The aim of this study was to define a new protocol for intraoperative monitoring (IOM) of brainstem auditory evoked potentials (BAEPs) during microvascular decompression (MVD) surgery to treat hemifacial spasm (HFS) and to evaluate the usefulness of this new protocol to prevent hearing impairment.
To define the optimal stimulation rate, estimate the number of trials to be averaged, and identify useful warning criteria in IOM of BAEPs, the authors performed a preliminary study of 13 patients with HFS in 2010. They increased the stimulation rate from 10.1 Hz/sec to 100.1 Hz/sec by 10-Hz increments, and they elevated the average time from 100 times to 1000 times by 100-unit increments at a fixed stimulus rate of 43.9 Hz. After defining the optimal stimulation rate and the number of trials that needed to be averaged for IOM of BAEPs, they also identified the useful warning criteria for this protocol for MVD surgery. From January to December 2013, 254 patients with HFS underwent MVD surgery following the new IOM of BAEPs protocol. Pure-tone audiometry and speech discrimination scoring were performed before surgery and 1 week after surgery. To evaluate the usefulness of the new protocol, the authors compared the incidence of postoperative hearing impairment with the results from the group that underwent MVD surgery prior to the new protocol.
Through a preliminary study, the authors confirmed that it was possible to obtain a reliable wave when using a stimulation rate of 43.9 Hz/sec and averaging 400 trials. Only a Wave V amplitude loss > 50% was useful as a warning criterion when using the new protocol. A reliable BAEP could be obtained in approximately 9.1 seconds. When the new protocol was used, 2 patients (0.8%) showed no recovery of Wave V amplitude loss > 50%, and only 1 of those 2 patients (0.39%) ultimately had postoperative hearing impairment. When compared with the outcomes in the pre-protocol group, hearing impairment incidence decreased significantly among patients who underwent surgery with the new protocol (0.39% vs 4.02%, p = 0.002). There were no significant differences between the 2 surgery groups regarding other complications, including facial palsy, sixth cranial nerve palsy, and vocal cord palsy.
There was a significant decrease in postoperative hearing impairment after MVD for HFS when the new protocol for IOM of BAEPs was used. Real-time IOM of BAEPs, which can obtain a reliable BAEP in less than 10 seconds, is a successful new procedure for preventing hearing impairment during MVD surgery for HFS.