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Nitroprusside is used for immediate reduction of blood pressure in patients suffering from hypertensive crises (severe increase in blood pressure that can lead to a stroke). It may also be used to treat hypertension during acute myocardial infarction (heart attack) and congestive heart failure (failure of the heart, resulting in fluid build-up in the lungs, other body tissues, or both), malignant and therapy resistant hypertension. Nitroprusside may also be used for inducing controlled intraoperative hypotension (low blood pressure during operations or surgeries).

How it works

Nitroprusside belongs to class of medications called vasodilators. Nitroprusside causes relaxation of vascular smooth muscles and also causes dilatation of arteries and veins thereby reducing the load on the heart and causing an overall reduction in the blood pressure.

Common side effects

Nausea, Cyanide intoxication, Dizziness, Drug ineffective, Headache, Decreased blood pressure, Increased angina symptoms, Infusion site reaction, Infusion site pain, Itching, Rebound effect, Skin redness, Tachycardia, Tachyphylaxis, Thiocyanate intoxication, Vomiting, Weakness


Expert advice

  • Nitroprusside is given only when there is equipment and personnel available for continuous blood pressure monitoring.
  • Use with caution if you are hypothermic, suffering from liver or kidney failure.
  • Take all necessary precaution if you are suffering from vitamin B12 deficiency and inform you doctor accordingly.
  • Do not drive or operate machinery as nitroprusside may affect your reactivity.
  • Tell your doctor if you are or planning to become pregnant or are breastfeeding.

Frequently asked questions


Q. Is nitroprusside a nitrate?
Yes, nitroprusside is a nitrate.
Q. Is nitroprusside an inotrope/ vasodilator?
Nitroprusside is a vasodilator.
Q. Is nitroprusside the same as nitroglycerin?
Nitroprusside and nitroglycerine are two different drugs with the same mechanism of action.
Q. Why nitroprusside is protected from light?
Nitroprusside is photosensitive and therefore it must be protected from light.
Q. Does nitroprusside increased SVR (systemic vascular resistance)?
Nitroprusside is known to relax the peripheral smooth muscles and therefore reduce SVR.
Q. Does nitroprusside reduce afterload?
Yes, nitroprusside reduces afterload.

Content on this page was last updated on 30 September, 2016, by Dr. Varun Gupta (MD Pharmacology)