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Anesthesiology. 1992 Dec;77(6):1070-3.

Priming doses of atracurium and vecuronium depress swallowing in humans.

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  • 1Department of Anesthesia, University Paris, Henri Mondor Hospital, Creteil, France.


The administration of low doses of muscle relaxant may cause peripheral muscular weakness including difficulty in swallowing. In the present study, the effect of priming doses of atracurium and vecuronium on swallowing was studied. Sixty patients undergoing elective surgery under general anesthesia were divided randomly into four groups of 15 patients and received as a priming dose either vecuronium (10 or 15 micrograms/kg) or atracurium (50 or 75 micrograms/kg). Swallowing muscle activity was measured by electromyography using submental surface electrodes. Swallowing was initiated by administration of 0.3 ml distilled water through an oral catheter. Swallowing reflex was determined by measuring the latency time (i.e., time from water administration to start of EMG activity of glossal muscles). Swallowing activity was determined by integration of the EMG of glossal muscles during swallowing. Peripheral muscle strength was determined by hand grip strength. Swallowing reflex activity and peripheral muscle strength were measured before and 3 and 6 min after administration of vecuronium or atracurium. Latency time remained unchanged after any of the priming doses. Integrated EMG decreased significantly (P < .001) 3 and 6 min after all priming doses tested (42-75% of baseline value). Only after atracurium 75 micrograms/kg was the hand grip strength significantly decreased (P < .01). These results suggest that owing to its effect on swallowing, the priming dose should be used with caution.

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