The differences between neuromuscular blockade of the adductor muscles of the vocal cords and the adductor pollicis were examined in 20 adult women anesthetized with fentanyl and propofol. Vecuronium 0.04 or 0.07 mg/kg was given as a single bolus by random allocation. The force of contraction of the adductor pollicis was recorded. Laryngeal response was measured as pressure changes in the cuff of the tracheal tube positioned between the vocal cords. Train-of-four stimulation was applied to the recurrent laryngeal nerve at the notch of the thyroid cartilage and to the ulnar nerve at the wrist. Neuromuscular blockade had a faster onset, was less intense, and recovered more rapidly at the vocal cords. With 0.04 mg/kg, maximum blockade of first twitch (T1) was 55 +/- 8 (mean +/- standard error of the mean [SEM]) and 88 +/- 4% at the vocal cords and the adductor pollicis, respectively (P = 0.006). Onset time was 3.3 +/- 0.1 and 5.7 +/- 0.2 min, respectively (P = 0.000001), and time to 90% T1 recovery was 11.3 +/- 1.6 and 26.1 +/- 1.8 min, respectively (P = 0.001). With 0.07 mg/kg, onset time was unchanged; maximum blockade was more intense, being 88 +/- 4 and 98 +/- 1%, respectively (P = 0.04 between muscles); and time to 90% T1 recovery was 23.3 +/- 4.8 min at the vocal cords versus 40.3 +/- 2.9 min at the adductor pollicis (P = 0.001). Approximately 1.73 times as much vecuronium was required at the larynx compared with the dose required at the adductor pollicis for the same intensity of blockade. It is concluded that total relaxation of the vocal cords requires large doses of vecuronium, but that maximal effect is reached more rapidly than at the adductor pollicis.
(C) 1991 American Society of Anesthesiologists, Inc.