Neuromuscular-blocking agents are commonly used in laboratory animal research settings. Due to actions of cholinergic receptors at locations other than the motor end-plate, these agents have a strong propensity to modulate autonomic outflow and may therefore not be desirable in studies examining autonomic function. This study aimed to compare the effect of two non-depolarizing neuromuscular-blocking agents, pancuronium and cisatracurium, on blood pressure, heart rate and non-invasive indices of autonomic function (heart rate variability, systolic blood pressure variability and baroreflex sensitivity) under two different types of anaesthesia in Lewis rats. Pancuronium produced a profound vagolytic response characterized by tachycardia, reduction in heart rate variability and baroreflex sensitivity under urethane anaesthesia, and with minimal effect under isoflurane anaesthesia. Conversely, cisatracurium produced no evidence of vagolytic action under either urethane or isoflurane anaesthesia. Therefore, for studies interested in examining autonomic function, particularly baroreflex or vagal function, neuromuscular blockade would be best achieved using cisatracurium.
- baroreceptor reflex
- heart rate
- neuromuscular blockade
- parasympathetic nervous system