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Ann Thorac Surg. 1999 Jun;67(6):1943-6; discussion 1953-8.

Sensitivity, specificity, and surgical impact of somatosensory evoked potentials in descending aorta surgery.

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Cliniques Universitaires Saint-Luc, U.C.L. Brussels, Belgium.



We evaluate the efficiency of multilevel somatosensory evoked potential (SEP) monitoring for intraoperative re-establishment of blood flow to the spinal cord in 63 patients undergoing descending aorta repair.


The presence of critical vessels in a cross-clamped aortic segment was ascertained by a 15 minute SEP observation period while the segment between the clamps was vented to drain out the collateral flow.


SEPs influenced the surgical strategy in 17 cases (27%): use of the Biomedicus in 1 traumatic rupture; critical vessel reimplantation or distal clamp replacement in 13 cases of segmental spinal ischemia; and hastening the procedure or proximal clamp replacement in 3 cases of left carotid ischemia. There were no cases of unexplained multilevel SEP abnormalities. Immediate paraplegia was observed in 2 cases (1 pre-existing; 1 forecast by a 199-minute period of SEP absence due to segmental ischemia); 2 patients presented delayed paraplegias despite unchanged intraoperative SEPs, and 1 case presented a transient paraplegia due to lower motoneuronal involvement.


SEPs efficiently identified critical vessels to be reimplanted in order to avoid immediate paraplegia. However, systematic additional vessel reimplantation, if technically feasible, and prolongation of SEP monitoring during the postoperative period with careful blood pressure control are needed to prevent delayed paraplegia.

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