In emergency situations some patients need a general anaesthetic with an endotracheal tube (tube to help them breathe). It is important to have fast acting medications to allow physicians to complete this procedure quickly and safely. Currently, the muscle relaxant medication most often used to accomplish this is succinylcholine. Succinylcholine is fast acting and lasts for only a few minutes which is very desirable in this setting. However, some patients cannot use this medication as it can cause serious salt imbalances or reactions, so an equally effective medication without these side effects is desired. This meta-analysis compared one possible alternative, rocuronium, for the quality of intubation conditions (the ease with which physicians can quickly and safely pass the endotracheal tube). In this review, we have combined the results of 37 studies, with a total of 2690 patients, which compared the effects of succinylcholine versus rocuronium on intubation conditions. We have found that rocuronium is less effective than succinylcholine for creating excellent intubation conditions. Rocuronium should therefore only be used as an alternative to succinylcholine when it is known that succinylcholine should not be used.
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