Sodium nitrite (medical use)

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Sodium nitrite
Chemical structure
Clinical data
AHFS/Drugs.comFDA Professional Drug Information
  • US: C (Risk not ruled out)
ATC code
CAS Number
PubChem CID
Chemical and physical data
Molar mass68.9953
3D model (JSmol)

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 most effective and safe medicines needed in a health system.[7] The cost in the United States together with sodium thiosulfate is about 110 USD.[8]


  1. ^ a b c d e WHO Model Formulary 2008 (PDF). World Health Organization. 2009. p. 65. ISBN 9789241547659. Archived (PDF) from the original on 13 December 2016. Retrieved 8 January 2017.
  2. ^ "Sodium Nitrite Solution for Injection - Summary of Product Characteristics (SPC) - (eMC)". Archived from the original on 18 September 2017. Retrieved 15 January 2017.
  3. ^ Baren, Jill M. (2008). Pediatric Emergency Medicine. Elsevier Health Sciences. p. 1018. ISBN 978-1416000877. Archived from the original on 2017-01-16.
  4. ^ a b "Sodium Nitrite Injection - FDA prescribing information, side effects and uses". Archived from the original on 2017-01-18.
  5. ^ Dart, Richard C. (2004). Medical Toxicology. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. p. 172. ISBN 9780781728454. Archived from the original on 2017-01-16.
  6. ^ Bryan, Nathan S.; Loscalzo, Joseph (2011). Nitrite and Nitrate in Human Health and Disease. Springer Science & Business Media. p. 226. ISBN 9781607616160. Archived from the original on 2017-01-16.
  7. ^ "WHO Model List of Essential Medicines (19th List)" (PDF). World Health Organization. April 2015. Archived (PDF) from the original on 13 December 2016. Retrieved 8 December 2016.
  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. PMID 23761707.