Surgeon-directed transcranial motor evoked potential spinal cord monitoring in spinal deformity surgery.

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Spinal deformity surgery carries the risk of neurological injury. Neurophysiological monitoring allows early identification of intraoperative cord injury which enables early intervention resulting in a better prognosis. Although multimodal monitoring is the ideal, resource constraints make surgeon-directed intraoperative transcranial motor evoked potential (TcMEP) monitoring a useful compromise. Our experience using surgeon-directed TcMEP is presented in terms of viability, safety, and efficacy.We carried out a retrospective review of a single surgeon’s prospectively maintained database of cases in which TcMEP monitoring had been used between 2010 and 2017. The upper limbs were used as the control. A true alert was recorded when there was a 50% or more loss of amplitude from the lower limbs with maintained upper limb signals. Patients with true alerts were identified and their case history analyzed.Of the 299 cases reviewed, 279 (93.3%) had acceptable traces throughout and awoke with normal clinical neurological function. No patient with normal traces had a postoperative clinical neurological deficit. True alerts occurred in 20 cases (6.7%). The diagnoses of the alert group included nine cases of adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS) (45%) and six of congenital scoliosis (30%). The incidence of deterioration based on diagnosis was 9/153 (6%) for AIS, 6/30 (20%) for congenital scoliosis, and 2/16 (12.5%) for spinal tuberculosis. Deterioration was much more common in congenital scoliosis than in AIS (p = 0.020). Overall, 65% of alerts occurred during rod instrumentation: 15% occurred during decompression of the internal apex in vertebral column resection surgery. Four alert cases (20%) awoke with clinically detectable neurological compromise.Surgeon-directed TcMEP monitoring has a 100% negative predictive value and allows early identification of physiological cord distress, thereby enabling immediate intervention. In resource constrained environments, surgeon-directed TcMEP is a viable and effective method of intraoperative spinal cord monitoring. Level of evidence: III Cite this article: Bone Joint J 2021;103-B(3):547-552.

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Authors: Ramanare Sibusiso Magampa, Robert Dunn