Objectives: Neuromuscular blocking agents (NMBAs) have revolutionized the field of anesthesiology as they facilitate airway management and ensure optimal surgical conditions. Despite their beneficial and ubiquitous use during surgery, delayed or partial recovery from NMBAs, referred to as residual neuromuscular block (rNMB), is a common clinical problem. While it is well accepted that the antagonist sugammadex, compared to neostigmine, can more rapidly reverse rocuronium-induced NMB regardless of depth of block, the occurrence of rNMB for routinely used combinations of NMBAs with sugammadex or neostigmine has not yet been quantified or evaluated systematically.
Review methods: We conducted a systematic literature review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) to quantify and compare the incidence of rNMB [defined as train-of-four ratio (TOFR) <0.9] in patients with moderate and deep neuromuscular block. Methods recommended by Cochrane Collaboration and PRISMA group were followed.
Results: A total of 35 RCTs were identified, of which 20 contributed to the meta-analysis. For moderate block, rNMB incidence at 2 min after sugammadex administration was 19.2% (95% CI 0.0-57.8; 122 patients) and declined to 2.8% (95% CI 0.0-16.7; 93 patients) at 6 min post administration. For timepoints 10 to 60 min after administration, rNMB incidence ranged between 0.05% to 2.8%. In contrast, rNMB incidence at 2 min after neostigmine administration was 100% (95% CI 89.9-100; 182 patients) and was 82% (95% CI 71.4-91.2; 93 patients) at 6 min post administration. For timepoints 10 to 60 min after administration, rNMB incidence ranged between 14 and 32%. For deep block, rNMB incidence following sugammadex was essentially reduced to 1% at 15 min after administration. Residual NMB incidence following neostigmine remained at or above 95% for the first 60 min after administration.
Conclusions: Overall, based on evidence from 20 RCTs, our results suggest that the combination of rocuronium or vecuronium plus sugammadex is more effective and more rapid in reversing NMB compared with combinations of rocuronium, vecuronium, cisatracurium, or pancuronium plus neostigmine.
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