March 18, 2015

A cord blood stem cell transplant has many advantages over bone marrow transplants. As time, experience and research continues, more health care professionals now than ever are opting for umbilical cord blood as a stem cell source for transplants (when it is available), as opposed to bone marrow.

There are many reasons for this migrating thought process. To begin, umbilical cord blood has many impressive benefits to offer patients needing a stem cell transplant. Two simple reasons are convenience and time. Once stored at a private cord blood banking facility, the cord blood unit can be ready and available for transplant very shortly following your doctor’s notification to the bank. And, because the cord blood unit is processed and tested for genetic information, diseases, and contamination prior to cold storage, you know it is safe. Also, the extensive compatibility testing time typically required for bone marrow transplants is eliminated when cord blood is used instead, especially when the patient is also the source of the cord blood.

The collection process for umbilical cord blood is quick and painless for both mother and child, unlike the sometimes painful and invasive procedure required of bone marrow donors. This procedure also carries with it a risk of complications, including infection, post-op. With cord blood banking, there is no risk to either party during its collection.

On the topic of associated risks, many people are unaware that bone marrow transplants, although considered almost routine today, actually carry with it many risks for its recipient. The mortality rate following a bone marrow transplant is as high as 10 percent, but even higher is the risk of developing many chronic and severe side effects following the transplant. Some of the more serious side effects are acute and dangerous infections at the injection site and throughout the body, mucous membrane failure, severe liver disease, complications from bleeding and graft-versus-host disease.

All of these risks are significantly reduced when cord blood is the source for the stem cell transplant. This is because of the young nature and adaptability of the immature cord blood stem cells. Additionally, the immaturity of the cord blood stem cells are also beneficial for another reason – the increased likelihood of being a close enough genetic match for transplant. Unlike bone marrow, cord blood stem cells don’t need to be a perfect genetic match to be considered compatible for transplant. This increases the chances that a person will locate a matching stem cell donor if his or her own cord blood is not available.

Of course there are always instances why your medical professional would choose one source over the other and everyone’s personal circumstances are different. Cord blood banking means you or your children will have options if they are ever faced with the need for a stem cell transplant.

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