The purpose of this study was to review the present criteria for the compound muscle action potential (CMAP) alert and for safe spinal surgery.
The authors conducted a retrospective study of 295 patients in whom spinal cord monitoring had been performed during spinal surgery. The waveforms observed during spinal surgery were divided into the following 4 grades: Grade 0, normal; Grade 1, amplitude decrease of 50% or more and latency delay of 10% or more; Grade 2, multiphase pattern; and Grade 3, loss of amplitude. Waveform grading, its relationship with postoperative motor deficit, and CMAP sensitivity and specificity were analyzed. Whenever any wave abnormality occurred, the surgeon was notified and the surgical procedures were temporarily suspended. If no improvements were seen, the surgery was terminated.
Compound muscle action potential wave changes occurred in 38.6% of cases. With Grade 1 or 2 changes, no paresis was detected. Postoperative motor deficits were seen in 8 patients, all with Grade 3 waveform changes. Among the 287 patients without postoperative motor deficits, CMAP changes were not seen in 181, with a specificity of 63%. The false-positive rate was 37% (106 of 287). However, when a Grade 2 change was set as the alarm point, sensitivity was 100% and specificity was 79.4%. The false-positive rate was 20% (59 of 295).
Neither the Grade 1 nor the Grade 2 groups included patients who demonstrated a motor deficit. All pareses occurred in cases showing a Grade 3 change. Therefore, the authors propose a Grade 2 change (multiphasic waveform) as a new alarm point. With the application of this criterion, the false-positive rate can be reduced to 20%.