Methylene blue dose-dependently induces cutaneous inflammation and heat hyperalgesia in a novel rat model

Ratan K. Banik, Twan Sia, Malcolm E Johns, Phu V Tran, Andrew Y. Cheng, Sudarshan Setty, Donald A. Simone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Methylene blue (MB) has been shown to reduce mortality and morbidity in vasoplegic patients after cardiac surgery. Though MB is considered to be safe, extravasation of MB leading to cutaneous toxicity has been reported. In this study, we sought to characterize MB-induced cutaneous toxicity and investigate the underlying mechanisms. To induce MB-induced cutaneous toxicity, we injected 64 adult male Sprague-Dawley rates with 200 µL saline (vehicle) or 1%, 0.1%, or 0.01% MB in the plantar hind paws. Paw swelling, skin histologic changes, and heat and mechanical hyperalgesia were measured. Injection of 1%, but not 0.1% or 0.01% MB, produced significant paw swelling compared to saline. Injection of 1% MB produced heat hyperalgesia but not mechanical hyperalgesia. Pain behaviors were unchanged following injections of 0.1% or 0.01% MB. Global transcriptomic analysis by RNAseq identified 117 differentially expressed genes (111 upregulated, 6 downregulated). Ingenuity Pathway Analysis showed an increased quantity of leukocytes, increased lipids, and decreased apoptosis of myeloid cells and phagocytes with activation of IL-1β and Fos as the two major regulatory hubs. qPCR showed a 16-fold increase in IL-6 mRNA. Thus, using a novel rat model of MB-induced cutaneous toxicity, we show that infiltration of 1% MB into cutaneous tissue causes a dose-dependent pro-inflammatory response, highlighting potential roles of IL-6, IL-1β, and Fos. Thus, anesthesiologists should administer dilute MB intravenously through peripheral venous catheters. Higher concentrations of MB (1%) should be administered through a central venous catheter to minimize the risk of cutaneous toxicity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalMolecular Pain
StatePublished - Jan 1 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2024.


  • heat hyperalgesia
  • interleukin-6
  • methylene blue
  • Paw swelling
  • quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction
  • RNA sequencing

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


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