Methylene blue for the treatment of septic shock

Pharmacotherapy. 2010 Jul;30(7):702-15. doi: 10.1592/phco.30.7.702.


Septic shock is a major cause of morbidity and mortality in the intensive care unit, and effective therapies are limited. Methylene blue is a selective inhibitor of guanylate cyclase, a second messenger involved in nitric oxide-mediated vasodilation. The use of methylene blue in the treatment of septic shock has been repeatedly evaluated over the past 20 years, but data remain scarce. To evaluate the safety and efficacy of methylene blue for the treatment of septic shock, we conducted a literature search of the EMBASE (1974-June 2009), MEDLINE (1966-June 2009), and International Pharmaceutical Abstracts (1970-June 2009) databases. All available studies published in English were reviewed. Observational studies with methylene blue have demonstrated beneficial effects on hemodynamic parameters and oxygen delivery, but use of methylene blue may be limited by adverse pulmonary effects. Methylene blue administration is associated with increases in mean arterial pressure while reducing catecholamine requirements in patients experiencing septic shock; however, its effects on morbidity and mortality remain unknown. Well-designed, prospective evaluations are needed to define the role of methylene blue as treatment of septic shock.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Guanylate Cyclase / pharmacology
  • Hemodynamics / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Lung / drug effects
  • Methylene Blue / pharmacology*
  • Nitric Oxide / pharmacology
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Shock, Septic / drug therapy*
  • Shock, Septic / physiopathology
  • Vasodilation / drug effects


  • Nitric Oxide
  • Guanylate Cyclase
  • Methylene Blue