, Volume 15, Issue 4, pp 261-273
Date: 26 Oct 2012

Drug Interactions with Neuromuscular Blockers

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Drugs administered to patients undergoing anaesthesia may complicate the use of the neuromuscular blockers that are given to provide good surgical conditions.

The various sites of interaction include actions on motor nerve conduction and spinal reflexes, acetylcholine (ACh) synthesis, mobilisation and release, sensitivity of the motor end plate to ACh and the ease of propagation of the motor action potential. In addition, many drugs affect the pharmacokinetics of neuromuscular blockers, especially as most drugs depend to a greater or lesser extent upon renal excretion.

The clinically significant interaction between nondepolarisers and depolarisers may be due to blockade of the pre-synaptic nicotinic receptors by the depolarisers, leading to decreased ACh mobilisation and release. Synergism between nondepolarisers probably results from post-synaptic receptor mechanisms. Volatile anaesthetic agents affect the sensitivity of the motor end-plate (post-synaptic receptor blockade) in addition to having effects on pre-synaptic nicotinic function. The effects of nondepolarisers are likely to be potentiated and their action prolonged by large doses of local anaesthetics due to depression of nerve conduction, depression of ACh formation, mobilisation and release, decreases in post-synaptic receptor channel opening times and reductions in muscular contraction.

Most antibacterials have effects on pre-synaptic mechanisms. Procainamide and quinidine principally block nicotinic receptor channels. Magnesium has a marked inhibitory effect on ACh release. Calcium antagonists could theoretically interfere with neurotransmitter release and muscle contractility. Phenytoin and lithium decrease ACh release, whilst corticosteroids and furosemide (frusemide) tend to increase the release of the transmitter. Ecothiopate, tacrine, organophosphates, propanidid, metoclopramide and bambuterol depress cholinesterase activity and prolong the duration of the neuromuscular block.

The probability of clinically significant interactions increases in patients receiving several drugs with possible effects on neuromuscular transmission and muscle contraction.