The accuracy of visual and tactile assessment of the neuromuscular fade in response to train-of-four (TOF) and double-burst stimulation (DBS) were compared to assess their relative utility in the clinical setting. For each of 74 data sets with a mechanographic TOF ratio less than 0.70, an observer (blinded to the presence or degree of fade) performed visual and tactile assessments of fade in response to TOF, DBS3,3, and DBS3,2 stimuli at low current (20 and 30 mA) and high current (50 and 60 mA). For the range of mechanographic TOF ratios between 0.41 and 0.70, visual assessment failed to identify TOF, DBS3,3, and DBS3,2 fade in 46%, 18%, and 14% of cases at high current and in 23%, 5%, and 0% of cases at low current, respectively. Tactile assessments failed to identify fade in 55%, 23%, and 14% of cases at high current and in 23%, 14%, and 14% of cases at low current. Overall, the ability to detect fade was comparable for visual and tactile assessments regardless of the method of neurostimulation (P = NS with paired t-test). However, the degree of overestimation of the fade ratio (i.e., quantitative assessment) tended to be less when using tactile means; the difference achieved significance for TOF at low current and DBS3,3 at both low and high currents. We conclude that the differences between the visual and tactile means of assessment are relatively small compared to the differences among the TOF and DBS patterns of neurostimulation. Both subjective techniques are often inadequate in settings in which assurance of full recovery of neuromuscular function is critical.
(Anesth Analg 1993;77:352-5)