Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) immunotherapy for bladder cancer: Review of complications and their treatment

Paterson, David L. and Patel, Anil (1998) Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) immunotherapy for bladder cancer: Review of complications and their treatment. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Surgery, 68 5: 340-344. doi:10.1111/j.1445-2197.1998.tb04768.x

Author Paterson, David L.
Patel, Anil
Title Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) immunotherapy for bladder cancer: Review of complications and their treatment
Journal name Australian and New Zealand Journal of Surgery   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 1445-1433
Publication date 1998-05-01
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1111/j.1445-2197.1998.tb04768.x
Open Access Status Not Open Access
Volume 68
Issue 5
Start page 340
End page 344
Total pages 5
Place of publication Carlton, VIC, Australia
Publisher Blackwell Publishing
Language eng
Subject 1103 Clinical Sciences
Formatted abstract
Intravesical bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) is widely used in the management of bladder cancer but because it is a living organism, local and disseminated infection may result

A prospective assessment of complications of this therapy in 200 patients in Queensland was performed. A review of management of complications of intravesical BCG was also carried out.

Major side effects were rare. Cystitis was the most common side effect, being seen to some degree in all patients, although only forcing cessation of BCG therapy in two patients. Two patients developed persistent cystitis necessitating institution of isoniazid and rifampicin. Two patients had culture-proven bladder infection that presented several months after the BCG treatment. These patients also responded to two-drug antituberculous therapy. While low-grade fever is very common with this therapy, seven patients (3.5%) had fevers of > 39°C within 48 h of receiving BCG. Fevers may be an indication of severe disseminated mycobacterial infection, which has a high mortality, so it needs to be treated aggressively. Alternatively bacterial sepsis with Gram-negative bacterial pathogens or a hypersensitivity reaction to BCG may cause this degree of fever, and cannot be rapidly distinguished from fulminant mycobacterial infection. One patient in the present series developed pneumonia attributed to mycobacterial dissemination.


The key to appropriate management of complications of BCG therapy is awareness of their possibility, even months or years after the therapy has been given. Appropriate empirical therapy in acute situations and mycobacterial culture in chronic situations can then be performed.
Keyword Bacille Calmette-Guerin
Bladder Cancers
Mycobacterium bovis
Intravesical Instillation
Q-Index Code C1

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collection: UQ Centre for Clinical Research Publications
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Created: Wed, 08 Sep 2010, 03:08:04 EST