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Gliadel Side Effects

Generic name: carmustine

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Sep 7, 2023.

Note: This document contains side effect information about carmustine. Some dosage forms listed on this page may not apply to the brand name Gliadel.

Applies to carmustine: implantation implant. Other dosage forms:

Serious side effects of Gliadel

Along with its needed effects, carmustine (the active ingredient contained in Gliadel) 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

Other side effects of Gliadel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.