Intrathecal vincristine: fatal myeloencephalopathy despite cerebrospinal fluid perfusion

J Toxicol Clin Toxicol. 2002;40(5):557-61. doi: 10.1081/clt-120014647.


Background: Vincristine, an antineoplastic agent, must never be injected intrathecally because of its devastating neurotoxic effects, which are usually fatal. We report a case of fatal myeloencephalopathy secondary to inadvertent intrathecal administration of vincristine.

Case report: Intrathecal vincristine was inadvertently injected into a twelve-year-old girl with acute lymphocytic leukemia. The error was immediately recognized and treated with cerebrospinalfluid drainage and cerebrospinal fluid exchange. Clinical evolution during the 83 days until death is described Multiple samples of cerebrospinal fluid were assayed for vincristine sulfate. Neuropathological post-mortem changes in the brain and spinal cord are reported

Conclusion: We compare our case with other previously reported cases in which patient survival was achieved with the same treatment. We summarize preventive measures to avoid such unfortunate occurrences.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / administration & dosage
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / cerebrospinal fluid
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / poisoning*
  • Child
  • Encephalomyelitis / chemically induced*
  • Encephalomyelitis / pathology
  • Fatal Outcome
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Injections, Spinal / adverse effects*
  • Medication Errors*
  • Vincristine / administration & dosage
  • Vincristine / cerebrospinal fluid
  • Vincristine / poisoning*


  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic
  • Vincristine