Minimum Effective Doses of Succinylcholine and Rocuronium during Electroconvulsive Therapy: A Prospective, Randomized, Crossover Trial

Hooman Mirzakhani, Henk Jan Guchelaar, Charles A. Welch, Cristina Cusin, Mary E. Doran, Teresa O. Macdonald, Edward A. Bittner, Matthias Eikermann, Ala Nozari

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: Neuromuscular blockade is required to control excessive muscle contractions during electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). In a crossover, assessor-blinded, prospective randomized study, we studied the minimum effective dose (MED) of succinylcholine and rocuronium for ECT. The MED was the lowest dose to provide a predefined qualitative measure of acceptable control of muscle strength during induced convulsions. METHODS: Succinylcholine (0.8 mg kg -1) or rocuronium (0.4 mg kg -1) was randomly administered in 227 ECT sessions to 45 patients. The dose was incrementally increased or decreased by 10% based on 2 psychiatrists' (blinded to treatment) assessment of "acceptable" or "not acceptable" control of evoked muscle contractions (sufficient versus insufficient or excessive paralysis). The neuromuscular transmission was monitored quantitatively until full recovery. RESULTS: In our study, the MEDs of succinylcholine and rocuronium to produce acceptable ECT conditions in 50% of patients (MED50 ECT) were 0.85 mg kg -1 (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.77-0.94) and 0.41 mg kg -1 (95% CI, 0.36-0.46) and in 90% of patients (MED90 ECT) were 1.06 mg kg -1 (95% CI, 1.0-1.27) and 0.57 mg kg -1 (95% CI, 0.5-0.6), respectively. Nadir twitch height for acceptable muscle activity was 0% (0-4) and 4% (0-30; P < 0.001), respectively, and the time to recovery of the neuromuscular transmission was 9.7 ± 3.5 and 19.5 ± 5.7 minutes, respectively. CONCLUSIONS: A twitch suppression of >90% is needed for control of motor contractions during ECT. The initial ECT dose of succinylcholine should be selected based on each patient's preprocedural condition, ranging between 0.77 and 1.27 mg kg -1 to produce acceptable muscle blockade in 50% to 90% of patients. Rocuronium-neostigmine combination is a safe alternative if appropriately dosed (0.36-0.6 mg kg -1) and monitored.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)587-596
Number of pages10
JournalAnesthesia and analgesia
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2016
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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