Recent data in adult patients indicate that the use of sugammadex compared to neostigmine for reversal of neuromuscular block (NMB) was associated with a significant reduction in the risk of composite postoperative pulmonary complications. Despite the clinical significance of pulmonary complications in children, studies exploring the role of NMB reversal in the risk of these complications are currently unavailable.
We performed a propensity score-matched retrospective study using the Pediatric Health Information System (PHIS) dataset spanning the years 2016 and 2020. We studied children <18 years who underwent elective, inpatient, noncardiac surgical procedures and received either neostigmine or sugammadex for reversal of NMB. Our primary outcome was major postoperative pulmonary complication, which we defined as the occurrence of either postoperative pneumonia or respiratory failure.
Our study included a study population of 33,819 children, of whom 23,312 (68.9%) received neostigmine and 10,507 (31.1%) received sugammadex. After propensity score matching (10,361 matched from each group), we found no evidence of a statistically significant association between the NMB reversal agent and the incidence of pulmonary complications (3.1% vs 3.1%; odds ratio [OR], 0.90; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.78–1.05; P = .19). The components of pulmonary complications, including respiratory failure and pneumonia, were not statistically associated with the choice of NMB reversal agent.
Choice of NMB reversal agent does not appear to impact the incidence of major postoperative pulmonary complications. Further research is needed to determine whether our results carry forth across subpopulations defined by surgical specialty, the presence of complex chronic conditions, and anesthesia technique.