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Certain types of leukemia and lymphoma have a tendency to spread to the nervous system. To prevent or treat this, your doctor delivers the drugs directly into your spinal canal, which more effectively treats hard-to-reach spine and brain cells than injecting chemotherapy into a vein does. This is known as an intrathecal drug delivery. The word "intrathecal" means within the spinal canal, the space between the double-layered covering or lining of the brain and spinal cord. The lining is called the meninges.

How Does It Work?

The procedure involves first performing a lumbar puncture (spinal tap). Your doctor inserts a needle into your spinal canal while you're under heavy sedation or anesthesia. He or she removes spinal fluid, which is examined for leukemic cells, and then injects fluid containing chemotherapy drugs, usually cytarabine or methotrexate.

If you need many treatments, your doctor may place a permanent device called an Omaya reservoir under your scalp. Once the Omaya reservoir is inserted, your treatments can be delivered through this device and you'll no longer need lumbar punctures. You'll be able to go home with the Omaya reservoir in place.

last updated on Tuesday, March 15, 2011
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