The utility of intraoperative neuromonitoring (ION), namely the study of muscle responses to radicular stimulation, remains controversial. The authors performed a prospective study combining ventral root (VR) stimulation for mapping anatomical levels and dorsal root (DR) stimulation as physiological testing of metameric excitability. The purpose was to evaluate to what extent the intraoperative data led to modifications in the initial decisions for surgical sectioning established by the pediatric multidisciplinary team (i.e., preoperative chart), and thus estimate its practical usefulness.
Thirteen children with spastic diplegia underwent the following surgical protocol. First, a bilateral intradural approach was made to the L2–S2 VRs and DRs at the exit from or entry to their respective dural sheaths, through multilevel interlaminar enlarged openings. Second, stimulation—just above the threshold—of the VR at 2 Hz to establish topography of radicular myotome distribution, and then of the DR at 50 Hz as an excitability test of root circuitry, with independent identification of muscle responses by the physiotherapist and by electromyographic recordings. The study aimed to compare the final amounts of root sectioning—per radicular level, established after intraoperative neuromonitoring guidance—with those determined by the multidisciplinary team in the presurgical chart.
The use of ION resulted in differences in the final percentage of root sectioning for all root levels. The root levels corresponding to the upper lumbar segments were modestly excitable under DR stimulation, whereas progressively lower root levels displayed higher excitability. The difference between root levels was highly significant, as evaluated by electromyography (p = 0.00004) as well as by the physiotherapist (p = 0.00001). Modifications were decided in 11 of the 13 patients (84%), and the mean absolute difference in the percentage of sectioning quantity per radicular level was 8.4% for L-2 (p = 0.004), 6.4% for L-3 (p = 0.0004), 19.6% for L-4 (p = 0.00003), 16.5% for L-5 (p = 0.00006), and 3.2% for S-1 roots (p = 0.016). Decreases were most frequently decided for roots L-2 and L-3, whereas increases most frequently involved roots L-4 and L-5, with the largest changes in terms of percentage of sectioning.
The use of ION during dorsal rhizotomy led to modifications regarding which DRs to section and to what extent. This was especially true for L-4 and L-5 roots, which are known to be involved in antigravity and pelvic stability functions. In this series, ION contributed significantly to further adjust the patient-tailored dorsal rhizotomy procedure to the clinical presentation and the therapeutic goals of each patient.