Recovery from neuromuscular block in dogs: restoration of spontaneous ventilation does not exclude residual blockade

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To evaluate if return of spontaneous ventilation to pre-relaxation values indicates complete recovery from neuromuscular blockade.

Study design

Prospective, with each individual acting as its own control.


Ten healthy adult female Beagle dogs weighing 6.2–9.4 kg.


Dogs were anesthetized with propofol, dexemedetomidine and isoflurane. Spontaneous ventilation was assessed by measuring end-tidal CO2, expired tidal volume, peak inspiratory flow, respiratory rate and minute ventilation. Vecuronium 25 μg kg−1 IV was administered and neuromuscular block was evaluated by measuring the train-of-four (TOF) ratio with acceleromyography in the hind limb. During spontaneous recovery from neuromuscular block, the TOF ratio when each ventilatory variable returned to baseline was recorded.


This dose of vecuronium produced moderate neuromuscular block in all dogs, with TOF ratio values of 0–18% at maximal block. Expired tidal volume, peak inspiratory flow and minute ventilation returned to pre-relaxation values when the median TOF ratio was ≤ 20%. The median TOF ratio was 42% when the end-tidal CO2 returned to pre-relaxation values.

Conclusions and clinical relevance

Significant residual neuromuscular block could be measured at the hind limb with acceleromyography when ventilation had spontaneously returned to pre-vecuronium values. Monitoring spontaneous ventilation, including end-tidal CO2, expired tidal volume, peak inspiratory flow or minute ventilation cannot be used as a surrogate for objective neuromuscular monitoring, and this practice may increase the risk of postoperative residual paralysis.

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