Somatosensory evoked potentials help prevent positioning-related brachial plexus injury during skull base surgery

W. Scott Jellish, Gazenfer Sherazee, Jagruti Patel, Renato Cunanan, Janet Steele, Konstantin Garibashvilli, Maria Baldwin, Douglas Anderson, John P. Leonetti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Objective. Evaluate the use of somatosensory evoked potentials (SSEP) monitoring to detect positioning-related brachial plexus injury during skull base surgery. Study Design. Prospective cohort observational study. Setting. University Hospital. Subjects and Methods. Patients undergoing skull base surgery had a focused neurologic exam of the brachial plexus performed before and after surgery. Under stable anesthesia, brachial plexus SSEP values were obtained before and after surgical positioning. Significant SSEP changes required a readjustment of arm or neck positions. SSEPs were assessed every 30 minutes. If changes were noted, position was readjusted and SSEPs were reassessed until surgical completion. Demographic data, neurologic exams, SSEP latency, and amplitude values were recorded. Persistent changes were correlated with postoperative neurologic findings. Results. Sixty-five patients, 15 to 77 years old, were studied. Six patients (9.2%) developed SSEP amplitude changes after positioning (average amplitude decrease 72.8%). One patient had a significant latency increase. The sensitivity of SSEP for detection of injury was 57%, while specificity was 94.7%. The average body mass index (BMI) of patients with normal and abnormal SSEPs was 28.7 6 5.6 versus 29.2 6 8.0, respectively. Average BMI of patients with postoperative symptoms regardless of SSEP findings was 33.8 6 4.3. Two patients who had persistent SSEP changes after positioning had BMIs of 40.1 and 31.2 kg/m2, respectively. Improvement in neurologic findings occurred in all patients after surgery. Conclusions. This study demonstrates that upper extremity nerve stress can be detected in real time using SSEP and may be of value in protecting patients from nerve injury undergoing lateral skull base surgery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)168-173
Number of pages6
JournalOtolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery (United States)
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Brachial plexus
  • Injury
  • SSEP monitoring
  • Skull base surgery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Otorhinolaryngology


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