The usefulness of intraoperative neurophysiological monitoring (IONM), including somatosensory-evoked potential (SSEP) and transcranial electrical motor-evoked potentials (TcMEPs) in cervical spine surgery still needs to be evaluated. We retrospectively reviewed 200 cervical spine surgery patients from 2008 to 2009 to determine the role of IONM in cervical spine surgery. Total intravenous anesthesia was used for all patients. IONM alerts were defined as a 50% decrease in amplitude, a 10% increase in latency, or a unilateral change for SSEP and an increase in stimulation threshold of more than 100 V for TcMEP. Three patients had SSEP alerts that were related to arm malposition (2 patients) and hypotension (1 patient). Five patients had TcMEP alerts: 4 alerts were caused by hypotension and 1 by bone graft compression of the spinal cord. All alerts were resolved when causative reasons were corrected. There was no postoperative iatrogenic neurological injury. The sensitivities of SSEP and TcMEP alerts for detecting impending neurological injury were 37.5% and 62.5%, respectively. The sensitivity of both SSEP and TcMEP used in combination was 100%. No false-positive and false-negative alerts were identified in either SSEP or TcMEP (100% specificity). The total intravenous anesthesia technique optimizes the detection of SSEP and TcMEP and therefore improves the sensitivity and specificity of IONM. SSEP is sensitive in detecting alerts in possible malposition-induced ischemia or brachial plexus nerve injury. TcMEP specifically detects hypotension-induced spinal functional compromises. Combination use of TcMEP and SSEP enhances the early detection of impeding neurological damage during cervical spine surgery.
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