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Intrathecal Chemotherapy


Intrathecal (IT) chemo is given to kill cancer cells in your cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). CSF is the fluid that surrounds your brain and spinal cord. IT chemo is also given to prevent cancer from spreading to your CSF from other places. IT chemo is given through a lumbar puncture or an Ommaya reservoir. You may need IT chemo and another type of chemo, such as intravenous.


Call 911 for any of the following:

  • You have chest pain, shortness of breath, or trouble breathing.
  • Your throat feels swollen and you have trouble swallowing or breathing.
  • You have a seizure.
  • You cannot be woken.

Seek care immediately if:

  • You feel confused.
  • You have a severe headache and a stiff neck.
  • You have vision or hearing loss.
  • You have arm or leg weakness or trouble walking.
  • You urinate a lot less than usual or stop urinating.
  • You feel weak, dizzy, or faint.
  • Your heart is beating faster than usual.
  • You cannot stop bleeding from your injection site after you hold pressure for 10 minutes.
  • You have clear fluid leaking from your injection site.

Contact your oncologist if:

  • You have a fever of 100.5° F or higher or chills.
  • You have nausea or are vomiting.
  • You feel depressed.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.


may be given to help manage side effects of IT chemo. This may include medicines to prevent or control seizures, decrease nausea and vomiting, or treat a headache. Take your medicines as directed. Call your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.


  • Care for the injection site as directed. Ask your healthcare provider when you can remove the bandage. Also ask when the site can get wet. Let soap and water gently run over the site. Do not scrub. Pat the area dry and put on new, clean bandages as directed. Change your bandages when they get wet or dirty. Do not put powders or lotions on the area unless your healthcare provider says it is okay. Use a clean towel or washcloth to put firm, steady, pressure on the site if it bleeds. You may need to hold pressure for 5 to 10 minutes to stop the bleeding.
  • Rest as needed. Lie flat for 30 minutes if you get a headache after treatment. You may feel tired for a few days after getting chemo. Return to activities slowly, and do more as you feel stronger.
  • Drink plenty of liquids. This will help prevent a headache after IT chemo. Ask how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids are best for you.
  • Prevent infection. Stay away from people who are sick. Wash your hands frequently and ask visitors to wash their hands. Ask family and friends not to visit if they are sick. Do not spend time in crowded places such as movie theaters, malls, or elevators. Ask your healthcare provider if you need vaccines.

For more information and support:

It may be difficult for you and your family to go through cancer and cancer treatments. Join a support group or talk with others who have gone through treatment.

  • American Cancer Society
    250 Williams Street
    Atlanta , GA 30303
    Phone: 1- 800 - 227-2345
    Web Address:
  • National Cancer Institute
    6116 Executive Boulevard, Suite 300
    Bethesda , MD 20892-8322
    Phone: 1- 800 - 422-6237
    Web Address:

Follow up with your oncologist as directed:

You will need to see your oncologist for more tests and treatments. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.