Sodium Nitrite

SODIUM NITRITE- sodium nitrite injection, solution
Hope Pharmaceuticals


Sodium nitrite can cause serious adverse reactions and death in humans, even at doses less than twice the recommended therapeutic dose. Sodium nitrite causes hypotension and methemoglobin formation, which diminishes oxygen carrying capacity. Hypotension and methemoglobin formation can occur concurrently or separately. Because of these risks, sodium nitrite should be used to treat acute life-threatening cyanide poisoning and be used with caution in patients where the diagnosis of cyanide poisoning is uncertain.

Patients should be closely monitored to ensure adequate perfusion and oxygenation during treatment with sodium nitrite.

Alternative therapeutic approaches should be considered in patients known to have diminished oxygen or cardiovascular reserve (e.g., smoke inhalation victims, pre-existing anemia, cardiac or respiratory compromise), and those at higher risk of developing methemoglobinemia (e.g., congenital methemoglobin reductase deficiency) as they are at greater risk for potentially life-threatening adverse events related to the use of sodium nitrite. [see Warnings and Precautions (5.1 and 5.2)]


1.1 Indication

Sodium Nitrite Injection is indicated for sequential use with sodium thiosulfate for the treatment of acute cyanide poisoning that is judged to be life-threatening. When the diagnosis of cyanide poisoning is uncertain, the potentially life-threatening risks associated with Sodium Nitrite Injection should be carefully weighed against the potential benefits, especially if the patient is not in extremis.

1.2 Identifying Patients with Cyanide Poisoning

Cyanide poisoning may result from inhalation, ingestion, or dermal exposure to various cyanide-containing compounds, including smoke from closed-space fires. Sources of cyanide poisoning include hydrogen cyanide and its salts, cyanogenic plants, aliphatic nitriles, and prolonged exposure to sodium nitroprusside.

The presence and extent of cyanide poisoning are often initially unknown. There is no widely available, rapid, confirmatory cyanide blood test. Treatment decisions must be made on the basis of clinical history and signs and symptoms of cyanide intoxication. If clinical suspicion of cyanide poisoning is high, Sodium Nitrite Injection and Sodium Thiosulfate Injection should be administered without delay.

Table 1. Common Signs and Symptoms of Cyanide Poisoning
Symptoms Signs
  • Headache
  • Confusion
  • Dyspnea
  • Chest Tightness
  • Nausea
  • Altered Mental Status
    (e.g., confusion, disorientation)
  • Seizures or Coma
  • Mydriasis
  • Tachypnea/Hyperpnea (early)
  • Bradypnea/Apnea (late)
  • Hypertension (early)/ Hypotension (late)
  • Cardiovascular Collapse
  • Vomiting
  • Plasma Lactate Concentration ≥ 8 mmol/L

In some settings, panic symptoms including tachypnea and vomiting may mimic early cyanide poisoning signs. The presence of altered mental status (e.g., confusion and disorientation) and/or mydriasis is suggestive of true cyanide poisoning although these signs can occur with other toxic exposures as well.

The expert advice of a regional poison control center may be obtained by calling 1-800-222-1222.

Smoke Inhalation

Not all smoke inhalation victims will have cyanide poisoning and may present with burns, trauma, and exposure to other toxic substances making a diagnosis of cyanide poisoning particularly difficult. Prior to administration of Sodium Nitrite Injection, smoke-inhalation victims should be assessed for the following:

  • Exposure to fire or smoke in an enclosed area
  • Presence of soot around the mouth, nose, or oropharynx
  • Altered mental status

Although hypotension is highly suggestive of cyanide poisoning, it is only present in a small percentage of cyanide-poisoned smoke inhalation victims. Also indicative of cyanide poisoning is a plasma lactate concentration greater than or equal to 10 mmol/L (a value higher than that typically listed in the table of signs and symptoms of isolated cyanide poisoning because carbon monoxide associated with smoke inhalation also contributes to lactic acidemia). If cyanide poisoning is suspected, treatment should not be delayed to obtain a plasma lactate concentration.

1.3 Use with Other Cyanide Antidotes

Caution should be exercised when administering cyanide antidotes, other than sodium thiosulfate, simultaneously with Sodium Nitrite Injection, as the safety of co-administration has not been established. If a decision is made to administer another cyanide antidote, other than sodium thiosulfate, with Sodium Nitrite Injection, these drugs should not be administered concurrently in the same IV line. [see Dosage and Administration (2.2)]


2.1 Administration Recommendation

Comprehensive treatment of acute cyanide intoxication requires support of vital functions. Administration of sodium nitrite, followed by sodium thiosulfate, should be considered adjunctive to appropriate supportive therapies. Airway, ventilatory and circulatory support, and oxygen administration should not be delayed to administer sodium nitrite and sodium thiosulfate.

Sodium nitrite injection and sodium thiosulfate injection are administered by slow intravenous injection. They should be given as early as possible after a diagnosis of acute life-threatening cyanide poisoning has been established. Sodium nitrite should be administered first, followed immediately by sodium thiosulfate. Blood pressure must be monitored during infusion in both adults and children. The rate of infusion should be decreased if significant hypotension is noted.

Age Intravenous Dose of Sodium Nitrite and Sodium Thiosulfate
Sodium Nitrite -10 mL of sodium nitrite at the rate of 2.5 to 5 mL/minute
Sodium Thiosulfate — 50 mL of sodium thiosulfate immediately following administration of sodium nitrite.
Sodium Nitrite - 0.2 mL/kg (6 mg/kg or 6-8 mL/m2 BSA) of sodium nitrite at the rate of 2.5 to 5 mL/minute not to exceed 10 mL
Sodium Thiosulfate — 1 mL/kg of body weight (250 mg/kg or approximately 30-40 mL/m2 of BSA) not to exceed 50 mL total dose immediately following administration of sodium nitrite.

NOTE: If signs of poisoning reappear, repeat treatment using one-half the original dose of both sodium nitrite and sodium thiosulfate.

In adult and pediatric patients with known anemia, it is recommended that the dosage of sodium nitrite should be reduced proportionately to the hemoglobin concentration. [see Warnings and Precautions (5.2)]

All parenteral drug products should be inspected visually for particulate matter and discoloration prior to administration, whenever solution and container permit.

2.2 Recommended Monitoring

Patients should be monitored for at least 24-48 hours after Sodium Nitrite Injection administration for adequacy of oxygenation and perfusion and for recurrent signs and symptoms of cyanide toxicity. When possible, hemoglobin/hematocrit should be obtained when treatment is initiated. Measurements of oxygen saturation using standard pulse oximetry and calculated oxygen saturation values based on measured PO2 are unreliable in the presence of methemoglobinemia.

Methemoglobin level: Administrations of sodium nitrite solely to achieve an arbitrary level of methemoglobinemia may be unnecessary and potentially hazardous. The therapeutic effects of sodium nitrite do not appear to be mediated by methemoglobin formation alone [see Clinical Pharmacology (12)] and clinical responses to sodium nitrite administration have been reported in association with methemoglobin levels of less than 10%. Administration of sodium nitrite beyond the initial dose should be guided primarily by clinical response to treatment (i.e., a second dose should be considered only if there is inadequate clinical response to the first dose). It is generally recommended that methemoglobin concentrations be closely monitored and kept below 30%. Serum methemoglobin levels should be monitored during treatment using co-oximetry, and administration of sodium nitrite should generally be discontinued when methemoglobin levels exceed 30%. Intravenous methylene blue and exchange transfusion have been reported in the literature as treatments for life-threatening methemoglobinemia.

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