Evaluation of traumatic cervical nerve root injuries by intraoperative evoked potentials

Joachim Oberle*, Gregor Antoniadis, Erich Kast, Hans Peter Richter, Christopher J. Winfree, Paul C. McCormick, Edward C. Benzel, Volker K.H. Sonntag, David G. Kline, Michel Kliot

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE: To evaluate intraoperative evoked potentials as a diagnostic tool in traumatic brachial plexus injuries. METHODS: Thirteen patients with traumatic brachial plexus injuries were investigated by intradural nerve root inspection (n = 28 roots) via cervical hemilaminectomy to assess or rule out nerve root avulsion from the spinal cord. Two to 8 weeks later, evoked potentials from neck and scalp were recorded after direct electrical nerve root stimulation close to the vertebral foramen during operative brachial plexus repair via an anterior (supraclavicular and infraclavicular) approach. Recordings were performed without and after full muscle relaxation. RESULTS: There was a clear relationship between the state of the root as documented by intradural root inspection and the result of intraoperative recording of evoked potentials: the absence of evoked muscle action potentials from neck muscles demonstrated a 100% sensitivity for anterior root lesions, whereas sensory evoked potentials from the scalp demonstrated a 100% sensitivity for posterior root lesions. Moreover, roots could be identified with preserved continuity that did not conduct, suggesting a nerve lesion in continuity. CONCLUSION: Intraoperative evoked muscle action potentials and sensory evoked potentials after electrical nerve root stimulation allow selective functional evaluation of anterior and posterior nerve roots in patients with traumatic brachial plexus injuries. The high sensitivity and reliability of this test obviate the need for additional diagnostic surgery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1182-1190
Number of pages9
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 1 2002


  • Brachial plexus injuries
  • Intraoperative evoked potentials

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Clinical Neurology


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