Influence of propofol concentrations on multipulse transcranial motor evoked potentials

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Motor evoked potentials can be affected by propofol anaesthesia. We studied how increasing target concentrations of propofol altered transcranial motor evoked potentials (tcMEP) during scoliosis surgery.


Fifteen patients undergoing surgery for scoliosis were anaesthetized with remifentanil and propofol without nitrous oxide or neuromuscular blocking agents (BIS<60). tcMEP were elicited by transcranial electric multipulse stimulation of the motor cortex and recording of compound action potentials from the anterior tibialis muscle. tcMEP were obtained before surgery with propofol target values set from 4 to 8 mg litre–1, and then during surgery. Arterial propofol concentrations were measured for each tcMEP recording.


Before surgery, increasing propofol reduced tcMEP amplitude in a dose-dependent manner, with no effect on latency. During surgery, at equivalent propofol concentrations, tcMEP were not statistically different from those obtained before surgery. In all except one patient, tcMEP signals were present during the entire procedure. In this patient the loss of tcMEP was unfortunately related to an anterior spinal cord lesion, which was confirmed by a wake-up test.


We found that, although propofol had a dose-dependent effect on tcMEP amplitude, anaesthesia could be maintained with remifentanil and propofol to allow recording and interpretation of tcMEP signals.

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