Minimum Effective Doses of Succinylcholine and Rocuronium During Electroconvulsive Therapy: A Prospective, Randomized, Crossover Trial

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Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Neuromuscular blockade is required to control excessive muscle contractions during electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). In a crossover, assessor-blinded, prospective randomized study, we studied the minimum effective dose (MED) of succinylcholine and rocuronium for ECT. The MED was the lowest dose to provide a predefined qualitative measure of acceptable control of muscle strength during induced convulsions.

METHODS:

Succinylcholine (0.8 mg kg−1) or rocuronium (0.4 mg kg−1) was randomly administered in 227 ECT sessions to 45 patients. The dose was incrementally increased or decreased by 10% based on 2 psychiatrists’ (blinded to treatment) assessment of “acceptable” or “not acceptable” control of evoked muscle contractions (sufficient versus insufficient or excessive paralysis). The neuromuscular transmission was monitored quantitatively until full recovery.

RESULTS:

In our study, the MEDs of succinylcholine and rocuronium to produce acceptable ECT conditions in 50% of patients (MED50ECT) were 0.85 mg kg−1 (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.77–0.94) and 0.41 mg kg−1 (95% CI, 0.36–0.46) and in 90% of patients (MED90ECT) were 1.06 mg kg−1 (95% CI, 1.0–1.27) and 0.57 mg kg−1 (95% CI, 0.5–0.6), respectively. Nadir twitch height for acceptable muscle activity was 0% (0–4) and 4% (0–30; P < 0.001), respectively, and the time to recovery of the neuromuscular transmission was 9.7 ± 3.5 and 19.5 ± 5.7 minutes, respectively.

CONCLUSIONS:

A twitch suppression of >90% is needed for control of motor contractions during ECT. The initial ECT dose of succinylcholine should be selected based on each patient’s preprocedural condition, ranging between 0.77 and 1.27 mg kg−1 to produce acceptable muscle blockade in 50% to 90% of patients. Rocuronium–neostigmine combination is a safe alternative if appropriately dosed (0.36–0.6 mg kg−1) and monitored.

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