Spinal cord monitoring in scoliosis surgery. Experience with 1168 cases

H. J. Forbes*, P. W. Allen, C. S. Waller, S. J. Jones, M. A. Edgar, P. J. Webb, A. O. Ransford

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

99 Citations (Scopus)


Since 1981, during operations for spinal deformity, we have routinely used electrophysiological monitoring of the spinal cord by the epidural measurement of somatosensory evoked potentials (SEPs) in response to stimulation of the posterior tibial nerve. We present the results in 1168 consecutive cases. Decreases in SEP amplitude of more than 50% occurred in 119 patients, of whom 32 had clinically detectable neurological changes postoperatively. In 35 cases the SEP amplitude was rapidly restored, either spontaneously or by repositioning of the recording electrode; they had no postoperative neurological changes. One patient had delayed onset of postoperative symptoms referrable to nerve root lesions without evidence of spinal cord involvement, but there were no false negative cases of intra-operative spinal cord damage. In 52 patients persistent, significant, SEP changes were noted without clinically detectable neurological sequelae. None of the many cases which showed falls in SEP amplitude of less than 50% experienced neurological problems. Neuromuscular scoliosis, the use of sublaminar wires, the magnitude of SEP decrement, and a limited or absent intra-operative recovery of SEP amplitude were identified as factors which increased the risk of postoperative neurological deficit.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)487-491
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Bone and Joint Surgery - Series B
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1991
Externally publishedYes


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