Oromandibular dystonia: a serious side effect of capecitabine

BMC Cancer. 2015 Mar 11;15:115. doi: 10.1186/s12885-015-1132-1.


Background: Capecitabine has activity against several types of cancer. In 10-15% of patients treated with capecitabine, treatment is discontinued because of serious adverse reactions, mostly within the first weeks of treatment.

Case presentation: A 56 year-old female patient presented at the emergency department after ten days of chemotherapy with progressive airway obstruction and complaints of numbness of the tongue. She also had difficulty swallowing and was unable to speak. Laboratory findings were completely normal and no co-medication was used, in particular no dopamine antagonists.

Conclusion: The case highlights the need for awareness that capecitabine may potentially lead to severe life-threatening complaints of oromandibular dystonia. We hypothesize that capecitabine passed the blood brain barrier which led to a disruption within the basal ganglia in this case. Prompt treatment with an anticholinergic drug and cessation of capecitabine in the patient case led to disappearance of complaints.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Antimetabolites, Antineoplastic / adverse effects*
  • Capecitabine / adverse effects*
  • Dystonia / chemically induced*
  • Dystonia / diagnosis
  • Dystonia / drug therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Jaw / drug effects*
  • Jaw / physiopathology*
  • Middle Aged


  • Antimetabolites, Antineoplastic
  • Capecitabine