Patients undergoing thoracoscopic procedures may be at high-risk for incomplete neuromuscular recovery and associated complications. The aim of this clinical investigation was to assess the incidence of postoperative residual neuromuscular blockade in adult thoracic surgical patients administered neostigmine or sugammadex when optimal dosing and reversal strategies for these agents were used. The effect of choice of reversal agent on hypoxemic events and signs and symptoms of muscle weakness were also determined. Additionally, operative conditions in each group were graded by surgeons performing the procedures.
Two hundred patients undergoing thoracoscopic surgical procedures were enrolled in this nonrandomized controlled trial. One hundred consecutive patients maintained at moderate levels of neuromuscular blockade were reversed with neostigmine (neostigmine group) followed by 100 consecutive patients given sugammadex to antagonize deeper levels of neuromuscular blockade (sugammadex group). Anesthetic and neuromuscular management were standardized. Surgeons rated operative conditions at the conclusion of the procedure on a 4-point scale (grade 1 = excellent to grade 4 = poor). Train-of-four ratios were measured immediately before extubation and at PACU admission (primary outcomes). Postoperatively, patients were assessed for adverse respiratory events and 11 signs and 16 symptoms of muscle weakness.
The 2 groups were similar in intraoperative management characteristics. The percentage of patients with residual neuromuscular blockade, defined as a normalized train-of-four ratio <0.9, was significantly greater in the neostigmine group than the sugammadex group at both tracheal extubation (80% vs 6%, respectively, P < .0001) and PACU admission (61% vs 1%, respectively, P < .0001). Patients in the neostigmine group had less optimal operative conditions (median score 2 [good] versus 1 [excellent] in the sugammadex group; P < .0001), and more symptoms of muscle weakness were present in these subjects (median number [interquartile range] 4 [1–8] vs 1 [0–2] in the sugammadex group, P < .0001). No differences between groups in adverse airway events were observed.
Despite the application of strategies documented to reduce the risk of residual neuromuscular blockade, a high percentage of thoracoscopic patients whose neuromuscular blockade was reversed with neostigmine were admitted to the PACU with clinical evidence of residual paralysis. In contrast, muscle weakness was rarely observed in patients whose neuromuscular blockade was antagonized with sugammadex.