The following glossary may be helpful to you and your family and friends in helping you to learn many of the terms and procedures commonly used in blood and marrow stem cell transplantation. Please ask your doctor or nurse to further clarify these terms if you do not understand them.

Absolute neutrophil count (ANC): A blood cell count that monitors the number of white blood cells in a person's blood. White blood cells are primarily responsible for fighting infections.

Allogeneic bone marrow transplant: A transplant in which bone marrow that has been harvested from a donor is given to the patient

Apheresis: A painless procedure during which blood is withdrawn from a person's arm and circulated through a machine that removes certain components of the blood and then returns the remaining components to the person. This procedure is used to harvest stem cells for transplantation as well as to remove platelets from a donor's blood.

Autologous bone marrow transplant: A transplant in which the patient's own bone marrow is reinfused into the patient to provide a source of blood stem cells

Blood culture: A blood sample taken to determine the presence of a specific infection in the blood

Bone marrow: Spongy tissue found in the cavities of large bones, where the body's blood cells are produced

Bone marrow aspiration: A procedure used to remove a sample of bone marrow, usually from the rear hip bone, for examination or harvesting

Chemotherapy: Special medications used alone or in combination to kill cancer cells

Complete blood count (CBC): A blood test that measures the different types and number of blood cells

Conditioning regimen: The regimen of chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy given prior to the blood stem cell infusion. This serves to eradicate any remaining malignant disease and to make space in the bone marrow cavity for the engraftment of the infused stem cells.

Cryopreservation: To preserve by freezing. Bone marrow harvested for an autologous bone marrow transplant, for example, is cryopreserved.

Cytomegalovirus (CMV): A virus that lies dormant in many transplant patients' bodies and frequently causes infection after transplantation. Patients who have been exposed to and still carry the virus are CMV-positive.

Differential count: A blood cell count that monitors the various types of white blood cells circulating in the blood

Engraftment: The growth of transplanted stem cells

Granulocyte colony stimulating factor (G-CSF): A protein that stimulates the growth and maturation of granulocytes, one of the types of white blood cells

Granulocyte macrophage colony stimulating factor (GM-CSF): A protein that stimulates the growth and maturation of a wide variety of white blood cells

Graft-versus-host disease (GVHD): A condition that can occur following an allogeneic bone marrow transplant, in which some of the donor's bone marrow cells attack the patient's tissues and organs

Harvesting: The process of collecting stem cells that are needed for a transplant

Hemoglobin: The part of red blood cells that carries oxygen throughout the body

Human leukocyte antigen: A genetic "fingerprint" on white blood cells and platelets, composed of proteins that play a critical role in activating the body's immune system to respond to foreign organisms

Immunocompromised: A condition in which the immune system is not functioning normally

Immunosuppression: A condition in which the patient's immune system is functioning at a lower-than-normal level. Patients who have undergone allogeneic bone marrow transplantation are deliberately immunosuppressed to allow the donor's bone marrow to engraft without interference from the patient's immune system.

Jaundice: A yellowish skin color arising from altered liver function

Monoclonal antibodies: Antibodies that are all identical, derived from a single "clone." Sometimes used in "purging," a process by which certain cells are removed from bone marrow before infusion into patients

NPO: Nothing by mouth

Packed red blood cells: Red blood cells collected from one individual that are packed into a small volume for transfusion into a patient

Platelets: The smallest cell elements in the blood, needed to control bleeding

Pre-medications: Medications given before a treatment to decrease or prevent side effects

Preparative regimen: Chemotherapy and/or radiation treatment given to bone marrow transplant patients prior to their transplant to kill diseased cells, make space for healthy new marrow, and/or suppress the immune system so rejection of the graft does not occur

Red blood cell: A type of blood cell produced in the bone marrow that carries oxygen to the body and provides color to the skin

Saline: A solution made of salt and water

Stem cells: "Parent" blood cells from which several different types of blood cells evolve

Steroids: Drugs used to decrease inflammation in certain diseases

Syngeneic bone marrow transplant: Transplant in which an identical twin is the bone marrow donor

Total parenteral nutrition (TPN): A type of intravenous feeding that provides patients with all essential nutrients when they are unable to feed themselves

Veno-occlusive disease (VOD): A disease that sometimes occurs following high-dose chemotherapy and/or radiation, in which the blood vessels that carry blood through the liver become swollen and clogged

White blood cell: A type of blood cell produced in the bone marrow that is responsible for fighting infections

Whole blood: Blood that has not been separated into its various components

Common Medications:

  • Acyclovir: Medicine to prevent/treat infections caused by Herpes simplex virus (cold sores) and zoster virus (chicken pox, shingles)
  • Amphotericin B: An antifungal drug
  • Bactrim: An antibiotic.
  • Benadryl: A medication administered frequently prior to the administration of blood products and other treatments to prevent reactions. This may also be used to reduce itching or as a sleeping medication.
  • Ciprofloxacin: An antibiotic
  • Cydosporin: A graft-rejection immunosuppressive medication used to prevent graft-versus-host-disease
  • Demerol: A narcotic frequently used to prevent/treat shaking and chills
  • Folic Acid: A "B" vitamin that aids in bone marrow/stem cell maturation
  • Fluconazole: An antifungal drug
  • Heparin: A medication used to flush a central venous catheter when it is capped and not in use, to keep the catheter from clotting.
  • Methotrexate: A chemotherapy drug used to prevent graft-versus-host-disease
  • Mycostatin: A drug used to prevent/treat fungal infections
  • Ovral: A medication used to prevent uterine bleeding
  • Peridex: An oral rinse used to prevent/treat a variety of oral infections
  • Prednisone: A type of oral steroid used to prevent and treat graft-versus-host-disease
  • Tylenol (acetaminophen): A drug used to control fevers and minor aches and pains. It is used instead of aspirin because, unlike aspirin, it does not interfere with the clotting functions of platelets
  • Vitamin B-12: A "B" vitamin that aids in the maturing of bone marrow and stem cells