Safe Electromyography Stimulation Thresholds Within Kambin’s Triangle During Endoscopic Transforaminal Lumbar Interbody Fusion

Neurosurgery 91:150–158, 2022

Transforaminal endoscopic approaches through Kambin’s triangle traditionally require surgery to be performed without general anesthesia to allow live patient feedback. No reliable intraoperative neuromonitoring method specific to the dorsal root ganglion (DRG), the structure most at risk during this approach, currently exists.

OBJECTIVE: To correlate evoked electromyography (EMG) thresholds within Kambin’s triangle with new postoperative pain or sensorimotor symptoms potentially resulting from DRG irritation.

METHODS: Data were prospectively collected for all patients undergoing endoscopic transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion (TLIF) under general anesthesia at a single institution. A stimulation probe was inserted into Kambin’s triangle under fluoroscopic and robotic guidance, before passage of endoscopic instruments. EMG thresholds required to elicit corresponding myotomal responses were measured. Postoperatively, any potential manifestations of DRG irritation were recorded.

RESULTS: Twenty-four patients underwent a total of 34 transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion levels during the study period, with symptoms of potential DRG irritation occurring in 5. The incidence of new onset symptoms increased with lower stimulation thresholds. Sensitivities for EMG thresholds of ≤4, ≤8, and ≤11 mA were 0.6, 0.8, and 1, respectively. Corresponding specificities were 0.90, 0.69, and 0.55, respectively.

CONCLUSION: We demonstrated for the first time the feasibility of direct intraoperative neuromonitoring within Kambin’s triangle in transforaminal endoscopic surgery. Eight milliampere seems to be a reasonable compromise between sensitivity and specificity for this monitoring technique. In the future, larger-scale studies are required to refine safe stimulation thresholds.