Despite the surge in the intraoperative use of the bulbocavernosus reflex (BCR) during lumbosacral surgeries, there are as yet no widely accepted BCR warning criteria for use with intraoperative neurophysiological monitoring (IONM). The author’s aim was to find clinically acceptable warning criteria for use in IONM of the BCR.
Records of IONM of the BCR in 164 operations in 163 patients (median age 5 months) with a conus spinal lipoma who underwent surgery between August 2002 and May 2016 were retrospectively analyzed. The outcomes of IONM of the BCR were grouped by the residual amplitude at the end of surgery: group 1, ≥ 50%; group 2, 25%–50% (including the lower bound, but not the upper); and group 3, < 25%. Cases in which the BCR was lost were separately assessed as a subgroup of group 3. The postoperative urinary complication rate was used to verify the warning criteria zones.
The BCR could be monitored in 149 surgeries (90.9%). There were 118 surgeries (79.2%) in group 1, 18 (12.1%) in group 2, and 13 (8.7%) in group 3. Two surgeries (11.1%) in group 2 and 6 (46.2%) in group 3 resulted in urinary complications. In the group 3 subgroup (lost BCR), all 5 surgeries resulted in urinary complications. The cutoff value of the BCR amplitude reduction was placed between groups 1 and 2 (zone 1: cutoff 50%), groups 2 and 3 (zone 2: cutoff 25%), and group 3 and its subgroup (zone 3: cutoff zero, present or lost). In zone 1, the positive predictive value (PPV) was 25.8% and the negative predictive value (NPV) was 100%. In zone 2, the PPV was 53.8% and the NPV 98.5%. In zone 3, the PPV was 100% and the NPV 97.9%. The PPV was highest in zone 3. The NPV was highest in zone 1, but its PPV was low (25.8%).
The “lost or remained” criterion of BCR amplitude (zone 3: cutoff zero) can be used as a predictor of postoperative urinary function. As a warning criterion, the cutoff value of the BCR amplitude reduction at 75% (zone 2) may be used. This preliminary clinical report on the warning criteria for the BCR may contribute to improving the safety of surgery for conus spinal lipoma.