Can triggered electromyograph thresholds predict safe thoracic pedicle screw placement?

Barry L. Raynor, Lawrence G. Lenke, Yongjung Kim, Darrell S. Hanson, Tracy J. Wilson-Holden, Keith H. Bridwell, Anne M. Padberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

116 Scopus citations


Study Design. A prospective clinical study of thoracic pedicle screws monitored with triggered electromyographic testing. Objective. To evaluate the sensitivity of recording rectus abdominis triggered electromyographs to assess thoracic screw placement. Summary of Background Data. Triggered electromyographic testing from lower extremity myotomes has identified medially placed lumbar pedicle screws. Higher thresholds indicate intraosseous placement because of increased resistance to current flow. Lower thresholds correspond to compromised pedicles with potential for nerve impingement. No clinical study has correlated an identical technique with rectus muscle recordings, which are innervated from T6 to T12. Methods. A total of 677 thoracic screws were placed in 92 consecutive patients. Screws placed from T6 and T12 were evaluated using an ascending method of stimulation until a compound muscle action potential was obtained from the rectus abdominis. Threshold values were compared both in absolute terms and also in relation to other intrapatient values. Results. Screws were separated into three groups Group A (n = 650 screws) had thresholds >6.0 mA and intraosseus placement. Group B (n = 21) had thresholds <6.0 mA but an intact medial pedicle border on reexamination and radiographic confirmation. Group C (n = 6) had thresholds <6.0 and medial wall perforations confirmed by tactile and/or visual inspection. Thus, 3.9% (27 of 677) of all screws had thresholds <6.0 mA. Only 22% (6 of 27) had medial perforation. Group B screws averaged a 54% decrease from the mean as compared with a 69% decrease for Group C screws (P = 0.0160). There were no postoperative neurologic deficits or radicular chest wall complaints. Conclusion. To assess thoracic pedicle screw placement, triggered electromyographic thresholds <6.0 mA, coupled with values 60-65% decreased from the mean of all other thresholds in a given patient, should alert the surgeon to suspect a medial pedicle wall breach.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2030-2035
Number of pages6
Issue number18
StatePublished - Sep 15 2002


  • Nerve monitoring
  • Rectus abdominis
  • Spinal cord
  • Thoracic pedicle screws
  • Triggered EMGs


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