A group from the Royal Melbourne Hospital (RMH) and the University of Melbourne has received funding to test whether a newer muscle relaxant reversal drug can help reduce the number of post-surgical lung complications.

Prof Kate Leslie
Anaesthetist Professor Kate Leslie AO

A 3,500-patient randomised controlled trial exploring reversal of muscle relaxant drugs after general anaesthesia has received $2.9 million in funding from the Australian Government’s Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF).

The study, to be known as the SNaPP Study (Sugammadex, Neostigmine and Postoperative Pulmonary complications), will be run over 4 years by researchers from the RMH and the University of Melbourne, as well as the Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists (ANZCA) Clinical Trials Network (CTN). 

The study’s principal investigator, anaesthetist at the RMH Professor Kate Leslie AO, said the goal of the study is to reduce the burden of these complications.

“These complications lead to prolonged illness and decreased quality of life for patients and increased costs for the healthcare system,” she said.

“Our team has a long history of successfully completing large perioperative trials and with the SNaPP Study we will once again join forces with investigators and trial coordinators in Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong to answer one of the most hotly debated questions in our specialty.”

The SNaPP Study will recruit adult patients presenting for abdominal or thoracic surgery.

They will receive a general anaesthetic for their surgery that includes muscle relaxant drugs.

At the end of their surgery, they will receive either neostigmine (the traditional drug) or sugammadex (a new drug which is more reliable but also more expensive) to reverse the muscle relaxant. The patients will be followed up for lung complications (for example, pneumonia) and quality of life. This information, along with health expenditure data, will be used to determine if sugammadex is cost-effective. The results of this study will have immediate benefits for patients and the healthcare system.

Mobile Stroke Unit with Ambulance Victoria paramedic and the RMH Stroke team
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