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OBJECTIVE: Both motor and sensory neurological deficits have been reported after decompression and instrumentation of the lumbosacral spine. In this report, we describe a simple and effective method by which sensory and motor functions can be monitored simultaneously, using somatosensory evoked potentials (SSEP), spontaneous electromyographic (EMG) activity, and compound muscle action potential monitoring. The concomitant use of these monitoring technique allows ongoing functional evaluation of the cauda equina and spinal cord during patient positioning, surgery, wound closure, and anesthetic emergence.

METHODS: SSEPs were recorded continuously in response to peroneal or tibial nerve stimulation. EMG activity (both spontaneous and evoked) was recorded bilaterally from appropriate lower extremity muscle groups. All recordings(SSEP and EMG activity recordings) were obtained, stored, and reviewed simultaneously.

RESULTS: SSEPs and EMG activity were simultaneously recorded for 44 patients. All patients in the study underwent surgical procedures to decompress and stabilize the lumbosacral spine, using pedicle screw instrumentation. In two cases, changes in SSEPs and spontaneous EMG activity were noted and were correlated with postoperative patient complaints.

CONCLUSION: This report describes the concomitant use of powerful and simple tools that provide immediate, "early-warning" feedback to the surgical team concerning the sensory and motor functioning of the spinal cord and cauda equina. In addition, compound muscle action potential recording provides a tool for the identification of both levels and structures in the lumbosacral spine.

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