The parathyroid glands are small, inconspicuous, and variable in number, colour and position. Their identification is vital for excision of hyper-functioning glands and for preservation of normally functioning ones in patients undergoing thyroidectomy.
Intravenous infusion of methylene blue at a dose of 7.5 mg/kg is commonly used to aid visualization of the parathyroid glands intra-operatively. Methylene blue is generally considered benign, and there are only two cases published in the literature reporting toxicity following intravenous infusion – such toxicity is a diagnosis of exclusion.
We report a case of methylene blue toxicity resulting in expressive aphasia, confusion and disinhibition following infusion for parathyroid adenoma localization. The patient made a complete recovery over 48 hours. Methaemoglobinaemia was excluded as a cause. We suggest that the mechanism of toxicity was a direct effect of methylene blue, although an adverse interaction with serotonin re-uptake inhibitors could not be excluded.
In keeping with the UK National Poisons Information Service recommendations, we have altered our practice and now use methylene blue at a dose not exceeding 4 mg/kg. This has not affected our success rate for identification of parathyroid glands. We report this case to highlight the rare occurrence of methylene blue toxicity when used at a dose of 7.5 mg/kg.