Residual Neuromuscular Blockade and Postoperative Pulmonary Complications: What Does the Recent Evidence Demonstrate?

Curr Anesthesiol Rep. 2020;10(2):131-136. doi: 10.1007/s40140-020-00388-4. Epub 2020 Mar 27.


Purpose of review: The purpose of this review is to assess how residual neuromuscular block impacts postoperative pulmonary complications and whether we can modify the risk by improving certain aspects in daily clinical care.

Recent findings: Postoperative respiratory impairment may be due to various causes, such as age, surgery type, comorbidity, smoking, preoperative anemia, and general anesthesia. However, increasing evidence suggests that residual neuromuscular block is an important risk factor for postoperative pulmonary complications and may affect the outcome. Conflicting data from some recent reports show that the use of quantitative neuromuscular monitoring alone does not preclude residual neuromuscular block and that improvements in the interpretation of neuromuscular monitoring may be required. Pulmonary complications seem to be reduced for train-of-four ratios > 0.95 before tracheal extubation compared with > 0.9.

Summary: This review stresses the need for appropriate management of neuromuscular block in the prevention of postoperative pulmonary complications but acknowledges that the causes are multifactorial.

Keywords: Neuromuscular blockade; Pneumonia; Postoperative complications.

Publication types

  • Review