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Localisation of the sensorimotor cortex during surgery for brain tumours: feasibility and waveform patterns of somatosensory evoked potentials
  1. J Romstöck,
  2. R Fahlbusch,
  3. O Ganslandt,
  4. C Nimsky,
  5. C Strauss
  1. Department of Neurosurgery, University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Erlangen, Germany
  1. Correspondence to:
    Dr J Romstöck, Department of Neurosurgery, University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Schwabachanlage 6, D-91054 Erlangen, Germany;


Objective: Intraoperative localisation of the sensorimotor cortex using the phase reversal of somatosensory evoked potentials (SEPs) is an essential tool for surgery in and around the perirolandic gyri, but unsuccessful and perplexing results have been reported. This study examines the effect of tumour masses on the waveform characteristics and feasibility of SEP compared with functional neuronavigation and electrical motor cortex mapping.

Methods: In 230 patients with tumours of the sensorimotor region the SEP phase reversal of N20-P20 was recorded from the exposed cortex using a subdural grid or strip electrode. In one subgroup of 80 patients functional neuronavigation was performed with motor and sensory magnetic source imaging and in one subgroup of 40 patients the motor cortex hand area was localised by electrical stimulation mapping.

Results: The intraoperative SEP method was successful in 92% of all patients, it could be shown that the success rate rather depended on the location of the lesion than on preoperative neurological deficits. In 13% of the patients with postcentral tumours no N20-P20 phase reversal was recorded but characteristic polyphasic and high amplitude waves at 25 ms and later made the identification of the postcentral gyrus possible nevertheless. Electrical mapping of the motor cortex took up to 30 minutes until a clear result was obtained. It was successful in 37 patients, but failed in three patients with precentral and central lesions. Functional neuronavigation indicating the tumour margins and the motor and sensory evoked fields was possible in all patients.

Conclusion: The SEP phase reversal of N20-P20 is a simple and reliable technique, but the success rate is much lower in large central and postcentral tumours. With the use of polyphasic late waveforms the sensorimotor cortex may be localised. By contrast with motor electrical mapping it is less time consuming. Functional neuronavigation is a desirable tool for both preoperative surgical planning and intraoperative use during surgery on perirolandic tumours, but compensation for brain shift, accuracy, and cost effectiveness are still a matter for discussion.

  • sensorimotor cortex tumours
  • functional localisation
  • somatosensory evoked potential
  • waveform patterns
  • SEP, somatosensory evoked potential
  • MSI, magnetic source imaging
  • CS, central sulcus
  • MEF, motor evoked magnetic field

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