Pharmacodynamics of vecuronium and atracurium in the obese surgical patient

Anesth Analg. 1988 Dec;67(12):1149-53.


The effect of obesity on the duration of action of the nondepolarizing muscle relaxants atracurium and vecuronium was studied in 28 neurosurgical patients. In obese patients given vecuronium (0.1 mg/kg), the time to go from 5 to 25% of recovery of twitch response was statistically significantly longer (14.6 +/- 7 minutes, mean +/- SD) than it was in nonobese control patients (6.9 +/- 2 minutes). Similarly, with vecuronium times for recovery from 25 to 75% were longer (33 +/- 15 minutes) in obese patients than in control patients (13.2 +/- 2 minutes), as was time to 75% recovery, 82 +/- 30 minutes in obese patients, 50 +/- 9 minutes in controls. In contrast, obese patients given atracurium (0.5 mg/kg) exhibited no difference in recovery indexes or recovery times when compared to control patients of normal weight. The prolonged duration of action of vecuronium in obese patients is most likely related to impaired hepatic clearance and/or an overdose effect with recovery occurring during the distribution phase. That the duration of action of atracurium is not prolonged in the obese is believed due to this relaxant's not depending on organ function for elimination.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anesthesia Recovery Period*
  • Atracurium / pharmacokinetics*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / metabolism*
  • Postoperative Period*
  • Surgical Procedures, Operative*
  • Vecuronium Bromide / pharmacokinetics*


  • Atracurium
  • Vecuronium Bromide