Pitressin Side Effects

Generic Name: vasopressin

Note: This page contains side effects data for the generic drug vasopressin. It is possible that some of the dosage forms included below may not apply to the brand name Pitressin.

It is possible that some side effects of Pitressin may not have been reported. These can be reported to the FDA here. Always consult a healthcare professional for medical advice.

For the Consumer

Applies to vasopressin: injection solution

As well as its needed effects, vasopressin (the active ingredient contained in Pitressin) may cause unwanted side effects that require medical attention.

If any of the following side effects occur while taking vasopressin, check with your doctor immediately:

  • Chest pain
  • coma
  • confusion
  • convulsions (seizures)
  • drowsiness
  • fever
  • headache that continues
  • problems with urination
  • redness of skin
  • skin rash, hives, or itching
  • swelling of face, feet, hands, or mouth
  • weight gain
  • wheezing or trouble with breathing

Some vasopressin side effects may not need any medical attention. As your body gets used to the medicine these side effects may disappear. Your health care professional may be able to help you prevent or reduce these side effects, but do check with them if any of the following side effects continue, or if you are concerned about them:

Less common
  • Abdominal or stomach cramps
  • belching
  • diarrhea
  • dizziness or lightheadedness
  • increased sweating
  • increased urge for a bowel movement
  • nausea or vomiting
  • pale skin
  • passage of gas
  • "pounding'' in head
  • trembling
  • white-colored area around the mouth

For Healthcare Professionals

Applies to vasopressin: injectable solution


Cardiovascular side effects have included cardiac arrest, circumoral pallor, decreased cardiac output, increased blood pressure, bradycardia, arrhythmias, venous thrombosis, myocardial ischemia, peripheral vasoconstriction at higher doses, and angina. The overall incidence of cardiovascular complications has been estimated to be 25%.

Due to vasopressin-induced increased coronary and systemic vascular resistance, the drug can cause myocardial ischemia, reduced cardiac output, and systemic hypertension. Some clinicians choose to give nitroglycerin and/or isoproterenol during vasopressin administration to reduce the likelihood of some of these problems.

Cardiovascular side effects related to the pressor activity of vasopressin may be important in patients with a history of coronary artery or peripheral vascular disease. The vascular beds most affected (in decreasing order) are iliac, mesenteric, coronary, and renal. Cardiac arrest, circumoral pallor, arrhythmias (usually bradycardia; rarely torsades de pointes), decreased cardiac output, angina pectoris, myocardial ischemia, peripheral vasoconstriction and gangrene have been reported. Intoxication may result in water retention and/or hyponatremia, which can be effectively treated by withholding therapy and water restriction.


Dermatologic side effects of severe vasopressin-induced peripheral vasoconstriction have included sweating, alopecia, cutaneous necrosis or infarcts, and gangrene. These problems were more likely at the site of administration.

While cutaneous necrosis has most commonly been associated with extravasation at or proximal to IV catheter sites, several cases of necrosis have been reported at sites distant from direct IV flow.

Rare cases of subcutaneous calcifications have been associated with the use of pitressin tannate, an oil-based injectable product, which is no longer marketed in the US.


Diabetes insipidus does not result from spontaneously occurring antibodies to vasopressin (the active ingredient contained in Pitressin) Such antibodies can develop during treatment with vasopressin, however, and can cause resistance to its diuretic effect.

Hypersensitivity side effects have included rare cases of severe anaphylaxis and urticaria.


Mesenteric artery thrombosis (MAT) with retrograde propagation of the thrombus into the portal vein has been associated with selective arterial drug infusions for control of upper gastrointestinal hemorrhage. In some cases, small bowel necrosis with or without bacterial peritonitis secondary to thrombosis of the superior mesenteric artery has resulted. Because up to 10% of patients with liver cirrhosis develop portal vein thrombosis, an association between intra-arterial vasopressin (the active ingredient contained in Pitressin) and MAT may be coincidental.

Gastrointestinal side effects have included abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and flatus in 18% of patients. Unexplained abdominal pain associated with hemodynamic instability in patients receiving vasopressin has rarely been associated with mesenteric or portal vein thrombosis and bowel necrosis.


Renal side effects have included reports of myoglobinuria with acute renal failure, which has been attributed to vasopressin-induced skeletal muscle ischemia in two patients.

Nervous system

Nervous system side effects have included tremor, vertigo, and headache (usually described as a "pounding head").


Respiratory side effects have included rare cases of bronchial constriction, pulmonary edema, and adult respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS).

Disclaimer: Every effort has been made to ensure that the information provided is accurate, up-to-date and complete, but no guarantee is made to that effect. In addition, the drug information contained herein may be time sensitive and should not be utilized as a reference resource beyond the date hereof. This material does not endorse drugs, diagnose patients, or recommend therapy. This information is a reference resource designed as supplement to, and not a substitute for, the expertise, skill , knowledge, and judgement of healthcare practitioners in patient care. The absence of a warning for a given drug or combination thereof in no way should be construed to indicate safety, effectiveness, or appropriateness for any given patient. Drugs.com does not assume any responsibility for any aspect of healthcare administered with the aid of materials provided. The information contained herein is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. If you have questions about the substances you are taking, check with your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist.