TcMEP threshold change is superior to A-train detection when predicting facial nerve outcome in CPA tumour surgery

T. Hendriks, H.P.M. Kunst, M. Huppelschoten, J. Doorduin, M. Ter Laan*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Object Surgery of tumours in the cerebellopontine angle (CPA) can lead to loss of facial nerve function. Different methods of intra-operative nerve monitoring (IOM) (including free-running EMG, direct nerve stimulation and transcranial motor evoked potentials (TcMEP)) have been used to predict facial nerve outcome during surgery. Recent research has shown TcMEP threshold increase and the occurrence of A-trains on the EMG to have great potential in doing so. This study compares these two methods and correlates them to House-Brackmann (HB) scores post-op in patients with tumours in the cerebellopontine angle. Method Forty-three patients (one was operated twice) with large CPA tumours treated surgically in the Radboud University Medical Center between 2015 and 2019 were included in this study. During surgery, TcMEP threshold increases and A-train activity were measured. Because our treatment paradigm aims at facial nerve preservation (accepting residual tumour), TcMEP threshold increase of over 20 mA or occurrence of A-trains were considered as warning signs and used as a guide for terminating surgery. HB scores were measured post-op, at 6 weeks, 6 months and 1 year after surgery. Spearman's correlation was calculated between the IOM-values and the HB scores for a homogeneous subgroup of 30 patients with vestibular schwannoma (VS) without neurofibromatosis type II (NF-II) and all patients collectively. Results TcMEP threshold was successfully measured in 39 (90.7%) procedures. In the homogeneous VS non-NFII group, we found a statistically significant moderate-to-strong correlation between TcMEP threshold increase and House Brackmann score immediately post-op, at 6 weeks, 6 months and 1 year after surgery (Spearman's rho of 0.79 (p < 0.001), 0.74 (p < 0.001), 0.64 (p < 0.001) and 0.58 (p = 0.002), respectively). For A-trains, no correlation was found. Similar results were found when including all patients with CPA tumours. A threshold increase of < 20 mA was a predictor of good facial nerve outcome. Conclusion These results show that TcMEP threshold increases are strongly correlated to post-operative HB scores, while A-trains are not. This suggests TcMEP threshold increases can be a valuable predictor for facial nerve outcome in patients with large tumours when facial nerve preservation is prioritized over total resection. In this study, we found no use for A-trains to prevent facial nerve deficits.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1197-1203
Number of pages7
JournalActa Neurochirurgica
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2020


  • acoustic neuromas
  • cerebellopontine angle tumours
  • electromyography
  • facial nerve
  • intraoperative neuromonitoring
  • motor evoked potentials
  • motor evoked-potentials
  • preservation
  • removal
  • resection
  • retrosigmoid approach
  • vestibular schwannoma surgery
  • Facial nerve
  • Intraoperative neuromonitoring
  • Motor evoked potentials
  • Electromyography
  • Cerebellopontine angle tumours

Cite this