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The Myth of Rescue Reversal in Cant Intubate, Cant Ventilate Scenarios

Naguib, Mohamed MB, BCh, MSc, FCARCSI, MD; Brewer, Lara PhD, MS; LaPierre, Cristen PhD; Kopman, Aaron F. MD; Johnson, Ken B. MD

doi: 10.1213/ANE.0000000000001347
Anesthetic Clinical Pharmacology: Research Report

BACKGROUND: An unanticipated difficult airway during induction of anesthesia can be a vexing problem. In the setting of can’t intubate, can’t ventilate (CICV), rapid recovery of spontaneous ventilation is a reasonable goal. The urgency of restoring ventilation is a function of how quickly a patient’s hemoglobin oxygen saturation decreases versus how much time is required for the effects of induction drugs to dissipate, namely the duration of unresponsiveness, ventilatory depression, and neuromuscular blockade. It has been suggested that prompt reversal of rocuronium-induced neuromuscular blockade with sugammadex will allow respiratory activity to recover before significant arterial desaturation. Using pharmacologic simulation, we compared the duration of unresponsiveness, ventilatory depression, and neuromuscular blockade in normal, obese, and morbidly obese body sizes in this life-threatening CICV scenario. We hypothesized that although neuromuscular function could be rapidly restored with sugammadex, significant arterial desaturation will occur before the recovery from unresponsiveness and/or central ventilatory depression in obese and morbidly obese body sizes.

METHODS: We used published models to simulate the duration of unresponsiveness and ventilatory depression using a common induction technique with predicted rates of oxygen desaturation in various size patients and explored to what degree rapid reversal of rocuronium-induced neuromuscular blockade with sugammadex might improve the return of spontaneous ventilation in CICV situations.

RESULTS: Our simulations showed that the duration of neuromuscular blockade was longer with 1.0 mg/kg succinylcholine than with 1.2 mg/kg rocuronium followed 3 minutes later by 16 mg/kg sugammadex (10.0 vs 4.5 minutes). Once rocuronium neuromuscular blockade was completely reversed with sugammadex, the duration of hemoglobin oxygen saturation >90%, loss of responsiveness, and intolerable ventilatory depression (a respiratory rate of ≤4 breaths/min) were dependent on the body habitus and duration of oxygen administration. There is a high probability of intolerable ventilatory depression that extends well beyond the time when oxygen saturation decreases <90%, especially in obese and morbidly obese patients. If ventilatory rescue is inadequate, oxygen desaturation will persist in the latter groups, despite full reversal of neuromuscular blockade. Depending on body habitus, the duration of intolerable ventilatory depression after sugammadex reversal may be as long as 15 minutes in 5% of individuals.

CONCLUSIONS: The clinical management of CICV should focus primarily on restoration of airway patency, oxygenation, and ventilation consistent with the American Society of Anesthesiologist’s practice guidelines for management of the difficult airway. Pharmacologic intervention cannot be relied upon to rescue patients in a CICV crisis.

Published ahead of print May 2, 2016

From the *Department of General Anesthesia, Anesthesiology Institute, Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland, Ohio; Department of Anesthesiology, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah; and Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging, Department of Radiology, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts.

Accepted for publication March 4, 2016.

Published ahead of print May 2, 2016

Funding: None.

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Supplemental digital content is available for this article. Direct URL citations appear in the printed text and are provided in the HTML and PDF versions of this article on the journal’s website.

Reprints will not be available from the authors.

Address correspondence to Mohamed Naguib, MB, BCh, MSc, FCARCSI, MD, Department of General Anesthesia, Anesthesiology Institute, Cleveland Clinic, 9500 Euclid Ave., NE6-306, Cleveland, OH 44195. Address e-mail to naguibm@ccf.org.

© 2016 International Anesthesia Research Society
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