May also be called: GVHD; Acute GVHD; Chronic GVHD
Graft versus host disease, or GVHD, is a complication of stem
cell transplants in which white blood cells from the transplanted tissue (graft)
attack the transplant recipient's body (host).
More to Know
Stem cell transplants (sometimes called bone marrow transplants) are done to treat
a variety of diseases, including many types of cancers, blood disorders, immune
system diseases, and bone marrow syndromes.
In a stem cell transplant, a donor gives cells (also called tissue) to someone
who is sick (the transplant recipient). Sometimes, after a stem cell transplant, the
white blood cells in the transplanted tissue see the transplant recipient as "foreign"
and attack healthy tissue.
Symptoms of GVHD can range from abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and dry
mouth to muscle weakness, fatigue, and skin rashes.
GVHD can be acute (usually happening within the first 3 months after a transplant)
or chronic (happening later and possibly lasting for the rest of the recipient's
life). In severe cases, GVHD can damage the liver, lungs, or other organs and can
become life threatening.
The closer the match between the transplant recipient and the tissue donor, the
less risk there is of GVHD. That's why doctors try to match people who need stem cell
transplants with identical twins or other close relatives.
People who receive transplants usually take drugs to suppress the body's immune
system. This can help prevent GVHD or reduce the severity of any symptoms.
Keep in Mind
Many cases of GVHD are treated successfully. But that doesn't guarantee that the
transplanted tissue will cure the original disease. The long-term outlook for someone
with GVHD depends on how severe that disease is. Transplant success is more likely
when the received tissue is donated by someone whose cells are a close match.
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