Sugammadex, a new medication for selective reversal of muscle weakness after surgery

Muscle relaxation is required to facilitate some surgical procedures. If it is not completely reversed after surgery, the muscle relaxation effects might lead to remaining muscle weakness, breathing problems, lung infection and delayed recovery. Neostigmine and other medications from the same drug family are currently used to restore muscle function after surgery. These medications, however, are not effective in all situations and may cause complications as well. Complications include changes in the heart and lung function, and nausea and vomiting after surgery. Sugammadex is a new medication that is used after surgery in order to reverse the effects of muscle relaxation medications. In this review article we have included 18 trials on the efficacy and safety of sugammadex. The trials included a total of 1321 patients. Sugammadex was shown to be more effective than placebo (no medication) or neostigmine in reversing muscle relaxation caused by neuromuscular blockade during surgery and is relatively safe. Serious complications occurred in less than 1% of the patients who received sugammadex. The results of this review article (specially the safety results) need to be confirmed by future trials on larger patient populations.

Authors' conclusions: 

Sugammadex was shown to be effective in reversing rocuronium-induced neuromuscular blockade. This review has found no evidence of a difference in the instance of unwanted effects between sugammadex, placebo or neostigmine. These results need to be confirmed by future trials on larger patient populations and with more focus on patient-related outcomes.

Read the full abstract...

Sugammadex is the first selective relaxant binding agent that has been studied for reversal of neuromuscular blockade induced by rocuronium and other steroidal non-depolarizing neuromuscular blocking agents (NMBAs).


To assess the efficacy and safety of sugammadex in reversing neuromuscular blockade induced by steroidal non-depolarizing NMBAs and in preventing postoperative residual neuromuscular blockade.

Search strategy: 

We searched the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) (The Cochrane Library 2008, Issue 3), MEDLINE (1950 to August 2008), and EMBASE (1980 to August 2008). In addition, we handsearched reference lists of relevant articles and meeting abstracts. Furthermore, we contacted the medication's manufacturer for more information.

Selection criteria: 

All randomized controlled trials (RCTs) on adult patients (≥ 18 years old) in which sugammadex was compared with placebo or other medications, or in which different doses of sugammadex were compared with each other. We excluded non-randomized trials and studies on healthy volunteers.

Data collection and analysis: 

We independently performed determination of trial inclusion, quality assessment, and data extraction. We applied standard meta-analytic techniques.

Main results: 

We included18 RCTs (n = 1321 patients). Seven trials were published as full-text papers, and 11 trials only as meeting abstracts. All the included trials had adequate methods of randomization and allocation concealment. The results suggest that, compared with placebo or neostigmine, sugammadex can more rapidly reverse rocuronium-induced neuromuscular blockade regardless of the depth of the block. We identified 2, 4, and 16 mg/kg of sugammadex for reversal of rocuronium-induced neuromuscular blockade at T2 reappearance , 1 to 2 post-tetanic counts, and 3 to 5 minutes after rocuronium, respectively. The number of trials are very limited regarding vecuronium and pancuronium. Serious adverse events occurred in < 1% of all patients who received the medication. There was no significant difference between sugammadex and placebo in terms of the prevalence of drug-related adverse events (RR 1.20, 95% CI 0.61 to 2.37; P = 0.59, I2 = 0%, 5 RCTs). Also, no significant difference was found between sugammadex and neostigmine for adverse events (RR 0.98, 95% CI 0.48 to1.98; P = 0.95, I2 = 43%, 3 RCTs).