When you have completed your conditioning regimen, your own or donated stem cells will be given to you. A transplant physician, mid-level practitioner, or nurse will perform the transplant. The timing for re-infusion of stem cells varies from 0-3 days following the completion of your conditioning regimen. A stem cell or bone marrow transplant may sound dramatic, however the actual procedure is quite simple. The cells are infused through your central venous catheter similar to a blood transfusion.
If the stem cells you are to receive were frozen, they will be thawed in a water bath prior to re- infusion. Frozen cells are preserved in a substance called DMSO (Dimethyl sulfoxide), which is used during the freezing process to prevent ice crystals from damaging the stem cells. While these cells are infusing, you may notice a garlic-like odor and taste. Sucking on hard candy may decrease this taste if you find it unpleasant. A slight odor, which may be detected in your breath, urine, stool, saliva, and perspiration, will be noticeable to those around you for one to two days after the infusion. Other side effects of DMSO preserved stem cells may include chills, nausea, fever, cough, flushing, headache, abdominal cramps, fullness, or diarrhea. Your nurse will give you medications and will slow the rate of re-infusion to minimize these effects.
If you are receiving cells from a donor who had their cells collected on the day of your transplant, the cells will be fresh, not frozen. Therefore, the symptoms related to the DMSO are not experienced with the re-infusion of fresh stem cells.
Regardless of whether you received fresh or frozen stem cells you may notice that your urine turns a reddish-burgundy color following the infusion. This is due to the painless passing of red blood cells that may have been contained in the stem cell product. Your urine will return to its normal color in one to two days.