A national survey on the practice patterns of anesthesiologist intensivists in the use of muscle relaxants

H. T. Klessig, H. J. Geiger, M. J. Murray, D. B. Coursin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

92 Scopus citations


Objective: To determine the practice patterns of anesthesiologist intensivists (with the special certificate of competence in critical care medicine from the American Board of Anesthesiology) in the use of neuromuscular blocking drugs, in the ICU setting. Design: A survey. Participants: All anesthesiologists with the special certificate of competence in critical care (n = 374) were selected for this study. Of the 339 who could be contacted and who were still actively practicing, 185 (55%) completed the survey. Results: In the ICU setting, anesthesiologist intensivists most commonly used vecuronium (52%) administered by bolus injection, bolus injection followed by infusion, or by continuous infusion. The most frequent indication for muscle relaxation was facilitation of mechanical ventilation (89%). Neuromuscular blockade was most commonly monitored clinically (55%), with only 34% of respondents using a peripheral nerve stimulator. All respondents indicated the concomitant use of sedatives or narcotics with muscle relaxants. Conclusions: This study was created to address the dearth of information regarding actual usage of muscle relaxants in the ICU setting. The survey population was chosen as one with great familiarity in the use of muscle relaxants. The 55% response rate was significantly greater than the expected response rate for a single mailing survey. In the ICU setting, neuromuscular blocking drugs are most frequently used to facilitate mechanical ventilation. The prevalence of vecuronium use is of interest in light of recent case reports of prolonged neuromuscular blockade after long-term vecuronium administration. The low frequency of peripheral nerve stimulator monitoring during muscle relaxation may contribute, in part, to the problem of prolonged blockade after drug withdrawal. Muscle relaxants are not used in the absence of sedation and/or analgesia by this practitioner population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1341-1345
Number of pages5
JournalCritical care medicine
Issue number9
StatePublished - Jan 1 1992


  • anesthesiologists
  • critical illness
  • intensive care medicine
  • mechanical ventilation
  • muscle relaxants
  • neuromuscular blocking agents
  • pancuronium
  • paralytics
  • sedatives
  • vecuronium

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


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