Comparison of neuromuscular effects, efficacy and safety of rocuronium and atracurium in ambulatory anaesthesia

D G Whalley, W G Maurer, A L Knapik, F G Estafanous
Canadian Journal of Anaesthesia 1998, 45 (10): 954-9

PURPOSE: To compare the neuromuscular effects, efficacy, and safety of equi-effective doses of rocuronium and atracurium in ambulatory female patients undergoing surgery.

METHODS: Forty-one patients undergoing laparoscopic gynaecological surgery were randomized to receive 2 X ED90 rocuronium (0.6; n = 20) or atracurium (0.5; n = 21) during intravenous propofol/alfentanil anaesthesia with N2O/O2 ventilation. Neuromuscular block was measured with a mechanomyogram eliciting a train-of-four (TOF) response at the wrist. Intubation conditions 60 sec after administration of muscle relaxant and immediate cardiovascular disturbances or adverse events during the hospital stay were noted by blinded observers.

RESULTS: Compared with atracurium, rocuronium was associated with a shorter onset time (59.0 +/- 22.2 vs 98.6 +/- 41.4 sec; P < 0.001) and clinical duration of action (33.3 +/- 7.1 vs 44.7 +/- 7.2 min; P < 0.001), but longer spontaneous recovery index (9.6 +/- 2.41 vs 6.9 +/- 1.89 min; P = 0.023) and a similar time to spontaneous recovery to TOF 70%; 53 +/- 6.31 vs 59.2 +/- 7.59 min; P = 0.139). Tracheal intubation was accomplished in < 90 sec in all patients receiving rocuronium but in only 14 of 21 patients receiving atracurium. The incidence of adverse events and the cardiovascular profiles for the two drugs were similar, although one patient receiving atracurium experienced transient flushing of the head and neck.

CONCLUSION: Rocuronium has minimal side effects, provides conditions more suitable for rapid tracheal intubation, and is associated with a shorter clinical duration than atracurium. Once begun, the spontaneous recovery profile of rocuronium is slightly slower than that of atracurium.

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