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Muscle Nerve. 1990 Oct;13(10):957-63.

A comparison of magnetic and electrical stimulation of peripheral nerves.

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Department of Neurology, School of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco 94143.


We compared magnetic stimulation using different coil designs (2 rounded coils and a butterfly-prototype coil) with electrical stimulation of the median and ulnar nerves in 5 normal subjects. Using magnetic stimulation we were able to record technically satisfactory maximal sensory and motor responses only with the butterfly coil. Submaximal electrical stimuli preferentially activated sensory rather than motor axons, but submaximal magnetic stimuli did not. The onset latency, amplitude, area and duration of responses elicited electrically or magnetically with the butterfly coil during routine sensory and motor nerve conduction studies were similar, and motor and sensory conduction velocities were comparable when studied over long segments of nerve. However, the motor conduction velocities with magnetic and electrical stimulation differed by as much as 18 m/sec in the across-elbow segment of ulnar nerve. Thus, recent developments in magnetic stimulator design have improved the focality of the stimulus, but the present butterfly coil design cannot replace electrical stimulation for the detection of focal changes in nerve conduction velocity at common entrapment sites, such as in the across-elbow segment of the ulnar nerve.

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