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What is carmustine?

Carmustine (also known as BCNU, BiCNU®, or Gliadel®) is an anticancer medicine. It is available as a clear liquid given into a vein (IV) or as an off-white, round wafer that is put directly into the surgical site during brain surgery.

Carmustine can pose a health hazard to caregivers. All caregivers should take safety precautions while giving this drug. For 48 hours after this drug is given, the patient’s body fluids can contain the drug. During that 48-hour period, caregivers should follow safety guidelines when handling the patient’s vomit, blood, urine, and bowel movements, including diapers. These guidelines include wearing gloves when cleaning up body fluids. For a complete list of safety precautions, see “Do you know… Protecting caregivers from drug hazards.

Possible side effects of carmustine


  • Pain or burning at the site of injection
  • Change in blood pressure after the wafers are placed
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Later (more than a day after treatment starts)

  • Low blood counts
  • Seizures (with wafer)
  • Change in electrolytes in the blood
  • Decrease in kidney and liver function
  • Change in eyesight
  • Change in lung function

These are the most common side effects, but there may be others. Please report all side effects to the doctor or nurse.

In case of a severe side effect or reaction, call the doctor, nurse or pharmacist at 595-3300. If you are outside the Memphis area, dial toll-free 1-866-2STJUDE (1-866-278-5833), and press 0 once the call is connected.

Special instructions for carmustine

  • Carmustine may cause nausea and vomiting. The doctor may prescribe medicine to keep you from feeling sick and throwing up after you receive carmustine.
  • It may be easier for you to get infections while you are receiving carmustine. Stay away from crowds and people with colds, flu, or other infections.
  • Tell the nurse right away if you have pain or redness at the IV site.
  • Blood will be drawn regularly to check for changes in kidney or liver function and to check blood counts.


This document is not intended to take the place of the care and attention of your personal physician or other professional medical services. Our aim is to promote active participation in your care and treatment by providing information and education. Questions about individual health concerns or specific treatment options should be discussed with your physician.

St. Jude complies with health care-related federal civil rights laws and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, or sex.

ATTENTION: If you speak another language, assistance services, free of charge, are available to you. Call 1-866-278-5833 (TTY: 1-901-595-1040).

ATENCIÓN: si habla español, tiene a su disposición servicios gratuitos de asistencia lingüística. Llame al 1-866-278-5833 (TTY: 1-901-595-1040).

تنبيه: إذا كنت تتحدث باللغة العربية فيمكنك الاستعانة بخدمات المساعدة اللغوية المتوفرة لك مجانا. .يرجى الاتصال بالرقم. 5833-278-866-1  (الهاتف النصي: 1040-595-901-1).