Relationship of the train-of-four fade ratio to clinical signs and symptoms of residual paralysis in awake volunteers

Anesthesiology. 1997 Apr;86(4):765-71. doi: 10.1097/00000542-199704000-00005.


Background: Recovery of the train-of-four (TOF) ratio to a value > 0.70 is synonymous with adequate return of neuromuscular function, but there is little information available concerning the subjective experience that accompanies residual neuromuscular block wherein the TOF ratio is in the range of 0.70 to 0.90.

Methods: Ten American Society of Anesthesiologists' (ASA) physical status 1 volunteers were studied. Control measurements including grip strength in kilograms and ability to perform a 5-s head- and leg-lift. In addition, a standard wooden tongue depressor was placed between each subject's incisor teeth, and he or she was told not to let the investigator remove it. All subjects were easily able to retain the device despite vigorous attempts to dislodge it. Neuromuscular function was monitored with a Datex (Datex Medical Instrumentation, Inc., Tewksbury, MA) 221 electromyographic (EMG) monitor. TOF stimulation was given every 20 s, and the measured TOF fade ratio was continuously recorded. A 5 mg/kg bolus of mivacurium was then administered, and an infusion at 2 was begun. The infusion was continued until the TOF ratio decreased to < 0.70 and was adjusted to keep it in the range of 0.65 to 0.75. Signs and symptoms of weakness were recorded when the TOF ratio had been stable +/-0.03 for at least 10 min during an interval when there were no adjustments in the infusion. All tests noted previously were repeated at this time. The TOF ratio was then allowed to recover to 0.85-0.90. When stable at this level, all tests were repeated, and the infusion was discontinued. TOF measurements were continued until a ratio of 1.0 was attained and until a final set of observations was recorded.

Results: The TOF ratio in all subjects was reduced to < 0.70. No volunteers required intervention to maintain a patient airway, and the hemoglobin oxygen saturation while breathing air was > or = 96% at all times. TOF ratios < or = 0.90 were accompanied by diplopia and difficulty in tracking moving objects in all subjects. The ability to strongly oppose the incisor teeth did not return until the TOF ratio (on average) exceeded 0.85. A sustained 5-s head-lift was not achieved until the TOF ratio averaged 0.60 (range, 0.45-0.75). At a TOF ratio of 0.70, grip strength averaged 59% of control (range, 50-75%). With certain exceptions (vision, ability to clench the teeth tightly), there was wide variation in symptomatology between patients for any given TOF ratio. It is impossible to give reliable TOF break-points at which symptoms and signs will be present or absent.

Conclusions: All subjects had significant signs and symptoms of residual block at a TOF ratio of 0.70; none considered themselves remotely "street ready" at this time. The authors believe that satisfactory recovery of neuromuscular function after mivacurium-induced neuromuscular block requires return of the TOF ratio to a value > 0.90 and ideally to unity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Isoquinolines / pharmacology
  • Male
  • Masseter Muscle / physiology
  • Mivacurium
  • Neuromuscular Junction / drug effects*
  • Neuromuscular Junction / physiology*
  • Neuromuscular Nondepolarizing Agents / pharmacology*
  • Paralysis / chemically induced*
  • Vision, Ocular


  • Isoquinolines
  • Neuromuscular Nondepolarizing Agents
  • Mivacurium