International Travel Patterns and Travel Risks for Stem Cell Transplant Recipients

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Stem cell transplantation (SCT) is being increasingly utilized for multiple medical illnesses. However, there is limited knowledge about international travel patterns and travel-related illnesses of stem cell transplant recipients (SCTRs).


An observational cross-sectional study was conducted among 979 SCTRs at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center using a previously standardized and validated questionnaire. International travel post SCT, pre-travel health advice, exposure risks, and travel-related illnesses were queried.


A total of 516 SCTRs completed the survey (55% response rate); of these, 40% were allogeneic SCTRs. A total of 229 (44.3%) respondents reported international travel outside the United States and Canada post SCT. The international travel incidence was 32% [95% confidence interval CI 28–36] within 2 years after SCT. Using multivariable Cox regression analysis, variables significantly associated with international travel within first 2 years after SCT were history of international travel prior to SCT [hazard ratio (HR) = 5.3, 95% CI 2.3–12.0], autologous SCT (HR = 2.6, 95% CI 1.6–2.8), foreign birth (HR = 2.3, 95% CI 1.5–3.3), and high income (HR = 2.0, 95% CI 1.8–3.7). During their first trip, 64 travelers (28%) had traveled to destinations that may have required vaccination or malaria chemoprophylaxis. Only 56% reported seeking pre-travel health advice. Of those who traveled, 16 travelers (7%) became ill enough to require medical attention during their first trip after SCT. Ill travelers were more likely to have visited high-risk areas (60 vs 26%, p = 0.005), to have had a longer mean trip duration (24 vs 12 days, p = 0.0002), and to have visited friends and relatives (69 vs 21%, p < 0.0001).


International travel was common among SCTRs within 2 years after SCT and was mainly to low-risk destinations. Although the overall incidence of travel-related illnesses was low, certain subgroups of travelers were at a significantly higher risk. Pre-travel health counseling and interventions were suboptimal.

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