Surgeon-driven neurophysiologic monitoring in a spinal surgery population

Michael Pickell, Stephen M. Mann, Rajesh Chakravertty, Daniel P. Borschneck


Background: This is a prospective observational study examining the use of a surgeon-driven intraoperative neurophysiologic monitoring system. Intraoperative neurophysiologic monitoring is becoming the standard of care for spinal surgeries with potential post-operative neurologic deficits. This standard applies to both adult and pediatric spinal surgery, but a shortage of appropriately trained and certified technologists and physiologists can compromise monitoring capabilities in some centers. A surgeon-driven, intra-operative monitoring system in the absence of a technologist or physiologist was examined for safety and efficacy.
Methods: One hundred thirty-five patients undergoing a variety of spinal procedures were monitored intra-operatively using a surgeon-driven neuro-monitoring system over a period of 80 months. Intraoperative monitoring included serial motor evoked potentials via an automated system that provided visual and audible feedback directly to the operative surgeon. Changes in monitoring and any corresponding surgical responses were evaluated and compared with postoperative neurological status.
Results: Of the 135 patients studied, intraoperative adjustments based on neuro-monitoring took place in four patients (3.0%): following reduction in spondylolisthesis, during instrumentation and fusion for a large kyphoscoliosis deformity, due to low hemoglobin, and because of traction. In all cases, surgical and/or anaesthetic modification restored MEPs toward baseline values. The accuracy of the neuro-monitoring results was sensitive to narcotics, benzodiazepines and changes in haemoglobin concentrations. No new postoperative deficits were observed in any patients in the cohort.
Conclusions: The authors concluded that surgeon-driven neuro-monitoring was a safe and effective means of intraoperative neuro-monitoring during spinal surgery. It reliably detected intraoperative insults, which could potentially have resulted in postoperative neurologic compromise, and was not associated with any false-negative results in this cohort. Utility of surgeon-driven monitoring, using validated algorithms, may provide an option for this added safety measure even in cases where monitoring personnel are unavailable.