Muscle relaxants are given as part of a rapid-sequence induction to facilitate tracheal intubation. Among all the muscle relaxants available, succinylcholine is the only one with a fast (≅1 min) onset and a fast recovery. Therefore it is still the most frequently used muscle relaxant for rapid-sequence induction despite its well-known side-effects. The short duration of action of succinylcholine is, however, no substitute for aggressive airway management in the case of an unexpectedly difficult intubation in order to prevent life-threatening hypoxia. A preoperative assessment of the airway is mandatory in any patient and may indicate the need for using intubation techniques without a muscle relaxant. Rocuronium in large doses (i.e. ≥1 mg kg−1) is an alternative to succinylcholine in a classical rapid-sequence setting under relatively light anaesthesia. With respect to rapid tracheal intubation, the timing and priming principles offer little advantage over the use of rocuronium in doses of 0.6 mg kg−1 in combination with an appropriate induction technique (i.e. including an opioid) or over the use of larger doses of rocuronium (≥1.0 mg kg−1) under relatively light anaesthesia, and may even be potentially harmful.
In contrast to rocuronium, the use of rapacuronium in a rapid-sequence setting has been associated with dose-dependent respiratory side-effects that limit its usefulness in doses higher than 1.5 mg kg−1 for this indication.