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Andrei V. Krassioukov, Roger Sarjeant, Homan Arkia and Michael G. Fehlings

Object. The purpose of this study was to examine the neurological outcomes after complex lumbosacral surgery in patients undergoing multimodality neurophysiological monitoring.

Methods. Sixty-one patients were consecutively enrolled in this study. These patients underwent complex intra- and extradural lumbosacral procedures with concomitant intraoperative electromyography (EMG) monitoring of the lower-limb muscles, external anal and urethral sphincters (EAS and EUS), and lower-limb somatosensory evoked potentials (SSEPs). Long-term (minimum 2-year) clinical follow-up data were obtained in all cases.

Most patients were treated for spinal/spinal cord tumors (61%) or adult tethered cord syndrome (25%). Recordable lower-extremity SSEPs were reported in 54 patients (89%). New postoperative neurological deficits occurred in only three patients (4.9%), and remained persistent in only one patient (1.6%) at long-term follow-up examination. In only one of these cases was a significant decrease in SSEP amplitude detected. Spontaneous EMG activity was observed in the lower-extremity muscles and/or EAS and EUS in 51 cases (84%). Intraoperatively, EMG demonstrated activity only in the EUS in 5% of patients and only in the EAS in 28%. In seven patients (11%) spontaneous intraoperative EMG activity was observed in both the EAS and the EUS; however, in only three of these cases was EMG activity recorded in both sphincters simultaneously. In addition to spontaneously recorded EMG activity, electrically evoked EMG activity was also used as an intraoperative adjunct. A bipolar stimulating electrode was used to identify functional neural tissue before undertaking microsurgical dissection in 58 individuals (95%). In the majority of these patients, evoked EMG activity occurred either in one (33%) or in two muscles (9%) simultaneously. The presence of electrically evoked EMG activity in structures encountered during microdissection altered the plan of treatment in 24 cases (42%).

Conclusions. The authors conclude that the combined SSEP and EMG monitoring of lower-limb muscles, EAS, and EUS is a practical and reliable method for obtaining optimal electrophysiological feedback during complex neurosurgical procedures involving the conus medullaris and cauda equina. Analysis of the results indicates that these intraoperative adjunctive modalities positively influence decision making with regard to microsurgery and reduce the risk of perioperative neurological complications. Validation of the clinical value of these approaches, however, will require further assessment in a larger prospective cohort of patients.

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Michael O. Kelleher, Gamaliel Tan, Roger Sarjeant and Michael G. Fehlings


Despite the growing use of multimodal intraoperative monitoring (IOM) in cervical spinal surgery, limited data exist regarding the sensitivity, specificity, and predictive values of such a technique in detecting new neurological deficits in this setting. The authors sought to define the incidence of significant intraoperative electrophysiological changes and new postoperative neurological deficits in a cohort of patients undergoing cervical surgery.


The authors conducted a prospective analysis of a consecutive series of patients who had undergone cervical surgery during a 5-year period at a university-based neurosurgical unit, in which multimodal IOM was recorded. Sensitivity, specificity, positive predictive values (PPVs), and negative predictive values (NPVs) were determined using standard Bayesian techniques. The study population included 1055 patients (614 male and 441 female) with a mean age of 55 years.


The IOM modalities performed included somatosensory evoked potential (SSEP) recording in 1055 patients, motor evoked potential (MEP) recording in 26, and electromyography (EMG) in 427. Twenty-six patients (2.5%) had significant SSEP changes. Electromyographic activity was transient in 212 patients (49.6%), and 115 patients (26.9%) had sustained burst or train activity. New postoperative neurological deficits occurred in 34 patients (3.2%): 6 had combined sensory and motor deficits, 7 had new sensory deficits, 9 had increased motor weakness, and 12 had new root deficits. Of these 34 patients, 12 had spinal tumors, of which 7 were intramedullary. Overall, of the 34 new postoperative deficits, 21 completely resolved, 9 partially resolved, and 4 had no improvement. The deficits that completely resolved did so on average 3.3 months after surgery. Patients with deficits that did not fully resolve (partial or no improvement) were followed up for an average of 1.8 years after surgery.

Somatosensory evoked potentials had a sensitivity of 52%, a specificity of 100%, a PPV of 100%, and an NPV of 97%. Motor evoked potential sensitivity was 100%, specificity 96%, PPV 96%, and NPV 100%. Electromyography had a sensitivity of 46%, specificity of 73%, PPV of 3%, and an NPV of 97%.


Combined neurophysiological IOM with EMG and SSEP recording and the selective use of MEPs is helpful for predicting and possibly preventing neurological injury during cervical spine surgery.