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J Spinal Disord Tech. 2005 Dec;18(6):515-8.

A prospective analysis of intraoperative electromyographic monitoring of posterior cervical screw fixation.

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  • 1Leatherman Spine Center, Louisville, KY 40202, USA.



This is a prospective study of 26 patients undergoing posterior cervical spine instrumentation with lateral mass or pedicle screws to determine the correlation between intraoperative screw stimulation thresholds and the position of posterior cervical lateral mass and pedicle screws.


One hundred forty-seven posterior cervical screws (122 lateral mass screws and 25 C7 pedicle screws) in 26 patients were electrically stimulated intraoperatively and stimulation thresholds recorded. Computed tomography (CT) scans were taken postoperatively and were evaluated independently to assess screw position. Electromyographic (EMG) thresholds and CT data were compared to assess the accuracy of the EMG screw stimulation technique in detecting screw malposition.


Intraoperative electrical stimulation was accurate in verifying screw position. A stimulation threshold of 15 mA provided a 99% positive predictive value (89% sensitivity, 87% specificity) that the screw was within the lateral mass or pedicle. Stimulation values of 10-15 mA provided a 13% predictive value (66% sensitivity, 90% specificity) that the screw was within the lateral mass or pedicle. A stimulation value of <10 mA provided a 100% predictive value that the screw was malpositioned (70% sensitivity, 100% specificity).


Intraoperative evoked EMG monitoring is a valuable tool in posterior cervical instrumentation using lateral mass and pedicle screws. Stimulation thresholds in this study correlated with screw position. Stimulation values of >15 mA reliably predict acceptable screw position. Values between 10 and 15 mA are generally associated with acceptable screw position, although exploration is recommended. Values below 10 mA are associated with screw malposition and warrant exploration, repositioning, and possible removal.

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