Neurophysiologic intraoperative monitoring in children with Down syndrome

Akash J. Patel, Satish Agadi, Jonathan G. Thomas, Robert J. Schmidt, Steven W. Hwang, Daniel H. Fulkerson, Chris D. Glover, Andrew Jea

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Neurophysiological monitoring during complex spine procedures may reduce risk of injury by providing feedback to the operating surgeon. This tool is a well-established and important surgical adjunct in adults, but clinical data in children are not well described. Moreover, to the best of our knowledge, neurophysiologic intraoperative monitoring data have not been reported in children with neurodevelopmental disorders, such as Down syndrome, who commonly present with craniocervical instability requiring internal fixation. The purpose of this study is to determine the reliability and safety of neurophysiologic intraoperative monitoring in a group of children with Down syndrome undergoing neurosurgical spine procedures. Methods: A total of six consecutive spinal procedures in six children with Down syndrome (three boys and three girls; mean age 10 years, range 4-16 years) were analyzed between January 1, 2008 and June 31, 2011. Somatosensory evoked potentials were stimulated at the ulnar nerve and tibial nerve for upper and lower extremities, respectively, and recorded at Erb's point and the scalp. Motor evoked potentials were elicited by transcranial electrical stimulation and recorded at the extensor carpi ulnaris muscle and tibialis anterior muscle for upper and lower extremities, respectively. A standardized anesthesia protocol for monitoring consisted of a titrated propofol drip combined with bolus dosing of fentanyl or sufentanil. Results: Somatosensory and motor evoked potentials were documented at the beginning and end of the procedure in all six patients. Changes during the surgery were recorded. Five patients maintained somatosensory potentials throughout surgery. One patient demonstrated a >10 % increase in latency or >50 % decrease in amplitude suggesting spinal cord dysfunction. A mean baseline stimulation threshold for motor evoked potentials of 485 + 85 V (range 387-600 V) was used. Four patients maintained motor evoked potentials throughout surgery. One patient had loss of left lower somatosensory evoked potentials (SSEPs) and motor evoked potentials (MEPs) after rod placement; upon removal of the rod, SSEPs returned but not MEPs. Another patient did not have consistent MEPs on one side and had absent MEPs on the contralateral side throughout the case. Loss of MEPs in these two patients did not correlate with postoperative neurological status. There were no complications directly related to neurophysiologic intraoperative monitoring technique. Conclusions: Neurophysiologic intraoperative monitoring during neurosurgical procedures in children with Down syndrome may be reliably and safely implemented. Changes in neurophysiologic parameters during surgery must be carefully interpreted, and discussed with the neurosurgeon, neurophysiologist, and neuroanesthesiologist, and may not correlate with postoperative clinical changes. These changes may be related to abnormal physiology rather than an insult at the time of surgery. Nonetheless, the authors advocate routine neurophysiologic intraoperative monitoring in this special group of children undergoing neurosurgical spine procedures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)281-287
Number of pages7
JournalChild's Nervous System
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Down syndrome
  • Intraoperative monitoring
  • Pediatrics
  • Spine surgery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Clinical Neurology


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