Background and objective: When continuous infusions of neuromuscular blocking drugs are administered during lengthy interventions and no routine antagonism of their effects is applied, there is a dramatic incidence of residual curarization. We have examined whether the use of neuromuscular transmission monitoring results in differences in the incidence of postoperative residual curarization, the use of antagonist agents, and the endotracheal extubation rate and outcome after continuous infusion of rocuronium in patients undergoing off-pump coronary artery bypass surgery.
Methods: Twenty patients were assigned to group 1 (n = 10, non-blinded neuromuscular transmission monitoring) or group 2 (n = 10, blinded neuromuscular transmission monitoring). In group 1, patients were given rocuronium at an infusion rate of 6 μg kg−1 min−1. The rate was manually adjusted in order to maintain T1/T0 at 10%. In group 2, a rocuronium infusion was started 30 min after induction of anaesthesia, at a rate of 6 μg kg−1 min−1; this rate was left unchanged during surgery. The rocuronium infusion was discontinued on completion of all vascular anastomoses; propofol was stopped at the beginning of closure of the subcutis and pirinitramide (piritramide) 15 mg was administered intravenously. Remifentanil was discontinued at the beginning of skin closure and neostigmine (50 μg kg−1) administered at the end of surgery when the train-of-four ratio was <0.9 in group 1, and routinely in group 2. A 20 min test period for spontaneous ventilation was allowed once surgery had been accomplished. When the train-of-four ratio was ≥0.9 (group 1), patients were extubated if also breathing spontaneously, fully awake and able to follow commands. When they met the clinical criteria for normal neuromuscular function after induced blockade, patients in group 2 were extubated when fully awake and able to follow commands.
Results: In group 1, the rate of rocuronium infusion required to keep T1/T0 at 10% was 5 ± 1.9 μg kg−1 min−1; this was not significantly different from the fixed rate in group 2 (P = 0.15). One patient in group 2 was excluded. Eight out of 10 and eight out of nine patients in groups 1 and 2, respectively, reached the extubation criteria. Three out of eight, and five out of eight, patients from groups 1 and 2, respectively, were extubated in the operating room. At that time of endotracheal extubation, all three patients from group 1, but only four of the five patients from group 2 had a train-of-four ratio ≥0.9. In group 2, one patient was reintubated in the intensive care unit. The incidence of pharmacological reversal was high in group 1.
Conclusions: Although we found no additional benefit of using neuromuscular transmission monitoring, it seems an absolute necessity for safety reasons. Pharmacological antagonism was mandatory. However, in our opinion, it is not wise routinely to perform immediate postoperative extubation in off-pump coronary artery bypass surgery.