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 will have intrathecal chemotherapy even if leukaemia cells can’t be detected in the CSF. This is because research has shown that there is a high risk of leukaemia cells in the CSF. It’s important to treat these to reduce the risk of leukaemia coming back.

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.

We have more information about how chemotherapy is given.

Back to Being treated with chemotherapy

When is chemotherapy used?

Getting information about chemotherapy and its side effects can help you to plan and feel more in control.

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.