Bone Marrow vs Stem Cell Transplant: What Are The Differences?

So, you’ve been diagnosed with leukemia, and your doctor has recommended a bone marrow transplant to kill off the abnormal cells in your body. Or, perhaps, you know someone who’s been diagnosed. Either way, you know what a bone marrow transplant is, and you’ve probably heard the term stem cell thrown around.

So, are marrow and stem cells the same thing? How are they different? When, why, and how are they used?

It’s been a while since you went to school. You need answers, STAT!

We’re here to help. Keep reading to discover the answer to the fundamental question, “what is bone marrow vs stem cell transplant?”

Bone Marrow Transplant

Bone marrow is the spongy tissue inside the bones where blood cells are made. A bone marrow transplant is when healthy bone marrow replaces a diseased or damaged bone marrow. This can be done after a person has cancer or other diseases that destroy the bone marrow.


The main benefit of a bone marrow transplant is that it can treat various diseases, including leukemia, lymphoma, and multiple myeloma. Bone marrow transplants can also treat specific genetic disorders like thalassemia and sickle cell disease.

It also can use lower doses of chemotherapy and radiation and the ability to avoid transplant rejection. Bone marrow transplants are also typically less expensive than stem cell transplants.


Bone marrow transplants carry a much higher risk of infection and complication as the marrow is completely removed from the body and replaced with new marrow. With a bone marrow transplant, there is a risk of the donor’s cells attacking the patient’s healthy cells, which can lead to severe complications. There is also a risk of infection and bleeding.

Stem Cell Transplant

Stem cells are immature cells that can develop into different types of cells. A stem cell transplant is when stem cells are injected into the bloodstream; an example is stem cell therapy for knees. The patient’s own stem cells are used in a stem cell transplant, while in a bone marrow transplant, the patient receives a healthy donor.


Stem cell transplants carry a lower risk of infection and complications, as only a portion of the stem cells is removed from the body and replaced. This allows the patient to have immunity and protection against infection and complications. The stem cells in the transplant can help the patient’s body to produce new, healthy blood cells.


Several potential risks and side effects are associated with a stem cell transplant. These risks and side effects vary depending on the type of transplant, the patient’s age and health, and the donor’s health. Stem cell transplant has a higher risk of relapse than bone marrow transplants.

Differentiating Bone Marrow vs Stem Cell Transplant

Although the two procedures can treat leukemia, there are several critical differences between bone marrow vs stem cell transplant. Bone marrow transplants are much more invasive and require a hospital stay. A stem cell transplant is less invasive and has fewer risks than a bone marrow transplant. Both procedures have different risks and benefits.

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