Bone marrow harvesting easier on patients
When the Via Christi bone marrow transplant program started more than 20 years ago, having bone marrow harvested was an excruciating process and transplant patients often faced long hospital stays.
Donors underwent general anesthesia as bone marrow — generally from the hip area — was sucked out with large needles. An overnight hospital stay, during which the donor received morphine for pain, was the norm. A stay of a month or more at Via Christi Hospital on St. Francis following a transplant was the norm.
For cancer patients such as Alain Laugere, the treatment was often the only chance of survival and one they were willing to endure. Laugere had his own marrow harvested - an autologous transplant - in 1993. A transplant using donated marrow is an allogeneic transplant.
Via Christi's program was started in 1989 by David B. Johnson, MD, in partnership with the Cancer Center of Kansas, which provides outpatient treatment, and the American Red Cross, which helps in harvesting cells. Advances in technology and medicine allow an outpatient harvesting process through the blood stream. New medicines speed up the new blood cell-producing process following transplants, helping shorten hospitals stays and lowering infection risks.
The mortality rate also has improved, said Bassam Mattar, MD, medical director for the Blood and Marrow Transplant Center of Kansas.
Via Christi has performed more than 700 bone marrow transplants, the majority of which were done in the past 10 years, Mattar said. The program averages about 45 transplants annually.