Facemask ventilation and vocal cord angle following neuromuscular blockade: a prospective observational study

Anaesthesia. 2022 Jun 21. doi: 10.1111/anae.15786. Online ahead of print.


Numerous studies support the idea that neuromuscular blockade facilitates facemask ventilation after induction of anaesthesia. Although improved airway patency or pulmonary compliance and a resolution of laryngospasm have been suggested as possible causes, the exact mechanism remains unclear. We aimed to assess whether neuromuscular blockade improves facemask ventilation and to clarify whether this phenomenon is associated with the vocal cord angle. This prospective observational study included patients aged between 20 and 65 years scheduled for elective surgery under general anaesthesia. After induction of anaesthesia, patients' lungs were ventilated with pressure-controlled ventilation using a facemask. During facemask ventilation, a flexible bronchoscope was inserted through a self-sealing diaphragm at the elbow connector attached to the facemask and breathing circuit and positioned to allow a continuous view of the vocal cords. The mean tidal volume and vocal cord angle were measured before and after administration of neuromuscular blocking drugs. Of 108 patients, 100 completed the study. Mean (SD) tidal volume ((11.0 (3.9) ml.kg-1 vs. 13.6 (2.6) ml.kg-1 ; p < 0.001) and mean (SD) vocal cord angle (17° (10°) vs. 26° (5°); p < 0.001) increased significantly after neuromuscular blockade. The proportional increase in mean tidal volume after neuromuscular blockade was positively correlated with vocal cord angle (Spearman's ρ = 0.803; p < 0.001). In conclusion, neuromuscular blockade facilitated facemask ventilation, and the improvement was correlated with further opening of the vocal cords.

Keywords: airway obstruction; anaesthetic induction; facemask ventilation; neuromuscular blockade; vocal cords.