Neurophysiology

Allen E. Waziri, Derek A. Taggard and Vincent C. Traynelis

Summary

The goal of this chapter is to provide a brief description and critical review of the various intraoperative monitoring techniques available to the modern neurosurgeon.

Introduction

Since the mid-1960s, neurosurgeons have been increasingly dedicated to utilizing technology that allows for the monitoring of neurological integrity and assessment of progress towards operative goals while a procedure is under way. Most neurosurgical procedures bear the risk of permanent neurological injury and, in the worst cases, devastation. In an attempt to reduce such morbidity, numerous methods of intraoperative monitoring have been created to guide the neurosurgeon in altering operative activity in a way that will prevent or minimize neurological damage. Ideally, these monitoring techniques involve minimal additional risks to the patient. There are a number of methods that have been in use for several decades and are well described. In addition, experimental techniques are being developed to provide further insight into the neurophysiological changes associated with surgical manipulation of the nervous system.

The ideal intraoperative monitoring tool satisfies several technical criteria. First is the ability to detect neurological damage at an early and reversible stage. Second, any modifications of the operative technique to allow for monitoring must not interfere with the surgeon's ability to achieve the operative goal. Components of the monitoring system should be easy to use and provide consistent, reliable data. The information obtained should be resistant to variables of the operative environment, such as depth of anesthesia, choice of anesthetic agents, temperature, or electrical artifact. Last, the neurological function or region being monitored must be that which is placed at risk by the operative procedure. The goal of intraoperative monitoring is to provide the surgeon with information that will guide or improve the current procedure as well as subsequent procedures. All currently available techniques fulfill these ideals to variable degrees.

In addition to the theoretical goals of intraoperative monitoring, there are a number of practical issues that must be taken into consideration if such techniques are to be used efficiently and successfully. Appropriate technical and analytical assistance is required from individuals who are thoroughly familiar with the particular technique to be used. The positioning of the patient and the monitoring equipment must be optimized to allow for the gathering of useful data without disruption of the surgical field or approach. The equipment to be used should be in excellent working order and calibrated for the particular needs of each case. Finally, potential sources of interference

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