What are somatosensory evoked potentials? Will those be used during my upcoming surgery?

Somatosensory evoked potentials are brain waves that are used during surgery to assess the function of a patient’s spinal cord during surgery. Somatosensory evoked potentials (SSEPs) can be valuable in alerting the surgeon to any problems with a patient’s spinal cord before it becomes too late.

SSEP tests measure the electrical activity of the brain that results from the stimulation of touch. SSEPs are recorded by stimulating peripheral nerves, such as the ulnar nerve, the median nerve, or the tibial nerve, often with an electrical stimulus. The patient’s response is then recorded from the patient’s scalp. Those responses can provide, among other things, evidence of abnormality during surgery, signs of any lesions, and general evidence about the patient’s brain and spinal cord.

SSEP tests may be used during your surgery. You should ask your surgeon to find out exactly what is done, but generally, SSEP tests are one form of intraoperative neurophysiological monitoring. IONM are a category of techniques used during surgery that monitors brain and nervous system activity to determine if a surgery is going well.

If you have an upcoming surgery that will use an SSEP test, speak with your doctor about it. In general, SSEP tests, as well as other forms of IONM, are very safe, and can help prevent damage before it occurs. However, as with any medical procedure, in some situations IONM may not be performed correctly, and harm can result.

Call me, Conal Doyle, IONM attorney, if you have had a surgery that was monitored with SSEP tests or IONM go badly. You may be entitled to damages for medical malpractice. Call today to learn more or to schedule a free consultation on your case. My team can be reached at 310-385-0567.