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Adults who have to undergo surgery for certain types of brain tumors may receive carmustine implants. These small wafers are placed into the cavity that remains after the tumors are removed from the brain. The wafers slowly dissolve and release the medication, which works by interfering with how cancer cells grow and multiply. Seizures, headaches, and confusion are possible side effects.

What Is a Carmustine Implant?

Carmustine implant (Gliadel®) is a prescription medication approved to treat certain types of cancerous brain tumors known as malignant glioma and glioblastoma multiforme. The medication is unique because it is implanted directly into the brain during surgery.
The carmustine implant belongs to a group of medicines known as nitrosoureas. Nitrosourea medicines belong to a broader group of chemotherapy drugs known as alkylating agents.
The carmustine implant is sometimes referred to as polifeprosan 20 with carmustine implant. Polifeprosan 20 is a biodegradable molecule used to control the delivery of carmustine, the active drug in the implant. As polifeprosan degrades (breaks down), it releases carmustine into the brain.
(Click What Is Carmustine Implant Used For? for more information on this topic, including possible off-label uses.)

Are There Side Effects?

Just like any medicine, carmustine implants can cause side effects. Not everyone who receives the drug will experience problems. However, like other chemotherapy medicines, carmustine implants can cause significant side effects in many people. Talk with your healthcare provider about ways to prevent or lessen reactions to this drug.
Common side effects seen with carmustine implants include but are not limited to:
  • Worsening of the condition being treated, such as tumor or cancer progression
  • Paralysis on one side of the body
  • Seizures
  • Headache
  • Confusion.
(Click Carmustine Implant Side Effects to learn more, including potentially serious side effects you should report immediately to your healthcare provider.)
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;
Last updated/reviewed:
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