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Edward H. Oldfield, Johanna J. Loomba, Stephen J. Monteith, R. Webster Crowley, Ricky Medel, Daryl R. Gress, Neal F. Kassell, Aaron S. Dumont and Craig Sherman

Object

Intravenous sodium nitrite has been shown to prevent and reverse cerebral vasospasm in a primate model of subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH). The present Phase IIA dose-escalation study of sodium nitrite was conducted to determine the compound's safety in humans with aneurysmal SAH and to establish its pharmacokinetics during a 14-day infusion.

Methods

In 18 patients (3 cohorts of 6 patients each) with SAH from a ruptured cerebral aneurysm, nitrite (3 patients) or saline (3 patients) was infused. Sodium nitrite and saline were delivered intravenously for 14 days, and a dose-escalation scheme was used for the nitrite, with a maximum dose of 64 nmol/kg/min. Sodium nitrite blood levels were frequently sampled and measured using mass spectroscopy, and blood methemoglobin levels were continuously monitored using a pulse oximeter.

Results

In the 14-day infusions in critically ill patients with SAH, there was no toxicity or systemic hypotension, and blood methemoglobin levels remained at 3.3% or less in all patients. Nitrite levels increased rapidly during intravenous infusion and reached steady-state levels by 12 hours after the start of infusion on Day 1. The nitrite plasma half-life was less than 1 hour across all dose levels evaluated after stopping nitrite infusions on Day 14.

Conclusions

Previous preclinical investigations of sodium nitrite for the prevention and reversal of vasospasm in a primate model of SAH were effective using doses similar to the highest dose examined in the current study (64 nmol/kg/min). Results of the current study suggest that safe and potentially therapeutic levels of nitrite can be achieved and sustained in critically ill patients after SAH from a ruptured cerebral aneurysm. Clinical trial registration no.: NCT00873015 (ClinicalTrials.gov).