The value of intraoperative motor evoked potential monitoring during surgical intervention for thoracic idiopathic spinal cord herniation

Clinical article

Klaus Novak M.D.1,2, Georg Widhalm M.D.1, Adauri Bueno de Camargo M.D.2, Noel Perin M.D., F.R.C.S.3, George Jallo M.D.2,4, Engelbert Knosp M.D.1, and Vedran Deletis M.D., Ph.D.2
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  • 1 Department of Neurosurgery, Medical University of Vienna, Austria,
  • | 2 Hyman-Newman Institute for Neurology and Neurosurgery, Roosevelt Hospital;
  • | 3 Department of Neurosurgery, St. Luke's—Roosevelt Hospital, New York, New York; and
  • | 4 Division of Pediatric Neurosurgery, Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, Maryland
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Object

Thoracic idiopathic spinal cord herniation (TISCH) is a rare neurological disorder characterized by an incarceration of the spinal cord at the site of a ventral dural defect. The disorder is associated with clinical signs of progressive thoracic myelopathy. Surgery can withhold the natural clinical course, but surgical repair of the dural defect bears a significant risk of additional postoperative motor deficits, including permanent paraplegia. Intraoperative online information about the functional integrity of the spinal cord and warning signs about acute functional impairment of motor pathways could contribute to a lower risk of permanent postoperative motor deficit. Motor evoked potential (MEP) monitoring can instantly and reliably detect dysfunction of motor pathways in the spinal cord. The authors have applied MEPs during intraoperative neurophysiological monitoring (IOM) for surgical repair of TISCH and have correlated the results of IOM with its influence on the surgical procedure and with the functional postoperative outcome.

Methods

The authors retrospectively reviewed the intraoperative neurophysiological data and clinical records of 4 patients who underwent surgical treatment for TISCH in 3 institutions where IOM, including somatosensory evoked potentials and MEPs, is routinely used for spinal cord surgery. In all 4 patients the spinal cord was reduced from a posterior approach and the dural defect was repaired using a dural graft.

Results

Motor evoked potential monitoring was feasible in all patients. Significant intraoperative changes of MEPs were observed in 2 patients. The changes were detected within seconds after manipulation of the spinal cord. Monitoring of MEPs led to immediate revision of the placement of the dural graft in one case and to temporary cessation of the release of the incarcerated spinal cord in the other. Changes occurred selectively in MEPs and were reversible. In both patients, transient changes in intraoperative MEPs correlated with a reversible postoperative motor deficit. Patients without significant changes in somatosensory evoked potentials and MEPs demonstrated no additional neurological deficit postoperatively and showed improvement of motor function during follow-up.

Conclusions

Surgical repair of the dural defect is effected by release and reduction of the spinal cord and insertion of dural substitute over the dural defect. Careful monitoring of the functional integrity of spinal cord long tracts during surgical manipulation of the cord can detect surgically induced impairment. The authors' documentation of acute loss of MEPs that correlated with reversible postoperative motor deficit substantiates the necessity of IOM including continuous monitoring of MEPs for the surgical treatment of TISCH.

Abbreviations used in this paper:

eMEP = epidural motor evoked potential; EP = evoked potentials; IOM = intraoperative neurophysiological monitoring; MEP = motor evoked potential; mMEP = muscle MEP; MRC = Medical Research Council; SEP = somatosensory evoked potential; TISCH = thoracic idiopathic spinal cord herniation.

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Contributor Notes

Address correspondence to: Klaus Novak, M.D., Medical University of Vienna, Department of Neurosurgery, Währinger Gürtel 18-20, A-1090, Wien, Austria, European Union. email: klaus.novak@meduniwien.ac.at.

Please include this information when citing this paper: published online November 25, 2011; DOI: 10.3171/2011.10.SPINE11109.

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