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The Leukemia/Bone Marrow Transplant Program of BC

For Patients & Families
Complications & Side Effects

Neurologic Effects

High doses of the chemotherapy agent Cytarabine ("high-dose Ara-C" or "HIDAC") is given to induce and maintain a complete remission. This is a very effective drug in Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML) but it can cause difficulties with the part of the brain, namely the cerebellum, that is responsible for co-ordination. This is particularly observed in patients over the age of 60. This side effect is usually, but not always, temporary. Patients on high-dose Cytosine Arabinoside will have their handwriting monitored as a screening test for cerebella dysfunction.

Patients who receive the chemotherapy agent Vincristine may experience numbness and tingling in the fingers and toes. This is called peripheral neuropathy. This is also usually temporary. If symptoms are severe or if the patient develops significant weakness of the hands and feet, Vincristine is discontinued.

In bone marrow transplant patients, high-doses of the chemotherapy agent Busulfan may cause seizures. Therefore, an anti-epilepsy medication, Dilantin, is given for one week prior to a bone marrow transplant to reduce the risk of seizure in patients receiving Busulfan.

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