BACKGROUND: The authors reappraised the conventional wisdom that the intubating dose of succinylcholine must be 1.0 mg/kg and attempted to define the lower range of succinylcholine doses that provide acceptable intubation conditions in 95% of patients within 60 s.
METHODS: This prospective, randomized, double-blind study involved 200 patients. Anesthesia was induced with 2 mug/kg fentanyl and 2 mg/kg propofol. After loss of consciousness, patients were randomly allocated to receive 0.3, 0.5, or 1.0 mg/kg succinylcholine or saline (control group). Tracheal intubation was performed 60 s later. A blinded investigator performed all laryngoscopies and also graded intubating conditions.
RESULTS: Intubating conditions were acceptable (excellent plus good grade combined) in 30%, 92%, 94%, and 98% of patients after 0.0, 0.3, 0.5, and 1.0 mg/kg succinylcholine, respectively. The incidence of acceptable intubating conditions was significantly greater (P less than 0.05) in patients receiving succinylcholine compared with those in the control group but was not different among the different succinylcholine dose groups. The calculated doses of succinylcholine (and their 95% confidence intervals) that were required to achieve acceptable intubating conditions in 90% and 95% of patients at 60 s were 0.24 (0.19-0.31) mg/kg and 0.56 (0.43-0.73) mg/kg, respectively.
CONCLUSIONS: The use of 1.0 mg/kg of succinylcholine may be excessive if the goal is to achieve acceptable intubating conditions within 60 s. Comparable intubating conditions were achieved after 0.3, 0.5, or 1.0 mg/kg succinylcholine. In a rapid-sequence induction, 95% of patients with normal airway anatomy anesthetized with 2 mug/kg fentanyl and 2 mg/kg propofol should have acceptable intubating conditions at 60 s after 0.56 mg/kg succinylcholine. Reducing the dose of succinylcholine should allow a more rapid return of spontaneous respiration and airway reflexes.