Methylene Blue Reduces Mortality in Critically Ill and Perioperative Patients: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Trials

J Cardiothorac Vasc Anesth. 2024 Jan;38(1):268-274. doi: 10.1053/j.jvca.2023.09.037. Epub 2023 Oct 1.


Vasodilatory hypotension is common in critically ill and perioperative patients, and is associated with adverse outcomes. As a nitric oxide production inhibitor, methylene blue (MB) exerts its vasoconstrictor property and is an adjuvant for catecholamine-refractory vasodilatory shock. However, the effects of MB on clinically relevant outcomes remain unclear. Therefore, the authors performed a meta-analysis of randomized trials on MB in critically ill and perioperative patients. The authors searched through databases for randomized trials on MB in critically ill and perioperative patients, which yielded 11 studies consisting of 556 patients. The primary outcome was mortality at the longest follow-up. Secondary outcomes included hemodynamic parameters and organ dysfunction (PROSPERO: CRD42023409243). Nine out of the 11 included randomized trials reported mortality, which was significantly lower in the MB group (risk ratio, 0.60 [95% CI 0.43-0.84] p = 0.003), with findings confirmed in septic shock and cardiac surgery subgroups. The authors found reduced lengths of stay in the intensive care unit (mean difference [MD], -0.9 days [95% CI -1.06 to -0.77] p < 0.001) and in the hospital (MD, -2.2 days [95% CI, -2.68 to -1.70] p < 0.001) in the MB group. MB was associated with increased mean arterial pressure (MD, 8.4 mmHg [95% CI 5.01-11.75] p < 0.001) and systemic vascular resistance (MD, 94.5 dyn/s/cm5 [95% CI 17.73-171.15] p = 0.02), with no difference in cardiac output (standardized MD, 0.16 [95% CI, -0.25 to 0.57] p = 0.45). This meta-analysis showed that MB reverses vasodilation in critically ill and perioperative patients and might improve survival. Further adequately powered randomized trials are needed to confirm these findings.

Keywords: critical illness; intensive care; methylene blue; shock; vasoconstrictor agents; vasoplegia.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Critical Illness / therapy
  • Humans
  • Hypotension*
  • Methylene Blue / therapeutic use
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Shock*
  • Shock, Septic* / drug therapy


  • Methylene Blue