The benefit of using neuromuscular blocking agents to facilitate tracheal intubation in children remains unclear due to variations in design, treatments, and results among trials. By combining the available evidence, we aimed to establish whether scientific findings are consistent and can be generalized across various populations, settings and treatments.
A systematic search for randomized controlled trials (RCTs), related to the use of neuromuscular blocking agents for tracheal intubation in ASA Class I‐II participants (0‐12 y) was performed. We considered all RCTs that studied whether intubation conditions and hemodynamics obtained by using neuromuscular blocking agents were equivalent to those that were achieved without neuromuscular blocking agents. We combined the outcomes in Review Manager 5.3 (RevMan, The Cochrane Collaboration) by pair‐wise random‐effects meta‐analysis using a risk ratio for intubation conditions and mean difference for hemodynamic values (mean [95%CI]). Heterogeneity among trials was explored using sensitivity analyses.
We identified 22 eligible RCTs with 1651 participants. Overall, the use of a neuromuscular blocking agent was associated with a clinically important increase in the likelihood of both excellent (RR=1.41 [1.19‐1.68], I2=76%) and acceptable (RR=1.13 [1.07‐1.19], I2=68%) intubating conditions. There is strong evidence that both, unacceptable intubation conditions (RR=0.35 [0.22‐0.46], I2=23%) and failed first intubation attempts (RR=0.25 [0.14‐0.42], I2=0%) were less likely to occur when a neuromuscular blocking agent was used compared to when it was not. Higher systolic or mean arterial pressures (mean difference=13.3 [9.1‐17.5] mmHg, I2=69%) and heart rates (mean difference=15.9 [11.0‐20.8] beats∙min‐1, I2=75%) as well as a lower incidence of arrhythmias were observed when tracheal intubation was facilitated by neuromuscular blocking agents.
The use of a neuromuscular blocking agent during light to moderate depth of anesthesia can improve the quality as well as the success rate of tracheal intubation and provides better hemodynamic stability during induction of anesthesia.