Chemotherapy and Total Body Irradiation (TBI)

Contact Information

(608) 265-1700 (clinic)

The Blood and Bone Marrow Transplant program at University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics in Madison, Wisconsin has served adult patients since 1981 and pediatric patients since 1982.


The following information pertains to the time leading up to transplant, when patients are admitted to the hospital and undergo transplant preparation.


First Days in the Hospital


If you do not already have a central venous catheter - a small flexible tube which can be used for drawing blood and infusing medicines - one will be inserted into a vein. Then you will start the conditioning regimen of chemotherapy and, in some cases, total body irradiation (TBI).


Transplant conditioning regimens are generally one to seven days long and are followed by infusion of the donor stem cells.




Chemotherapy will be given into your central venous catheter. Chemotherapy affects cells that grow quickly, like cancer cells, but it can also affect some of your healthy cells. It may be used alone or with radiation.


You will receive high-dose chemotherapy before your transplant. The purpose is to:

  • Destroy cancer cells
  • Prepare your body to accept the infused stem cells

Total Body Irradiation (TBI)


If your transplant conditioning regimen includes TBI, you will be taken from the hospital nursing unit to the radiotherapy department for TBI sessions.

  • Each treatment is done in the Radiotherapy Clinic and lasts about 20 to 25 minutes for three to five days.
  • Before each treatment you will receive medicine to prevent nausea.
  • Small plastic squares will be taped to different parts of your body to tell the amount of radiation you have received.
  • During your treatment you will be in a room by yourself. The technician and the nurse will be in the next room and can see you on a monitor. You will be able to talk to them through an intercom.

Side Effects


High doses of chemotherapy and TBI commonly cause short-term side effects that get better during your hospital stay, but more serious short- and long-term complications are possible. Your care team will discuss complications and answer any questions you may have. The common short term side effects include:

  • Fatigue
  • Mouth sores
  • Hair loss
  • Nausea, vomiting and lack of appetite
  • Low blood counts
  • Fevers