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Intrathecal Chemotherapy


Intrathecal chemotherapy (chemo) is given to shrink the tumor or kill cancer cells in your spinal canal or brain. Intrathecal chemo is usually given in a hospital or clinic that specializes in cancer.


Informed consent

is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that you may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done. Make sure all your questions are answered.


  • Antinausea medicine: This medicine may be given to calm your stomach and prevent vomiting.
  • Pain medicine: You may be given a prescription medicine to decrease pain. Do not wait until the pain is severe before you ask for more medicine.


You may need the following tests to monitor how the chemo is working. The tests can also show how your body is handling the chemo:

  • Blood tests: These may be done to check your blood count or to check the function of your organs. Your blood may also be tested for signs of infection.
  • Chest x-ray: This picture of your heart and lungs shows the size and location of the cancer.
  • CT scan: This test is also called a CAT scan. An x-ray machine uses a computer to take pictures that show the size, shape, and location of the tumor. You may be given a dye before the pictures are taken to help caregivers see the pictures better. Tell the caregiver if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast dye.


  • Ommaya reservoir: Chemo is given directly into your brain. The reservoir is connected to a catheter placed into a ventricle (cavity) in your brain. You will need surgery to have the Ommaya reservoir placed under your scalp. You may have a small raised area on your head where it was placed. When you receive chemo, your caregiver will place a needle into the top of the Ommaya reservoir and inject the chemo.
  • Intralumbar injection: Chemo is given as an injection into the fluid of your spinal column. The injection is usually given into the spine in your lower back.


  • Intrathecal chemo may increase your risk of a severe infection in your spinal canal, brain, or other parts of your body. The chemo may not kill all the cancer cells, and cancer may spread to other places in your body. If the chemo is not given into the right area, you may need chemo for a longer period of time.
  • Treatment may cause a severe headache, fever, nausea and vomiting. It may also cause your eyes to be sensitive to light. It could also cause death. If you have an Ommaya reservoir, the catheter inserted into your brain may become twisted or blocked. You may need surgery to correct this.


You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Learn more about Intrathecal Chemotherapy (Inpatient Care)

Micromedex® Care Notes