Francisco Revilla-Pacheco, Shoko Watanabe, Joel Rodríguez-Reyes, Claudia Sánchez-Torres, Paul Shkurovich-Bialik, Tenoch Herrada-Pineda, Pamela Rodríguez-Salgado, Juvenal Franco-Granillo, Martín Calderón-Juárez

July 2022, pp 1 - 10 Review Article Read Full Article 10.1007/s00586-022-07297-6

First Online: 06 July 2022


We show a systematic review of known complications during intraoperative neuromonitoring (IONM) using transcranial electric stimulation motor evoked potentials (TES-MEP) on cervical spine surgery, which provides a summary of the main findings. A rare complication during this procedure, cardiac arrest by cardioinhibitory reflex, is also described.


Findings of 523 scientific papers published from 1995 onwards were reviewed in the following databases: CENTRAL, Cochrane Library, Embase, Google Scholar, Ovid, LILACS, PubMed, and Web of Science. This study evaluated only complications on cervical spine surgery undergoing TES-MEP IONM.


The review of the literature yielded 13 studies on the complications of TES-MEP IONM, from which three were excluded. Five studies are case series; the rest are case reports. Overall, 169 complications on 167 patients were reported in a total of 38,915 patients, a global prevalence of 0.43%. The most common complication was tongue-bite in 129 cases, (76.3% of all complication events). Tongue-bite had a prevalence of 0.33% (CI 95%, 0.28–0.39%) in all patients on TES-MEP IONM. A relatively low prevalence of severe complications was found: cardiac-arrhythmia, bradycardia and seizure, the prevalence of this complications represents only one case in all the sample. Alongside, we report the occurrence of cardiac arrest attributable to TES-MEP IONM.


This systematic review shows that TES-MEP is a safe procedure with a very low prevalence of complications. To our best knowledge, asystole is reported for the first time as a complication during TES-MEP IONM.

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