Optimizing Reversal of Neuromuscular Block in Older Adults: Sugammadex or Neostigmine

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Residual neuromuscular paralysis, the presence of clinically significant weakness after administration of pharmacologic neuromuscular blockade reversal, is associated with postoperative pulmonary complications and is more common in older patients. In contemporary anesthesia practice, reversal of neuromuscular blockade is accomplished with neostigmine or sugammadex. Neostigmine, an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor, increases the concentration of acetylcholine at the neuromuscular junction, providing competitive antagonism of neuromuscular blocking drug and facilitating muscle contraction. Sugammadex, a modified gamma-cyclodextrin, antagonizes neuromuscular blockade by encapsulating rocuronium and vecuronium in a one-to-one ratio for renal clearance, a pharmacokinetic property that led to the recommendation that sugammadex not be administered to those with end-stage renal disease. While data are limited, reports suggest sugammadex is efficacious and well tolerated in individuals with reduced renal function. Sugammadex provides a more rapid and complete reversal of neuromuscular blockade than neostigmine. There is also accumulating evidence that sugammadex may provide a protective effect against the development of postoperative pulmonary complications, nausea, and vomiting, and that it may have beneficial effects on the rate of bowel and bladder recovery after surgery. Accordingly, sugammadex administration is beneficial for most older patients undergoing surgery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)749-761
Number of pages13
JournalDrugs and Aging
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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