Background: Currently, the only approved muscle relaxant with a rapid onset and short duration of action is succinylcholine, a drug with some undesirable effects. Rapacuronium is an investigational nondepolarizing relaxant that also has a rapid onset and short duration and consequently should be compared with succinylcholine in its ability to facilitate rapid tracheal intubation.
Methods: This prospective, randomized clinical trial involved 336 patients. Anesthesia was induced with fentanyl and propofol and either 1.5 mg/kg rapacuronium or 1.0 mg/kg succinylcholine. The goal was to accomplish tracheal intubation by 60 s after administration of the neuromuscular blocking drug. Endotracheal intubation was performed, and conditions were graded by a blinded investigator. Recovery of neuromuscular function was assessed by electromyography.
Results: Intubation conditions were evaluated in 236 patients. Intubation by 60 s after drug administration occurred in 100% of patients with rapacuronium and in 98% with succinylcholine. Intubation conditions were excellent or good in 87% of patients with rapacuronium and in 95% with succinylcholine (P < 0.05). The time (median and range) to the first recovery of the train-of-four response was 8.0 (2.8-20.0) min with rapacuronium and 5.7 (1.8-17.7) min with succinylcholine (P < 0.05). The overall incidence of adverse effects was similar with both drugs.
Conclusions: A 1.5-mg/kg dose of rapacuronium effectively facilitates rapid tracheal intubation. It can be considered a valid alternative to 1.0 mg/kg succinylcholine for this purpose.