What to Expect After a Stem Cell Transplant for Acute Leukemia (ALL)

The early side effects of a stem cell transplant are mostly from the high-dose chemotherapy you get before the transplant. These should disappear as you recover from the transplant. You may also experience a strange taste in your mouth from the preservative used to freeze the stem cells. Following are some of the other most common side effects. They vary based on whether the transplanted cells come from you or a donor. Ask your doctor which side effects are most likely for you:

  • Low blood cell counts, seen on blood test results

  • Low blood pressure

  • Shortness of breath

  • Chest pain or tightness

  • Coughing

  • Fever or chills

  • Hair loss

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Mouth sores

  • Loss of appetite

  • Diarrhea

  • Fatigue 

  • Weakness

Potential long-term side effects

Side effects may be long-lasting or appear years later. Following are possible long-term side effects:

  • Shortness of breath, often caused by radiation damage to the lungs

  • Bone damage, called aseptic necrosis, due to lack of blood supply

  • Another form of cancer

  • Severe skin rashes with itching, severe diarrhea, fatigue, and muscle aches. These symptoms may indicate graft-versus-host disease, a condition that occurs if the immune system cells in the donor’s stem cells attack your skin, liver, gastrointestinal tract, mouth, or other organs. This is only seen with allogeneic transplants. 

  • Lack of menstrual periods, which may indicate ovary damage and cause infertility

  • Vision problems caused by damage to the lens of the eye

  • Weight gain, which may be a sign of thyroid gland damage


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