Nitropress Side Effects
Generic Name: nitroprusside
Note: This page contains side effects data for the generic drug nitroprusside. It is possible that some of the dosage forms included below may not apply to the brand name Nitropress.
For the Consumer
Applies to nitroprusside: intravenous powder for solution, intravenous solution
As well as its needed effects, nitroprusside (the active ingredient contained in Nitropress) may cause unwanted side effects that require medical attention.
If any of the following side effects occur while taking nitroprusside, check with your doctor or nurse immediately:Less common:
- Chest pain or discomfort
- fast, pounding, or irregular heartbeat or pulse
- lightheadedness, dizziness, or fainting
- slow heartbeat
- trouble breathing
- unusual tiredness
- Bluish-colored lips, fingernails, or palms
- blurred vision
- dark urine
- difficulty with breathing
- pale skin
- rapid heart rate
- sore throat
- unusual bleeding or bruising
Minor Side Effects
Some nitroprusside 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 pain
- depressed mood
- dry skin and hair
- feeling cold or warmth
- hair loss
- hoarseness or husky voice
- increased sweating
- irritation at the infusion site
- muscle cramps, stiffness, or twitching
- redness of the face, neck, arms, and occasionally, upper chest
- weight gain
For Healthcare Professionals
Applies to nitroprusside: intravenous powder for injection, intravenous solution
Nitroprusside (the active ingredient contained in Nitropress) toxicity may present as hypotension, cyanide toxicity, or thiocyanate toxicity.[Ref]
Metabolic side effects are potentially life-threatening. Nitroprusside metabolism involves the production of cyanide (CN), which may be extremely toxic. Cyanide is normally immediately converted by rhodanase to thiocyanate, which has 1% the toxicity of cyanide and is normally readily eliminated by the kidney.
Cyanide may irreversibly block electron transport in mitochondrial cytochromes, which may result in metabolic acidosis and/or ischemia injury or death. Acidosis may not appear until more than one hour after the appearance of dangerous CN levels, and prompt countermeasures are recommended without further tests.
Cyanide accumulation is more likely in patients who are receiving nitroprusside (the active ingredient contained in Nitropress) at rates of 2 mcg/kg/min or more, but has been reported in rare cases after lesser dosages within 0.5 to 3.0 hours of infusion time. The risk of thiocyanate toxicity is increased in patients with underlying renal insufficiency.
Cardiopulmonary bypass is a risk factor in the development of cyanide toxicity associated with nitroprusside. Hemoglobin is a biologically active substance capable of catalyzing the release of cyanide from nitroprusside. Hemolysis occurs as a consequence of cell injury during CPB which may make a greater amount of hemoglobin available to react with nitroprusside and this ultimately increases the risk of cyanide toxicity.
Thiocyanate may cause mild tinnitus, miosis, and hyperreflexia at serum levels of 60 mcg/L, but may be life-threatening at serum levels of 200 mcg/L. Thiocyanate may interfere with iodine uptake by the thyroid.[Ref]
Cytochrome toxicity is more likely when serum cyanide levels exceed 200 mcmol/L, and is expected with serum CN levels between 300 and 3,000 mcmol/L in patients with normal red blood cell concentrations and mass.
Nitroprusside should be stopped if toxicity is suspected or documented. Amyl nitrite inhalant can be administered if intravenous access is not immediately available.
Cyanide toxicity can be prevented and treated by infusing sodium nitrite 3% solution 4 to 6 mg/kg (approximately 0.2 mL/kg) over 2 to 4 minutes, then sodium thiosulfate 25% solution 150 to 200 mg/kg (approximately 50 mL). This regimen may be repeated at half doses in 2 hours, if needed.[Ref]
Cardiovascular side effects have included profound and potentially reversible hypotension and myocardial ischemia. Nitroprusside-induced precipitous decreases in blood pressure can result in irreversible ischemic injuries or death. Tachycardia, bradycardia, flushing, palpitations, ECG changes, venous streaking, and retrosternal discomfort have also been reported.[Ref]
Myocardial ischemia is thought to be due to a "coronary artery steal phenomenon" due to nitroprusside-induced decreased coronary vascular resistance.[Ref]
Nervous system side effects usually associated with excessively rapid decreases in blood pressure have included headache, restlessness, apprehension, muscle twitching, and dizziness. Cyanide toxicity has been associated with ataxia, seizures, stroke, confusion, drowsiness, coma, increased intracranial pressure, bilateral globus pallidum necrosis, and death.[Ref]
Patients who require mechanical ventilation, who are anesthetized, or who are sedated or immobilized are at higher risk of hypoxemia because areas of their lungs may be hypoventilated due to ventilation-perfusion mismatch. Nitroglycerin also may cause this phenomenon.
A 32-year-old female who had received nitroprusside (the active ingredient contained in Nitropress) to provide controlled hypotension during surgery developed acute pulmonary edema postoperatively. The patient was thought to be normovolemic with increased pulmonary capillary permeability due to an unknown mechanism. The patient had also received general anesthesia and propranolol.
A 29-year-old female developed fatal Adult Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) five days after beginning nitroprusside for postpartum hypertension. Her syndrome was complicated by disseminated intravascular coagulopathy (DIC), microangiopathic anemia, anuria, and acute renal failure. The patient had previously recovered from postpartum shock and DIC before developing ARDS.[Ref]
Respiratory side effects are related to the vasodilatory properties of nitroprusside. Significant increases in ventilation-perfusion mismatch have been documented due to an inhibition of the normal hypoxic vasoconstrictive reflex that occurs in hypoventilated areas of the lung. This may result in significant hypoxemia. A case of acute pulmonary edema and Adult Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) has been associated with the use of this drug. Nasal stuffiness has also been reported.[Ref]
Methemoglobinemia should be promptly treated with methylene blue 1 to 2 mg/kg intravenously over several minutes. Caution is recommended when antidotal methylene blue is administered since it may cause release of hemoglobin-bound cyanide, which is potentially toxic.[Ref]
Hematologic side effects have included methemoglobinemia, thrombocytopenia, and platelet dysfunction. Methemoglobinemia has been more likely in patients who have received total doses of 10 mg/kg or more. Thrombocytopenia and platelet dysfunction have been more likely with infusion rates of 3 mcg/kg/min or more.[Ref]
Renal side effects have included increases in serum creatinine and rarely, renal insufficiency and acute azotemia.[Ref]
A 65-year-old male with coronary artery disease, diabetes mellitus, and new congestive heart failure associated with complete AV heart block developed progressive oliguric prerenal azotemia (despite improved cardiac output) and hypervolemia associated with nitroprusside. The oliguria and azotemia resolved after nitroprusside withdrawal. The patient was also receiving dobutamine. The authors believe the mechanism is possibly related to a "steal phenomenon" due to preferential dilation of nonrenal vascular beds. Alternatively, nitroprusside may have resulted in activation of the sympathetic nervous and renin-angiotensin systems, with secondary renal vasoconstriction and salt and water retention.
Implication of nitroprusside is difficult in many of the case reports because the patients had underlying cardiac or renal disease, as well as hemodynamic instability.[Ref]
A 65-year-old woman developed acute phlebitis at the intravenous site within 30 minutes after beginning nitroprusside (the active ingredient contained in Nitropress) therapy. The raised erythema along the vein disappeared within 30 minutes of drug discontinuation, and was reproducible on rechallenge. The authors of the case report believe the phlebitis was due to a local vasodilatory phenomenon rather than an allergic reaction.[Ref]
Local reactions have included acute phlebitis and injection site irritation.[Ref]
Gastrointestinal side effects have included abdominal pain (associated with rapid reduction of blood pressure), nausea, retching, vomiting, and rare reports of ileus.[Ref]
Endocrine side effects have included hypothyroidism due to thiocyanate-induced inhibition of iodine uptake by the thyroid. Diaphoresis has also been reported.[Ref]
Psychiatric side effects have rarely included delirium.[Ref]
Dermatologic side effects have included rash.[Ref]
1. "Multum Information Services, Inc. Expert Review Panel"
2. Friederich JA, Butterworth JF "Sodium nitroprusside: twenty years and counting." Anesth Analg 81 (1995): 152-62
3. Cheung AT, Cruz-Shiavone GE, Meng QC, et al. "Cardiopulmonary bypass, hemolysis, and nitroprusside-induced cyanide production." Anesth Analg 105 (2007): 29-33
4. Ram Z, Spiegelman R, Findler G, Hadani M "Delayed postoperative neurological deterioration from prolonged sodium nitroprusside administration." J Neurosurg 71 (1989): 605-7
5. Pasch T, Schulz V, Hoppelshauser G "Nitroprusside-induced formation of cyanide and its detoxication with thiosulfate during deliberate hypotension." J Cardiovasc Pharmacol 5 (1983): 77-85
6. Johanning RJ, Zaske DE, Tschida SJ, Johnson SV, Hoey LL, vance-Bryan K "A retrospective study of sodium nitroprusside use and assessment of the potential risk of cyanide poisoning." Pharmacotherapy 15 (1995): 773-7
7. Mckindley DS, Boucher BA "Advances in pharmacotherapy - treatment of hypertensive crisis." J Clin Pharm Ther 19 (1994): 163-80
8. Rauscher LA, Hurst JM, Collins GM "Nitroprusside toxicity in a renal transplant patient." Anesthesiology 49 (1978): 428-30
9. Nightingale SL "New labeling for sodium nitroprusside emphasizes risk of cyanide toxicity." JAMA 265 (1991): 847
10. Schulz V, Gross R, Pasch T, et al "Cyanide toxicity of sodium nitroprusside in therapeutic use with and without sodium thiosulphate." Klin Wochenschr 60 (1982): 1393-400
11. Ihlen H, Myhre E, Opstad P "Evaluation of potential adverse effects of sodium nitroprusside during pacing-induced myocardial ischaemia in man." Eur Heart J 5 (1984): 834-41
12. Haas DC, Streeten DH, Kim RC, et al "Death from cerebral hypoperfusion during nitroprusside treatment of acute angiotensin-dependent hypertension." Am J Med 75 (1983): 1071-6
13. Abdulatif M "Sodium nitroprusside induced hypotension - haemodynamic response and dose requirements during propofol or halothane anaesthesia." Anaesth Intensive Care 22 (1994): 155-60
14. Garcia-Rubira JC, Garcia-Aranda VL, Fernandez JM "Adverse effect of sodium nitroprusside 48 hours after myocardial infarction." Int J Cardiol 26 (1990): 118-9
15. Casthely PA, Lear S, Cottrell JE, Lear E "Intrapulmonary shunting during induced hypotension." Anesth Analg 61 (1982): 231-5
16. Kaplan NM "Management of hypertensive emergencies." Lancet 344 (1994): 1335-8
17. Harmon C, Wohlreich MM "Sodium nitroprusside-induced delirium." Psychosomatics 36 (1995): 83-5
18. Kim YH, Foo M, Terry RD "Cyanide encephalopathy following therapy with sodium nitroprusside." Arch Pathol Lab Med 106 (1982): 392-3
19. van Eeden AF, Lambrechts NJ "Acute pulmonary oedema." S Afr Med J 64 (1983): 229
20. Stratta P, Canavese C, Colla L, et al "Adult respiratory distress syndrome following administration of nitroprusside in postpartum acute renal failure." Clin Nephrol 31 (1989): 117-8
21. Mehta P, Mehta J, Miale TD "Nitroprusside lowers platelet count." N Engl J Med 299 (1978): 1134
22. Hines R, Barash PG "Infusion of sodium nitroprusside induces platelet dysfunction in vitro." Anesthesiology 70 (1989): 611-5
23. Harris SN, Rinder CS, Rinder HM, Tracey JB, Smith BR, Hines R "Nitroprusside inhibition of platelet function is transient and reversible by catecholamine printing." Anesthesiology 83 (1995): 1145-52
24. Nielsen CB "Sodium nitroprusside increases renal synthesis of cGMP and reduces free water clearance in human." Nephron 68 (1994): 273
25. Reid GM, Muther RS "Nitroprusside-induced acute azotemia." Am J Nephrol 7 (1987): 313-5
26. Rosenthal R, Hart R, Yurick C, Haughs L "Complication of nitroprusside therapy." Chest 81 (1982): 392-3
27. "Product Information. Nipride (nitroprusside)." Roche Laboratories, Nutley, NJ.
It is possible that some side effects of Nitropress may not have been reported. These can be reported to the FDA here. Always consult a healthcare professional for medical advice.
More about Nitropress (nitroprusside)
- Side Effects
- During Pregnancy
- Dosage Information
- Drug Interactions
- Support Group
- Pricing & Coupons
- En Español
- 0 Reviews – Add your own review/rating
- Drug class: agents for hypertensive emergencies
Other brands: Nipride RTU
Related treatment guides
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.