Growing healthy new bone marrow

A bone marrow transplant is also known as a stem cell transplant.

Normally, blood cells form in bone marrow, the soft, spongy tissue found in the center of certain bones. A bone marrow transplant involves using stem cells to create healthy, new bone marrow. That marrow makes healthy new blood cells.

Types of bone marrow transplant

Stem cells form many other types of cells. UW Health Kids offers a variety of transplant options using all stem cell sources. Your doctor will decide the best type of transplant for your child. The types of transplants include:

Harvesting stem cells from a genetically matched, non-family member adult. We find these donors through national registries.

Harvesting stem cells from your child’s own bones or blood.

Harvesting stem cells from a biological parent. Parents are always a genetic half-match for their children.

Harvesting stem cells from a child's biological brother or sister. There is a 25% chance a sibling's HLA — a protein found on most cells — will match that of the child receiving the transplant.

Harvesting stem cells from a newborn baby's umbilical cord.

About the treatment

Types of cancers treated through bone marrow transplant

We may use a bone marrow transplant to treat several types of cancer. It’s also sometimes an option for noncancerous conditions.

Bone marrow failure syndromes are a rare group of conditions. They prevent the body from making enough blood. Types include:

Primary immune deficiencies are genetic conditions. They affect the body's ability to fight off infections. Some of these include:

  • Chronic granulomatous disease

  • Hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis

  • Langerhans cell histiocytosis

  • Severe combined immunodeficiency syndrome

  • Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome

Sometimes, cancer doesn't respond to treatments the way we hope it will. For certain cancers, we offer clinical trials that test promising new stem cell transplant therapies. We are the only transplant center in the country to offer some of these treatments. Our research programs aim to improve cancer treatments for all children.

Treatment process

What to expect

Bone marrow transplant process

Your child will have several tests and exams to make sure a bone marrow transplant is the best treatment option. From beginning to end, the transplant process may take several weeks.

In some cases, children donate their own stem cells. We may collect the cells from your child's blood or using a needle placed in your child's bone while the child is sedated. In other cases, a donor will provide the stem cells. We store the cells until we're ready to use them.

We will use chemotherapy or radiation to destroy your child's existing, unhealthy bone marrow. This procedure occurs several days before the transplant.

We infuse your child's new stem cells through a tube placed in a large vein. Usually, this process is painless and relatively quick.

It will take a few weeks for the stem cells to reach your child's bone marrow and create new blood cells. During this time, we watch your child carefully. We take special care to protect their health and reduce their risk of infection. We will also monitor your child on an ongoing basis.

Smiling child with sign reading UW Health Kids
UW Health Kids
Our pediatric experts have served the special needs of children for more than 100 years. We focus on each child’s unique needs and offer social and emotional support to help you and your child face even the most complex condition. Our long history includes the creation of medical advances that save lives around the world. Together, we get your child back to health and enjoying being a kid.

Meet our team

Our team, your child front and center

Our experts work with you and your child to make a bone marrow transplant as easy as we can.

Your dedicated team includes doctors and a nurse practitioner. Other specialists involved include professionals from child psychology, child life, social work, pharmacy and rehabilitative services.

Pediatric hematology and oncology


Here for you, helping your child heal

At American Family Children’s Hospital in Madison, Wis., you will find a friendly, child-centered environment. Our hospital is designed with relaxing spaces and areas where children are encouraged to play.

Patient and support services

Resources to ease your journey

When a child has a serious illness, it can be hard on your whole family. Services offered through the hospital and the community are designed to help. Learning more about your child's treatment might also help.

Services offered at American Family Children's Hospital

There are services available at both American Family Children’s Hospital and in the community to help patients and their families through every step of their journey. The services we offer include:

Pediatric cancer services

With our expertise comes compassion. Our team considers you and your child part of our family. We will be by your side every step of the way. From diagnosis through treatment and into adulthood, we will care for your child as if they are our own.

Learn more