Chemistry:Sodium nitrite (medical use)

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Sodium nitrite is used as a medication together with sodium thiosulfate to treat cyanide poisoning.[1] It is only recommended in severe cases of cyanide poisoning.[2] In those who have both cyanide poisoning and carbon monoxide poisoning sodium thiosulfate by itself is usually recommended.[3] It is given by slow injection into a vein.[1]

Side effects can include low blood pressure, headache, shortness of breath, loss of consciousness, and vomiting.[1] Greater care should be taken in people with underlying heart disease.[1] People's levels of methemoglobin should be regularly checked during treatment.[1] While not well studied during pregnancy, there is some evidence of potential harm to the baby.[4] Sodium nitrite is believed to work by creating methemoglobin that then binds with cyanide and thus removes it from the mitochondria.[4]

Sodium nitrite came into medical use in the 1920s and 1930s.[5][6] It is on the World Health Organization's List of Essential Medicines, the safest and most effective medicines needed in a health system.[7] The cost in the United States together with sodium thiosulfate is about 110 USD.[8]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 WHO Model Formulary 2008. World Health Organization. 2009. p. 65. ISBN 9789241547659. Retrieved 8 January 2017. 
  2. "Sodium Nitrite Solution for Injection - Summary of Product Characteristics (SPC) - (eMC)". 
  3. Baren, Jill M. (2008) (in en). Pediatric Emergency Medicine. Elsevier Health Sciences. p. 1018. ISBN 978-1416000877. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 "Sodium Nitrite Injection - FDA prescribing information, side effects and uses". 
  5. Dart, Richard C. (2004) (in en). Medical Toxicology. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. p. 172. ISBN 9780781728454. 
  6. Bryan, Nathan S.; Loscalzo, Joseph (2011) (in en). Nitrite and Nitrate in Human Health and Disease. Springer Science & Business Media. p. 226. ISBN 9781607616160. 
  7. World Health Organization model list of essential medicines: 21st list 2019. Geneva: World Health Organization. 2019. WHO/MVP/EMP/IAU/2019.06. License: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 IGO. 
  8. Gasco, L; Rosbolt, MB; Bebarta, VS (April 2013). "Insufficient stocking of cyanide antidotes in US hospitals that provide emergency care". Journal of Pharmacology & Pharmacotherapeutics 4 (2): 95–102. doi:10.4103/0976-500x.110875. PMID 23761707. 

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