Monitoring Spinal Cord During Certain Surgeries May Prevent Complications

New guidelines say surgeons who spot problems early may be able to prevent them from getting worse

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MONDAY, Feb. 20 (HealthDay News) -- The spinal cord should be monitored during spinal surgery and certain chest surgeries -- such as procedures to repair narrowing of the walls of the aorta -- to help prevent paralysis or loss of muscle function, says an updated guideline from the American Academy of Neurology.

Continuous assessment of the spinal cord during surgery (intraoperative monitoring) can alert surgeons in time to find and correct problems before spinal cord damage occurs.

Monitoring detects small changes in nerve-signal transmission throughout the surgery.

"Paraparesis [partial paralysis of the legs], paraplegia and quadriplegia are potential serious complications of surgeries where the spinal cord is at risk," guideline lead author Dr. Marc Nuwer, of the University of California, Los Angeles, said in an academy news release.

"Monitoring can help prevent damage by identifying problems early enough to allow for interventions. If intraoperative monitoring raises warnings, surgeons and anesthesiologists can modify the surgery to reduce the risk of these complications," he noted.

The guidelines appear in the Feb. 21 issue of the Neurology and also in the Journal of Clinical Neurophysiology.

"The best way to treat paralysis is to prevent it in the first place. Spinal cord monitoring supervised by a neurologist can help meet this goal," Nuwer said.

More information

The North American Spine Society has more about spinal surgery.

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