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Drug Saf. 1995 Apr;12(4):245-55.

Prevention and management of extravasation of cytotoxic drugs.

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  • 1Department of Medical Oncology, National Institute for Cancer Research, Genoa, Italy.


Extravasation of certain cytotoxic agents during peripheral intravenous administration may cause severe local injuries. Most extravasation can be prevented with the systematic implementation of careful administration techniques. However, the management of this complication, the aim of which is to prevent progression to tissue necrosis and ulceration, remains an important challenge in the care of cancer patients. Many antidotes have been evaluated experimentally and a few may be able to reduce the local toxicity of the more common vesicant cytotoxic drugs. Because no randomised trial on the management of cytotoxic drug extravasation in humans has ever been completed, recommendations must be based on the more consistent experimental evidence and on cumulative clinical experience from available case reports and uncontrolled studies, which are reviewed in this article. Empirical guidelines recommend the use of topical dimethylsulfoxide (DMSO) and cooling after extravasation of anthracyclines or mitomycin, locally injected hyaluronidase after extravasation of vinca alkaloids, and locally injected sodium thiosulfate (sodium hyposulfite) after extravasation of chlormethine (mechlorethamine; mustine). Plastic surgery may be necessary when conservative treatment fails to prevent ulceration. The possibility of late local reactions must also be considered in the management of patients receiving chemotherapy.

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