Nondepolarizing blockers are used to relax skeletal muscle for surgical procedures, to prevent dislocations and fractures associated with electroconvulsive therapy, and to control muscle spasms in tetanus. They do not produce anesthesia or analgesia.
The degree of blockade can be influenced by body pH and electrolyte balance. Hypokalemia due to diarrhea, renal disease, or use of potassium-depleting diuretics potentiates the effect of nondepolarizing blockers. By contrast, hyperkalemia may oppose the actions of d-tubocurarine but enhance the end plate response to succinylcholine. The effectiveness of d-tubocurarine is reduced by alkalosis.
Newborn children are extremely sensitive to nonde-polarizing muscle relaxants but may require three times as much depolarizing agent as an adult for an equivalent degree of block. Like newborn children, patients with myasthenia gravis are very sensitive to paralysis by d-tubocurarine but are resistant to succinylcholine. This altered responsiveness is probably due to the fewer number of functional AChRs at the end plate. Since neonates are very sensitive to d-tubocurarine, the dosage must be reduced and the degree of block closely monitored.
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