Intrathecal chemotherapy

Leukaemia cells may travel into the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), which surrounds the spine and brain. Chemotherapy drugs in the bloodstream can’t reach the brain and spinal cord. To treat these parts of the body the drugs need to be injected directly into the cerebrospinal fluid. This is done through a lumbar puncture. Giving chemotherapy in this way is called intrathecal chemotherapy.

You’ll be given intrathecal chemotherapy even if leukaemia cells can’t be detected in the CSF, as research has shown that there will almost always be some leukaemia cells in the CSF and it’s important these are destroyed.

After giving you a local anaesthetic in your lower back, the doctor gently puts a needle into the fluid in the spine. A small amount of fluid is drawn off and the drugs are injected into the space around the spine. The drugs will help to destroy any leukaemia cells in the fluid. The fluid removed can be checked to see if there are any leukaemia cells.

Back to Being treated with chemotherapy

Central lines

A central line is a long, thin hollow tube. It is inserted into a vein in your chest to give chemotherapy and other drugs.

Implantable ports

An implantable port is a tube with a rubber disc at the end. It is inserted into a vein to give chemotherapy or other medicines.

PICC lines

A PICC line is a long, thin, flexible tube known as a catheter. It’s put into the arm to give chemotherapy and other medicines.

Lumbar punctures

A lumbar puncture involves inserting a hollow needle between two of the spinal bones. This may be used to give chemotherapy.