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Anesthesiology. 1994 Jun;80(6):1241-7.

Pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of rocuronium in patients with cirrhosis.

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Department of Anesthesiology, Henri Mondor Hospital, Creteil, France.



Rocuronium, like other steroidal nondepolarizing muscle relaxants, may in part be eliminated by the liver. To determine the influence of liver disease on its neuromuscular blocking effect, we studied the pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of rocuronium in patients with cirrhosis.


Eighteen patients undergoing elective surgery, 10 with cirrhosis and 8 with normal liver function, were studied. Anesthesia was induced with intravenous thiopental 5-7 and maintained with 60% nitrous oxide in oxygen and repeated doses of fentanyl 2 The force of thumb adduction in response to supramaximal ulnar nerve stimulation was monitored and recorded. An intravenous bolus of rocuronium 0.6 was administered and venous blood sampled at frequent intervals for 6 h. Plasma concentrations of rocuronium was measured by high-pressure liquid chromatography. Data were fitted to both a pharmacokinetic and a pharmacodynamic model by using a two-compartment open model and an effect compartment model. Data were analyzed by least-squares regression.


The onset of neuromuscular blockade was longer (P < 0.01) in patients with cirrhosis (158 +/- 56 s) than in normal patients (108 +/- 33 s). Recovery of the thumb twitch to 75 and 90% of its control value was 77 +/- 25 and 88 +/- 29 min in cirrhotic patients versus 57 +/- 11 and 64 +/- 13 min, respectively, in normal patients (P < 0.05). The central volume of distribution of rocuronium was 104 +/- 21 in cirrhotic patients and 78 +/- 24 in normal patients (P < 0.05). No significant difference in elimination kinetics was observed between the two groups. The elimination half-life was 87.5 +/- 17.5 min in normal patients and 96.0 +/- 36.8 min in cirrhotic patients (difference not significant). This increased onset time was linearly correlated to the increased central volume of distribution of rocuronium in cirrhosis.


Rocuronium onset time is longer in cirrhotic patients than in those with normal liver function; this can be explained by an increase in the volume in which rocuronium initially distributes. Although elimination kinetics are unchanged in patients with cirrhosis, rocuronium recovery time is prolonged in cirrhotic patients.

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