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Opioids and Neuromuscular Blockers to Navigate the Depths of Anesthesia

Mar 13, 2024

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Examples of Opioid



Neuromuscular Blockers

Depolarizing Neuromuscular Blocker


Non-Depolarizing Neuromuscular Blockers:

Opioids and Neuromuscular Blockers

The capacity of opioids to lower pain levels is one of the main advantages of utilizing them in pain management. Opioids efficiently block pain signals by binding to opioid receptors in the brain and spinal cord, relieving patients with acute or chronic pain. 

Opioids are used during anesthesia for a number of significant reasons, each with potential advantages and disadvantages of their own.

Examples of Opioid

Among the medications in the opioid class are meperidine, morphine, and hydromorphine. They are helpful for postoperative analgesia since they are affordable and have intermediate acting qualities. The most widely used opioid is morphine, however meperidine and hydromorphone are equally effective.


A synthetic opioid 100–150 times more strong than morphine is called fentanyl. It is helpful for maintenance anesthesia due to its quick onset and shorter half-life.  Two more recent synthetic opioids that are short-acting and resemble fentanyl are sufentanil and alfentanil.  Serum esterase is the enzyme that breaks down the short-acting medication ramifentanyl.


Methadone is a long-acting opioid and a µ - opioid receptor agonist that interacts with NMDA receptors and interferes with the brain's ability to retake serotonin and norepinephrine. Studies have shown that intraoperative methadone use reduces post-operative opioid requirements, pain scores, and patient satisfaction.  Methadone acts on the brain's µ opioid receptors and NMDA receptors, as well as interacting with them.

Neuromuscular Blockers

There are two main categories of neuromuscular blockers, which are medications that cause muscles to relax:

• Disentangling

• Not depolarizing.

Depolarizing blockers bind to and activate cholinergic receptors on the neuromuscular junction, increasing muscle contraction at first and prolonging it thereafter. Conversely, nondepolarizing blockers vie for the location of the acetylcholine receptor, and the amount of the block is inversely correlated with the amount of acetylcholine that is available. This implies that a higher drug concentration will result in more blocking, whereas a higher acetylcholine concentration will have a smaller effect.

Cholinergic receptors are competed with by nondepolarizing blockers, which are employed more frequently than depolarizing ones. The amount of neuromuscular blockade brought on by the nondepolarizing mechanism is directly correlated with the drug's concentration. One depolarizing muscle relaxant that's still in use is succinylcholine.

Also Read: Leprosy - Types, Manifestations, Diagnosis And Management

Depolarizing Neuromuscular Blocker


Pseudocholinylcholine is rapidly degraded by pseudocholinesterase, which causes a gradual loss of its activity. Pseudochinylcholine is a depolarizing muscle relaxant that is being used today. Although succinylcholine is primarily used for endotracheal intubation, mask breathing must be maintained until the effect wears off if this method is ineffective. Before the patient resumes spontaneous breathing, life-threatening hypoxia could occur if mask ventilation is ineffective.

Side effects of opioids: Bradycardia is one of the side effects that the medication is linked to Malignant hyperthermia; hyperkalemia, more common in quadriplegic, burn, and major trauma patients. 

Succinylcholine should be avoided by patients with muscular dystrophy since it increases the risk of malignant hyperthermia; additionally, the medicine may produce masseter muscle spasms, which are more common in youngsters; and it may cause fasciculations, which can aggravate post-operative muscle pain. 

In patients with a history of missing or atypical pseudocholinesterase, these adverse effects are more prevalent. Despite being utilized for intubation, succinylcholine's negative effects have caused its use to be limited to rapid sequence intubation, primarily in emergency situations.

Non-Depolarizing Neuromuscular Blockers: 

During surgeries, nondepolarizing neuromuscular blockers are frequently administered. Unlike depolarizing neuromuscular blockers, which are only utilized during intubation, they are not the same. If patients are not given enough anesthetic, nondepolarizing blockers might have disastrous repercussions. In certain situations, the muscle relaxant may cause the patient to feel discomfort but prevent them from moving. As a result, it's critical to keep an eye on the patient's heart rate and make sure the anesthetics are given correctly. This falls under negligent medical care.  Nondepolarizing neuromuscular blockers should not be used at the same dose for everyone as it varies from person to person. 

On the other hand, these blockers can enhance the effects of other anesthetic medications if the anesthesia dosage is sufficient. For example, the requirement for nondepolarizing blockers may be reduced when succinylcholine is used for intubation. Conversely, desflurane has the ability to increase vecuronium's effects by 20%.
Nondepolarizing neuromuscular blockers may result in difficult-to-identify post-operative problems. As a result, it's critical to prevent minor obstructions and make sure the patients get the right amount of anesthesia.

Neostigmine and edrophonium are examples of anticholinesterase medications that can be used to reverse nondepolarizing blockers. A bronchodilator such as atropine and glycopyrolate must also be administered to patients in order to control secretions as they heal.

The division of neuromuscular blockers into three categories: pancuronium; long-acting; tubocurarine;  Vecuronium, cis-atracurium, rocuronium, intermediate-acting, short-acting.  Atracurium; Mivacurium.
Because of its prolonged duration of action, pancuronium is no longer used in modern therapy.  Because the kidneys eliminate tubocurarine, pancuronium, vecuronium, and rocuronium, their half-lives are extended in patients with renal impairment. Since cisatracurium is metabolized via Hoffman elimination and is hence safe for usage in individuals with renal impairment, it is advised in such instances.

Hope you found this blog helpful for your NEET SS General Surgery preparation. For more informative and interesting posts like these, keep reading PrepLadder’s blogs.

If you are preparing for NEET-SS 2024 and ahead, check out SS ELITE Plan (Version 3.0) and what makes it the perfect study resource for your super speciality preparation. 

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