Sodium thiosulfate or hydroxocobalamin for the empiric treatment of cyanide poisoning?

Ann Emerg Med. 2007 Jun;49(6):806-13. doi: 10.1016/j.annemergmed.2006.09.021. Epub 2006 Nov 13.


Cyanide poisoning must be seriously considered in victims of smoke inhalation from enclosed space fires; it is also a credible terrorism threat agent. The treatment of cyanide poisoning is empiric because laboratory confirmation can take hours or days. Empiric treatment requires a safe and effective antidote that can be rapidly administered by either out-of-hospital or emergency department personnel. Among several cyanide antidotes available, sodium thiosulfate and hydroxocobalamin have been proposed for use in these circumstances. The evidence available to assess either sodium thiosulfate or hydroxocobalamin is incomplete. According to recent safety and efficacy studies in animals and human safety and uncontrolled efficacy studies, hydroxocobalamin seems to be an appropriate antidote for empiric treatment of smoke inhalation and other suspected cyanide poisoning victims in the out-of-hospital setting. Sodium thiosulfate can also be administered in the out-of-hospital setting. The efficacy of sodium thiosulfate is based on individual case studies, and there are contradictory conclusions about efficacy in animal models. The onset of antidotal action of sodium thiosulfate may be too slow for it to be the only cyanide antidote for emergency use. Hydroxocobalamin is being developed for potential introduction in the United States and may represent a new option for emergency personnel in cases of suspected or confirmed cyanide poisoning in the out-of-hospital setting.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antidotes / therapeutic use*
  • Cyanides / poisoning*
  • Emergency Medical Services
  • Humans
  • Hydroxocobalamin / therapeutic use*
  • Safety
  • Thiosulfates / therapeutic use*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Antidotes
  • Cyanides
  • Thiosulfates
  • sodium thiosulfate
  • Hydroxocobalamin