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Neuroanatomic Substrates of Lower Extremity Somatosensory Evoked Potentials

Yamada, Thoru

Journal of Clinical Neurophysiology: May 2000 - Volume 17 - Issue 3 - p 269-279
Review Articles

Summary After stimulation of the lower extremity nerve (tibial nerve), N21 and N23 are recorded from L4 and T12 spine respectively. The far-field potentials of P31 and N35 are registered from Fpz-C5s (fifth cervical spine) or CPi (ipsilateral with respect to the side of stimulation)—ear derivation. Additional far-field potentials of P17 and P24 may be recorded from the scalp when a noncephalic (knee) reference is used. The major positive peak, P40, is registered at the vertex and the CPi. Preceding P40, there is a small negative peak, N37, recorded at the contralateral (CPc) hemisphere. Neuroanatomic substrates of these somatosensory evoked potential (SSEP) components are less well clarified compared with those of upper extremity (median nerve) SSEPs, primarily because clinical application of lower extremity SSEPs is more difficult, and all of the aforementioned potentials but one (P40) are not obligatory components. The concept of “paradoxical lateralization” complicates the issue further. Accumulating evidence, however, suggests that the far-field potentials of P17 and P31 arise from the distal portion of the sacral plexus and brainstem respectively. These correspond to P9 and P14 of the median nerve SSEPs respectively. The spinal potential of N23 is equivalent to the N13 cervical potential of the median nerve SSEP. N35 recorded from the ipsilateral hemisphere is analogous to N18 of the median nerve. Paradoxically lateralized P40 has been thought to represent the positive end of a dipole field, reflected by the negativity at the mesial surface of the contralateral hemisphere, and has commonly been considered to be equivalent to the first cortical potentials (N20) of the median nerve SSEP. However, more recent evidence suggests that the primary positivity is at the mesial cortical surface, and it more likely corresponds to P26 of the median nerve SSEP. Thus the first cortical potential corresponding to N20 is probably a small and inconsistent N37 recorded on the contralateral hemisphere. These assumptions need to be verified further by more extensive clinical studies applied to various neurologic disorders.

Division of Clinical Electrophysiology, Department of Neurology, University of Iowa, College of Medicine, Iowa City, Iowa, U.S.A.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Dr. Thoru Yamada, Division of Clinical Electrophysiology, Department of Neurology, University of Iowa, College of Medicine, Iowa City, IA 52242.

Copyright © 2000 American Clinical Neurophysiology Society