Adverse psychological outcomes in long-term survivors of hematopoietic cell transplantation: a report from the Bone Marrow Transplant Survivor Study

Can-Lan Sun, Liton Francisco, K. Scott Baker, Daniel J. Weisdorf, Stephen J. Forman and Smita Bhatia


Little information exists regarding long-term psychological health of hematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT) survivors. Utilizing resources offered by the Bone Marrow Transplant Survivor Study (BMTSS), we evaluated adverse psychological outcomes in 1065 long-term HCT survivors and a healthy comparison group composed of siblings. Psychological health status was evaluated using the Brief Symptom Inventory-18. Twenty-two percent of the HCT survivors reported adverse psychological outcomes, compared with 8% of the siblings. Exposure to prednisone was associated with psychological distress across all domains (anxiety, depression and somatic distress). Fifteen percent of the HCT survivors reported somatic distress, representing an almost 3-fold higher risk comparing to siblings. Among survivors, in addition to low annual household income and self-reported poor health, having severe/life-threatening conditions and presence of active chronic graft vs. host disease were associated with a two-fold increased risk for somatic distress. Seven percent of the HCT survivors expressed suicidal ideation; patients with higher scores on depression subscale were most vulnerable. This study demonstrates that somatic distress is the biggest challenge faced by survivors long after HCT. These results identify vulnerable subpopulations and provide patients, families and healthcare providers with necessary information to plan for post-HCT needs many years after HCT.

  • Submitted April 20, 2011.
  • Accepted July 19, 2011.