The need to add motor evoked potential monitoring to somatosensory and electromyographic monitoring in cervical spine surgery


Nancy E. Epstein

Intraoperative neural monitoring (IONM), utilizing somatosensory evoked potentials (SEP) and electromyography (EMG), was introduced to cervical spine surgery in the late 1980’s. However, as SEP only provided physiological data regarding the posterior cord, new motor deficits were observed utilizing SEP alone. This prompted the development of motor evoked potential monitoring (MEP) which facilitated real‑time assessment of the anterior/anterolateral spinal cord. Although all three modalities, SEP, EMG, and MEP, are routinely available for IONM of cervical spine procedures, MEP are not yet routinely employed. The purpose of this review is to emphasize that MEP should now routinely accompany SEP and EMG when performing IONM of cervical spine surgery. Interestingly, one of the most common reasons for malpractice suits involving the cervical spine, is quadriparesis/quadriplegia following a single level anterior cervical diskectomy and fusion (ACDF). Previously, typical allegations in these suits included; negligent surgery, lack of informed consent, failure to diagnose/treat, and failure to brace. Added to this list, perhaps, as the 5th most reason for a suit will be failure to monitor with MEP. This review documents the value of MEP monitoring in addition to SEP and EMG monitoring in cervical spine surgery. The addition of MEP should minimize major motor injuries, and more accurately and reliably detect impending anterior cord deterioration that may be missed with SEP monitoring alone.

Brian De La Torre