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Problems that may develop long after a transplant

Having a stem cell transplant involves many risks, some of which could develop over time and cause problems long after the transplant is complete. New Mexico patients who are preparing for stem cell transplants could arm themselves with information about these potential risks to avoid being caught off guard if they happen.

One of the problems is organ damage from the medications used before, during and after the transplant. Organ damage could affect the liver, lungs, kidneys, nervous system and heart. Follow-up monitoring and treatment might be needed to detect and prevent further damage. This may include physical exams, imaging tests, blood work and other labs.

Another potential problem is post-transplant lymphoproliferative disorder, a life-threatening complication that is fairly rare. This form of lymphoma is an overgrowth of lymph cells that are genetically dissimilar and immunologically incompatible with the patient, possibly caused by T-cell malfunction that allows white blood cells infected with the Epstein-Barr virus to multiply. Many people become infected with the virus, but a healthy immune system keeps it in check. The virus can become uncontrollable when patients go through conditioning prior to stem cell transplants. The relapse of cancer or development of another cancer are also concerns among stem cell transplant patients. A relapse can occur anytime from a few months to years following the treatment. The risk of another cancer developing is generally four to 11 times higher among patients with an existing cancer than patients without.

Patients who undergo transplants or other surgeries are monitored afterward to detect and treat complications quickly. However, a failure to recognize postoperative complications can occur, causing long-term issues or even death. When health care practitioners fail to recognize a problem due to negligence, they could be held liable for medical malpractice. Affected patients might get help from attorneys with filing their claims.

Source: American Cancer Society, Inc., "Transplant problems that may show up later", accessed on Jan. 21, 2015

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