Thiocyanate Accumulation in Critically Ill Patients Receiving Nitroprusside Infusions

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This study evaluated thiocyanate concentrations and factors associated with thiocyanate accumulation in intensive care unit patients receiving nitroprusside with and without sodium thiosulfate coadministration.

Materials and Methods:

This retrospective study evaluated critically ill adults who received nitroprusside infusions and had at least one thiocyanate concentration. Patients with thiocyanate accumulation (concentrations ≥30 µg/mL) were compared to patients without accumulation. Factors associated with accumulation were determined by Spearman correlation and multivariate regression.


Thiocyanate concentrations (n = 192) were obtained from 87 patients. Fourteen of the 87 (16%) patients experienced thiocyanate accumulation with a mean (SD) thiocyanate concentration of 44 ± 11 µg/mL. Patients with accumulation had received greater cumulative nitroprusside doses (28 vs 8.2 mg/kg, P < .01), greater cumulative sodium thiosulfate doses (16.8 vs 10.1 mg/kg, P < .01), and longer infusion durations (10.9 vs 6.0 days, P < .01), compared to patients without accumulation. Sodium thiosulfate coadministration resulted in greater thiocyanate concentrations (22.8 ± 16.7 vs 16.8 ± 14.9 μg/mL, P = .01), despite utilization of lower cumulative nitroprusside doses (10.2 vs 14.6 mg/kg, P = .03). Cumulative nitroprusside dose (r2 .44, P < .001) and cumulative sodium thiosulfate dose (r2 .32, P < .001) demonstrated a significant correlation with measured thiocyanate concentrations. Thiocyanate accumulation was independently associated with cumulative nitroprusside dose in mg/kg (regression coefficient 0.75, 95% CI 0.63-0.89; P < .01). No clinically significant adverse effects of cyanide or thiocyanate toxicity were observed.


Cumulative nitroprusside dose was independently associated with thiocyanate accumulation. Despite elevated thiocyanate levels in 16% of patients, there was no clinical evidence of cyanide or thiocyanate toxicity. Routine monitoring of thiocyanate concentrations appears most warranted in patients receiving higher cumulative doses of nitroprusside.

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