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J Neurosurg Spine. 2007 Feb;6(2):126-32.

Intraoperative electromyography monitoring in minimally invasive transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion.

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Department of Neurosurgery, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas 77478, USA.



Minimally invasive transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion (TLIF) is an increasingly popular method for achieving lumbar decompression and fusion. The procedure is technically more demanding than open fusion, with correspondingly more theoretical risk of complication. The authors describe the use of intraoperative electromyography (EMG) as an adjunct to surgery to reduce the risk of complications.


Between August 2005 and April 2006, 25 consecutive patients underwent minimally invasive TLIF in which a total of 105 pedicle screws were placed. Intraoperative EMG was performed and included passive recordings during decompression and interbody graft placement, as well as active recording during the placement of the pedicle access needle and testing of the pedicle tap. A uniform protocol for active monitoring was used, with the pedicle access needle set at 7 mA. To assess hardware placement, all patients underwent postoperative radiography and 20 underwent postoperative computed tomography (CT) scanning. In no patient did the authors observe significant EMG activation during decompression. In five cases, intermittent nerve root firing was noted after the interbody graft was placed, but this did not correlate with any postoperative deficits. Using the active stimulation protocol, 76.2% of screw placements required one or more changes to the trajectory of the pedicle access needle. With successful placement of the pedicle access needle, in all 105 screws, the pedicle tap nerve root stimulation threshold was greater than 15 mA. Postoperative radiography was performed in all patients and CT scanning was performed in 20 patients (with 85 screws being placed). Postoperative imaging revealed only three cases of pedicle breach. In all cases, the breach was at the lateral wall of the pedicle and not thought to be clinically relevant.


A continuous stimulation pedicle access needle alerts the surgeon to incorrect medial trajectories and may lead to safer pedicle cannulation. As a result of electrophysiological feedback, the pedicle access needle trajectory was altered in 76.2% of the reported cases. The use of the authors' protocol resulted in a 0% incidence of clinically relevant malpositioned hardware and a low overall neurological complication rate. Intraoperative nerve root monitoring is a useful adjunct to minimally invasive TLIF.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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