Usefulness of intra-operative neuromuscular blockade monitoring and reversal agents for postoperative residual neuromuscular blockade: a retrospective observational study

BMC Anesthesiol. 2019 Aug 7;19(1):143. doi: 10.1186/s12871-019-0817-4.


Background: Complete avoidance of residual neuromuscular blockade (RNMB) during the postoperative period has not yet been achieved in current anesthesia practice. Evidently, compliance with NMB monitoring is persistently low, and the risk of RNMB during the perioperative period remains underestimated. To our knowledge, no publications have reported the incidence of RNMB in a university hospital where access to quantitative NMB monitoring and sugammadex is unlimited and where NMB management is not protocolised. The primary aim of this study was to estimate the incidence of RNMB in patients managed with or without sugammadex or neostigmine as antagonists and quantitative NMB monitoring in the operating room. The secondary aim was to explore the associations between RNMB and potentially related variables.

Methods: This retrospective observational cohort study was conducted at a tertiary referral university hospital in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Records created between June 2015 and December 2015 were reviewed. In total, 240 consecutive patients who had undergone elective surgical procedures requiring NMB were included. All patients were monitored via acceleromyography at the adductor pollicis muscle within 5 min of arrival in the postanaesthesia care unit (PACU). Scheduled recovery in the intensive care unit was the only exclusion criterion.

Results: RNMB was present in 1.6% patients who received intra-operative quantitative NMB monitoring and 32% patients whose NMB was not monitored (P < 0.01). Multivariable analysis revealed that the use of intra-operative quantitative NMB monitoring and sugammadex were associated with a lower incidence of RNMB, with calculated odds ratios of 0.04 (95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.005 to 0.401) and 0.18 (95% CI: 0.046 to 0.727), respectively.

Conclusions: The results of the present study suggest that intra-operative quantitative NMB monitoring and use of sugammadex are associated with a decreased incidence of RNMB in the PACU, reinforcing the contention that the optimal strategy for RNMB avoidance is the use of quantitative NMB monitoring and eventual use of reversal agents, if needed, prior to emergence from anaesthesia.

Keywords: Neuromuscular blockade; Neuromuscular blockade monitoring; Residual neuromuscular blockade.

Publication types

  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Cholinesterase Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Delayed Emergence from Anesthesia / drug therapy*
  • Delayed Emergence from Anesthesia / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neostigmine / therapeutic use
  • Neuromuscular Blockade*
  • Neuromuscular Monitoring*
  • Postoperative Complications
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sugammadex / therapeutic use


  • Cholinesterase Inhibitors
  • Sugammadex
  • Neostigmine