called a Survivorship Care Plan.

Ideally, the care plan should include the following information:

  • tests and clinical evaluations that should be done periodically to detect possible problems, and their frequency
  • whom your local doctor should contact for instructions and answers to questions
  • the date, dosage and type of chemotherapy you received, including any you received prior to your referral to the transplant center
  • the date, type and site of any radiation you received including any you received prior your referral to the transplant center
  • other medications you received while being treated for your disease that have potential long-term health effects
  • any serious infections you developed during transplant and how they were treated
  • other major complications that could have long-term effects
  • whether you developed graft-versus-host disease, how it was treated and for how long it was treated
  • if you relapsed after transplant, how it was treated
  • your current medications and allergies
  • your vaccination history
  • potential mental health effects of therapies you received

Make several copies of your long-term follow-up plan and be sure to give it to each of your healthcare providers, including your dentist. Since you have a complicated medical history, you will need to make sure that all your healthcare providers know about any medical issues that can arise after transplant.

The symptoms of some transplant-related complications, such as graft-versus-host disease, can resemble other disorders doctors often see. Without knowledge of your medical background, your local doctor may miss a problem or diagnose it incorrectly and begin inappropriate treatment.

Transplant survivors often develop side effects, such as heart problems, at an earlier age than when doctors typically screen for them. Your survivorship care plan will let your local doctors know if you need earlier or more frequent screening.

Early detection and treatment is often the key to successful management of problems after transplant. You and your local healthcare provider should not hesitate to contact your transplant team for guidance in managing your long-term care

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Next Page: Preparing a Safe Home

Updated June 2024