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Saturday, March 9, 2013

Electrocautery and Spinal Cord damage- loss of motor activities..!

Nerve damages or spinal cord damage during brain and spine surgical procedures depends upon various myraids of factors, one of them is mechanical. However, how many of you even thought of an electrocautery can produce spinal cord damage resulting EMGs and motor activity loss?. This report published in an porcine model discusses a case. I have not read a human case yet, but it is a real possibility, it can happen during surgery.  If anyone knows a human case or clinical scenario's, please post a comment below.
Spinal cord injury from electrocautery: observations in a porcine model using electromyography and motor evoked potentials. Stanley A. Skinner, et al  Journal of Clinical Monitoring and Computing


We have previously investigated electromyographic (EMG) and transcranial motor evoked potential (MEP) abnormalities after mechanical spinal cord injury. We now report thermally generated porcine spinal cord injury, characterized by spinal cord generated hindlimb EMG injury activity and spinal cord motor conduction block (MEP loss). Electrocautery (EC) was delivered to thoracic level dural root sleeves within 6–8 mm of the spinal cord (n = 6). Temperature recordings were made near the spinal cord. EMG and MEP were recorded by multiple gluteobiceps intramuscular electrodes before, during, and after EC. Duration of EC was titrated to an end-point of spinal motor conduction block (MEP loss). In 5/6 roots, ipsilateral EMG injury activity was induced by EC. In 4/5 roots, EMG injury activity was identified before MEP loss. In all roots, a minimum of 20 s EC and a temperature maximum of at least 57 °C at the dural root sleeve were required to induce MEP loss. Unexpectedly, conduction block was preceded by an enhanced MEP in 4/6 trials. EMG injury activity, preceding MEP loss, can be seen during near spinal cord EC. Depolarization and facilitation of lumbar motor neurons by thermally excited descending spinal tracts likely explains both hindlimb EMG and an enhanced MEP signal (seen before conduction block) respectively. A thermal mechanism may play a role in some unexplained MEP losses during intraoperative monitoring. EMG recordings might help to detect abnormal discharges and forewarn the monitorist during both mechanical and thermal injury to the spinal cord.

Full PDF: click on the top right corner of the journal for pdf article. Link:

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