What to Expect After a Stem Cell Transplant for Acute Myeloid Leukemia

The early side effects of a stem cell transplant are mostly from the high-dose chemotherapy. These should go away 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. These are some common side effects:

  • Low blood cell counts, as 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. These are possible long-term side effects:

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

  • Severe skin rashes with itching, yellowing of the skin or eyes, nausea, severe diarrhea, fatigue, and muscle aches. These symptoms may indicate graft-versus-host disease (GVHD), 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

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

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

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