Residual neuromuscular block: lessons unlearned. Part II: methods to reduce the risk of residual weakness

Anesth Analg. 2010 Jul;111(1):129-40. doi: 10.1213/ANE.0b013e3181da8312. Epub 2010 May 4.


The aim of the second part of this review is to examine optimal neuromuscular management strategies that can be used by clinicians to reduce the risk of residual paralysis in the early postoperative period. Current evidence has demonstrated that frequently used clinical tests of neuromuscular function (such as head lift or hand grip) cannot reliably exclude the presence of residual paralysis. When qualitative (visual or tactile) neuromuscular monitoring is used (train-of-four [TOF], double-burst, or tetanic stimulation patterns), clinicians often are unable to detect fade when TOF ratios are between 0.6 and 1.0. Furthermore, the effect of qualitative monitoring on postoperative residual paralysis remains controversial. In contrast, there is strong evidence that acceleromyography (quantitative) monitoring improves detection of small degrees (TOF ratios >0.6) of residual blockade. The use of intermediate-acting neuromuscular blocking drugs (NMBDs) can reduce, but do not eliminate, the risk of residual paralysis when compared with long-acting NMBDs. In addition, complete recovery of neuromuscular function is more likely when anticholinesterases are administered early (>15-20 minutes before tracheal extubation) and at a shallower depth of block (TOF count of 4). Finally, the recent development of rapid-onset, short-acting NMBDs and selective neuromuscular reversal drugs that can effectively antagonize deep levels of blockade may provide clinicians with novel pharmacologic approaches for the prevention of postoperative residual weakness and its associated complications.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Electric Stimulation
  • Humans
  • Monitoring, Physiologic / instrumentation
  • Muscle Contraction / drug effects
  • Muscle Weakness / chemically induced*
  • Muscle Weakness / diagnosis
  • Muscle Weakness / epidemiology*
  • Muscle Weakness / prevention & control
  • Neuromuscular Blockade / adverse effects*
  • Neuromuscular Blockade / methods
  • Neuromuscular Depolarizing Agents / adverse effects*
  • Neuromuscular Depolarizing Agents / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Postoperative Complications / chemically induced*
  • Postoperative Complications / diagnosis
  • Postoperative Complications / epidemiology*
  • Postoperative Complications / prevention & control
  • Terminology as Topic


  • Neuromuscular Depolarizing Agents