Methotrexate is a chemotherapy drug that is used to treat certain types of cancer and leukaemia. This page from Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) explains what intravenous methotrexate is, how it is given and some of the possible side effects.Methotrexate is a chemotherapy drug that is used to treat certain types of cancer and leukaemia.
How is intravenous methotrexate given?
Intravenous methotrexate is given as an infusion into a vein (intra-venously or IV) through a cannula, central venous catheter or implantable port.
What are the side effects?
Mouth sores and ulcers
You will be given advice about appropriate mouth care and a copy of the mouthcare leaflet. If your child complains of having a sore mouth, please tell your doctor or nurse.
Loss of appetite
It is possible that your child’s appetite may decrease while having treatment. If you are concerned about your child’s diet please ask to speak to one of the dietitians.
Sensitivity of skin to sunlight
While your child is having methotrexate, their skin may burn more easily than usual. You should avoid your child being exposed to sunlight and other forms of ultraviolet light. If your child does go out in the sun, always use a good sunblock of SPF 25 or higher and ensure they wear a sunhat.
The following side effects occur when higher doses of the drug are given.
Nausea and vomiting
Anti-sickness drugs can be given to reduce or prevent these symptoms. Please tell your doctor or nurse if your child’s sickness is not controlled or persists.
Altered kidney function
Methotrexate may change how well your child’s kidneys work over a period of time. Your child may have a blood and urine test or a GFR (Glomerular Filtration Rate) before treatment is started and then at stages during and after treatment to monitor kidney function.
Temporary effect on liver function
Methotrexate can sometimes cause changes to your child’s liver function. This should return to normal when the treatment is finished. Blood tests may be taken to monitor your child’s liver function (LFTs).
Bone marrow suppression
There will be a temporary reduction in how well your child’s bone marrow works. This means they may become anaemic, bruise or bleed more easily than usual, and have a higher risk of infection. Your child’s blood count will be checked regularly to see how the bone marrow is working. Please tell your doctor if your child seems unusually tired, has bruising or bleeding, or any signs of infection, especially a high temperature.
Please tell your doctor or nurse if your child has diarrhoea which is not controlled or persists. It is important that your child drinks lots of fluids.
Your child may complain of feeling dizzy while receiving high dose methotrexate. This is temporary. Please tell your doctor if your child experiences any dizziness.
High dose methotrexate
If your child is prescribed a course of “high dose” Methotrexate, drug called folinic acid is given to minimise the side effects and help clear the methotrexate from the body. Your child may be given this 24 to 36 hours after the start of treatment with intravenous methotrexate. Please ask your doctor, nurse or pharmacist to explain this to you in more detail.
Interactions with other medicines
Some medicines can react with methotrexate, altering how well it works. Always check with your doctor or pharmacist before giving your child any other medicine, including medicines on prescription from your family doctor (GP), medicines bought from a pharmacy (chemist) or any herbal or complementary medicines.
If your child is receiving ‘high-dose methotrexate’, some of your child’s medications may need to be stopped or changed a few days prior to therapy. Your doctor, nurse or pharmacist will explain and advise when this is applicable.