Object. In this paper the authors report on the conception and adjustment of a microelectrode used to obtain unitary recordings in the human spinal cord.
Methods. To overcome the difficulties related to intraoperative pulsations of the spinal cord, the authors opted to use a floating microelectrode. Because the recordings are obtained most often from spontaneous activities, it is difficult, with a single microelectrode, to separate spikes from electrical artifacts that are related to the switching of devices. Consequently, the authors designed a dual microelectrode made of two tungsten-in-glass—attached microelectrodes separated by 300 µm. Because the two electrodes cannot obtain recordings in the same neuron, it is possible to distinguish unambiguously spikes (recorded on one tip) from electrical artifacts (recorded simultaneously on the two tips). The dual microelectrode is 2 cm long, with a 20-µm tip length, and 800 to 1200—Ohms impedance. This microelectrode can be implanted “free hand,” in the dorsal horn, by using a microsurgical forceps under a surgical microscope. The data analysis is performed off-line with spike sorter hardware.
In the dorsal horns in 17 patients who were selected to undergo a dorsal root entry zone (DREZ) rhizotomy to treat various pathological conditions, unitary recordings were obtained using this double microelectrode. The authors recorded 57 neurons in good conditions of stability and isolation.
Conclusions. The microelectrode described in this paper was successfully used to obtain recordings in neurons in more than 85% of the patients. This simplified, floating double microelectrode can therefore be considered for use in microsurgical DREZ rhizotomy to obtain unitary recordings in the human spinal dorsal horn.