Stem cell transplant survivors are likely to experience chronic health conditions following the procedure, according to a study published in Blood (2010 Jul 23. [Epub ahead of print]).

In a study led by Smita Bhatia, MD, MPH, professor and Ruth Ziegler Chair in Population Sciences at City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center in Duarte, CA, researchers examined the prevalence and severity of chronic health conditions reported by 1,022 hematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT) survivors who received their transplants for a blood cancer or severe aplastic anemia. Also included in the study were 309 siblings of the participants. Both the HCT survivors and siblings answered questions about their physical health conditions, access to and use of medical care, and sociodemographic characteristics.

Researchers found that chronic health conditions were widespread in the HCT survivors, who were three and one-half times more likely to develop a severe or life-threatening health condition such as cardiovascular, endocrine, or musculoskeletal problems, as well as new cancers, when compared with their cancer-free siblings. Specifically, 66% of the HCT survivors reported at least 1 chronic condition, 50% reported at least 2 chronic health conditions, and 35% reported at least 3 or more conditions. In comparison, among the cancer-free siblings, 39% reported at least 1 chronic health condition, 15% had at least 2 or more conditions, and 6% reported at least 3 or more conditions.

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Further findings revealed that 53% of the HCT survivors who had received grafts from a donor experienced chronic graft-versus-host disease (GVHD), nearly one-quarter had severe or life-threatening conditions such as cardiovascular and gastrointestinal disorders, and more than half had at least 2 or more health conditions.

“HCT survivors have a high rate of illness due to chronic health conditions, especially those with chronic GVHD,” the researchers concluded. “We recommend that health care providers conduct systematic and targeted follow-up of these high-risk patients.”