The initial use of free-running electromyography to detect early motor tract injury during resection of intramedullary spinal cord lesions

Stanley A. Skinner, Mahmoud Nagib, Thomas A. Bergman, Robert E. Maxwell, Gaspar Msangi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE: The resection of intramedullary spinal cord lesions (ISCLs) can be complicated by neurological deficits. Neuromonitoring has been used to reduce intraoperative risk. We have used somatosensory evoked potentials (SEPs) and muscle-derived transcranial electrical motor evoked potentials (myogenic TCE-MEPs) to monitor ISCL removal. We report our retrospective experience with the addition of free-running electromyography (EMG). METHODS: Thirteen patients underwent 14 monitored ISCL excisions. Anesthesia was maintained with minimal inhalant to reduce motoneuron suppression and enhance the myogenic TCE-MEPs. Free-running EMG was examined in the four limbs for evidence of abnormal bursts, prolonged tonic discharge, or sudden electrical silence. Warning of an electromyographic abnormality or myogenic TCE-MEP loss prompted interventions, including blood pressure elevation, a pause in surgery, a wake-up test, or termination of surgery. Pre- and postoperative neurological examinations determined the incidence of new deficits. RESULTS: The combined use of free-running EMG and myogenic TCE-MEPs detected all eight patients with a new motor deficit after surgery; there was one false-positive report. In three of the eight true-positive cases, an electromyographic abnormality immediately anticipated loss of the myogenic TCE-MEPs. Two patients with abnormal EMGs but unchanged myogenic TCE-MEPs experienced mild postoperative worsening of motor deficits; myogenic TCE-MEPs alone would have generated false-negative reports in these cases. CONCLUSION: During resection of ISCLs, free-running EMG can supplement motor tract monitoring by TCE-MEPs. Segmental and suprasegmental elicitation of neurotonic discharges can be observed in four-limb EMG. Abnormal electromyographic bursts, tonic discharge, or abrupt electromyographic silence may anticipate myogenic TCE-MEP loss and predict a postoperative motor deficit.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)ONS-299-ONS-313
Issue number4 SUPPL.
StatePublished - Apr 1 2005


  • Electromyography
  • Intramedullary spinal cord lesions
  • Neuromonitoring
  • Somatosensory motor evoked potential
  • Transcranial electrical motor evoked potential


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