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Carmustine Side Effects

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Apr 26, 2022.

For the Consumer

Applies to carmustine: implantation implant

Other dosage forms:

Side effects requiring immediate medical attention

Along with its needed effects, carmustine may cause some unwanted effects. Although not all of these side effects may occur, if they do occur they may need medical attention.

Check with your doctor or nurse immediately if any of the following side effects occur while taking carmustine:

More common

  • Blurred vision
  • change in ability to see colors, especially blue or yellow
  • confusion
  • fever
  • headache
  • nausea
  • problems with movement, walking, or speech
  • seizures
  • trouble healing
  • vomiting

Less common

  • Change in personality
  • drowsiness
  • general feeling of illness
  • severe headache
  • stiff neck or back
  • weakness

Side effects not requiring immediate medical attention

Some side effects of carmustine may occur that usually do not need medical attention. These side effects may go away during treatment as your body adjusts to the medicine. Also, your health care professional may be able to tell you about ways to prevent or reduce some of these side effects.

Check with your health care professional if any of the following side effects continue or are bothersome or if you have any questions about them:

More common

  • Back pain
  • bladder pain
  • bloody or cloudy urine
  • difficult, burning, or painful urination
  • difficulty having a bowel movement
  • discouragement
  • feeling sad or empty
  • frequent urge to urinate
  • irritability
  • lack of appetite
  • lack or loss of strength
  • loss of interest or pleasure
  • lower back or side pain
  • stomach pain
  • trouble concentrating
  • trouble sleeping

Less common

  • Chest pain

For Healthcare Professionals

Applies to carmustine: implant device, intravenous powder for injection


Common (1% to 10%): Pneumonia, pulmonary embolism

Frequency not reported: Pulmonary toxicity (IV formulation)[Ref]


Frequency not reported: Myelosuppression (IV formulation)[Ref]


Very common (10% or more): Nausea, vomiting, constipation

Common (1% to 10%): Abdominal pain

Postmarketing reports: Diarrhea, anorexia[Ref]


Postmarketing reports: Increased transaminase, increased alkaline phosphatase, increased bilirubin[Ref]


Postmarketing reports: Progressive azotemia, decrease in kidney size, renal failure[Ref]


Postmarketing reports: Tachycardia, chest pain, Veno-occlusive disease[Ref]


Frequency not reported: Administration reactions (IV formulation)

Postmarketing reports: Burning sensation[Ref]


Very common (10% or more): Asthenia, fever

Common (1% to 10%): Chest pain

Frequency not reported: Wafer migration (wafer formulation)[Ref]


Frequency not reported: Ocular toxicity (IV formulation)

Postmarketing reports: Conjunctival edema, conjunctival hemorrhage, blurred vision, loss of depth perception[Ref]


Postmarketing reports: Acute leukemia, bone marrow dysplasia[Ref]


Very common (10% or more): Impaired neurosurgical wound healing (wafer formulation) (16%)

Common (1% to 10%): Meningitis (wafer formulation)

Postmarketing reports: Opportunistic infection (sometimes fatal)


Common (1% to 10%): Back pain


Postmarketing reports: Diabetes mellitus


Very common (10% or more): Confusion, depression

Common (1% to 10%): Anxiety, thinking abnormal, hallucinations, insomnia, personality disorder


Very common (10% or more): Urinary tract infection

Nervous system

(wafer formulation) (23%), aphasia, somnolence, speech disorder

Common (1% to 10%): Intracranial hypertension (wafer formulation), brain abscess (wafer formulation), brain cyst (wafer formulation), hydrocephalus (wafer formulation), cerebral edema (wafer formulation), amnesia, facial paralysis, ataxia, hypesthesia, paresthesia, abnormal gait, dizziness, tremor, coma, hypokinesia

Postmarketing reports: Headache, encephalopathy


Very common (10% or more): Rash

Postmarketing reports: Hyperpigmentation, swelling, erythema, skin necrosis, alopecia, allergic reaction


1. "Multum Information Services, Inc. Expert Review Panel"

2. Kalra S, O'Driscoll BR, Gattamaneni HR, Woodcock AA "Late carmustine lung fibrosis. Age at treatment may influence severity and survival." Chest 107 (1995): 1355-7

3. Le Coz A, Lena H, Quinquenel ML, Delaval P, Desrues B "Severe diffuse interstitial pneumonitis induced by carmustine (BCNU)." Chest 105 (1994): 1602-3

4. Hasleton PS, Poulter LW, Lynch P, O'Driscoll BR, Webster A, Gattamaneini HR, Kalra SJ, Woodcock AA "Late BCNU lung: a light and ultrastructural study on the delayed effect of BCNU on the lung parenchyma." J Pathol 164 (1991): 31-6

5. "Product Information. BiCNU (carmustine)." Bristol-Myers Squibb (2001):

6. Peters WP, Sharara AI, Kanj SS, Jones RB, Shpall EJ "Myocardial ischemia associated with high-dose carmustine infusion." Cancer 68 (1991): 1910-2

7. Flamme C, Christie J, Mrozek-Orlowski M, Novak J "Pain associated with peripheral infusion of carmustine." Oncol Nurs Forum 18 (1991): 942

8. Wiencke JK, Wiemels J "Genotoxicity of 1,3-bis(2-chloroethyl)-1-nitrosourea (BCNU)." Mutat Res 339 (1995): 91-119

Further information

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

Some side effects may not be reported. You may report them to the FDA.