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Dexamethasone Produces Dose-Dependent Inhibition of Sugammadex Reversal in In Vitro Innervated Primary Human Muscle Cells

Rezonja, Katja MD, PhD*; Sostaric, Maja MD, PhD*; Vidmar, Gaj PhD; Mars, Tomaz MD, PhD

doi: 10.1213/ANE.0000000000000108
Anesthetic Pharmacology: Research Report

BACKGROUND: Corticosteroids are frequently used during anesthesia to provide substitution therapy in patients with adrenal insufficiency, as a first-line treatment of several life-threatening conditions, to prevent postoperative nausea and vomiting, and as a component of multimodal analgesia. For these last 2 indications, dexamethasone is most frequently used. Due to the structural resemblance between aminosteroid muscle relaxants and dexamethasone, concerns have been raised about possible corticosteroid inhibition in the reversal of neuromuscular block by sugammadex. We thus investigated the influence of dexamethasone on sugammadex reversal of rocuronium-induced neuromuscular block, which could be relevant in certain clinical situations.

METHODS: The unique co-culture model of human muscle cells innervated in vitro with rat embryonic spinal cord explants to form functional neuromuscular junctions was first used to explore the effects of 4 and 10 μM rocuronium on muscle contractions, as quantitatively evaluated by counting contraction units in contraction-positive explant co-cultures. Next, equimolar and 3-fold equimolar sugammadex was used to investigate the recovery of contractions from 4 and 10 μM rocuronium block. Finally, 1, 100, and 10 μM dexamethasone (normal, elevated, and high clinical levels) were used to evaluate any effects on the reversal of rocuronium-induced neuromuscular block by sugammadex.

RESULTS: Seventy-eight explant co-cultures from 3 time-independent experiments were included, where the number of contractions increased to 10 days of co-culturing. Rocuronium showed a time-dependent effect on depth of neuromuscular block (4 μM rocuronium: baseline, 10, 20 minutes administration; P < 0.0001), while the dose-dependent effect was close to nominal statistical significance (4, 10 μM; P = 0.080). This was reversed by equimolar concentrations of sugammadex, with further and virtually complete recovery of contractions with 3-fold equimolar sugammadex (P < 0.0001). Dexamethasone diminished 10 μM sugammadex-induced recovery of contractions from rocuronium-induced neuromuscular block in a dose-dependent manner (P = 0.026) with a higher sugammadex concentration (30 μM) being close to statistically significantly improving recovery (P = 0.065). The highest concentration of dexamethasone decreased the recovery of contractions by equimolar sugammadex by 26%; this effect was more pronounced when 3-fold equimolar (30 μM) sugammadex was used for reversal (48%).

CONCLUSIONS: This is the first report in which the effects of rocuronium and sugammadex interactions with dexamethasone have been studied in a highly accessible in vitro experimental model of functionally innervated human muscle cells. Sugammadex reverses rocuronium-induced neuromuscular block; however, concomitant addition of high dexamethasone concentrations diminishes the efficiency of sugammadex. Further studies are required to determine the clinical relevance of these interactions.

From the *Department of Anesthesiology and Intensive Therapy, University Medical Centre Ljubljana; and Institute for Biostatistics and Medical Informatics and Institute of Pathophysiology, University of Ljubljana, Ljubljana, Slovenia.

Gaj Vidmar, PhD, is currently affiliated with University Rehabilitation Institute, Ljubljana, Slovenia.

Accepted for publication December 10, 2013.

Funding: This work was funded by the National Institute of Public Health of the Republic of Slovenia and Slovenian Research Agency (Research Program # P3-0043).

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Reprints will not be available from the authors.

Address correspondence to Tomaz Mars, MD, PhD, Institute of Pathophysiology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia, Zaloska cesta 4, SI-1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia. Address e-mail to

© 2014 International Anesthesia Research Society