BACKGROUND: The anticholinesterase neostigmine and the muscarinic inhibitor glycopyrrolate are frequently coadministered for the reversal of neuromuscular blockade. This practice can precipitate severe bradycardia or tachycardia, but whether it affects the incidence of cardiovascular complications remains unclear. We hypothesized that anticholinesterase reversal with neostigmine and glycopyrrolate versus no anticholinesterase reversal increases the risk of postoperative cardiovascular complications among adult patients undergoing noncardiac surgery with general anesthesia.
METHODS: We conducted a prespecified retrospective analysis of hospital registry data from a major health care network for patients undergoing surgery with general anesthesia from January 2007 to December 2015. The primary outcome was a composite of cardiac dysrhythmia, acute heart failure, transient ischemic attack, ischemic stroke, and acute myocardial infarction within 30 days after surgery. We performed sensitivity analyses in subgroups and propensity score adjustment and explored the association between exposure and outcome in subgroups of patients with high risk of cardiovascular complications.
RESULTS: Of the 98,147 cases receiving neuromuscular blockade, 73,181 (74.6%) received neostigmine and glycopyrrolate, while 24,966 (25.4%) did not. A total of 5612 patients (7.7%) in the anticholinesterase reversal group and 1651 (6.6%) in the control group (P < .001) experienced the primary outcome. After adjustment for clinical covariates, neostigmine and glycopyrrolate exposure was significantly associated in a dose-dependent fashion (P for trend <.001, respectively) with tachycardia (adjusted odds ratio = 2.1 [95% CI, 1.97–2.23]; P < .001) and bradycardia (adjusted odds ratio = 2.84 [95% CI, 2.49–3.24]; P < .001) but not with postoperative cardiovascular complications (adjusted odds ratio = 1.03 [95% CI, 0.97–1.1]; P = .33). We identified a significant effect modification of anticholinesterase reversal by high age, high-risk surgery, and history of atrial fibrillation (P for interaction = .002, .001, and .02, respectively). By using linear combinations of main effect and exposure–risk interaction terms, we detected significant associations between anticholinesterase reversal and cardiovascular complications toward a higher vulnerability in these patient subgroups.
CONCLUSIONS: Neuromuscular blockade reversal with neostigmine and glycopyrrolate was associated with an increased incidence of intraoperative tachycardia and bradycardia but not with 30-day postoperative cardiovascular complications. Exploratory analyses suggest that a high postoperative cardiovascular complication risk profile may modify the effects of anticholinesterase reversal toward clinical relevance.