Purpose of review
To summarize a consensus of European authorities about the applications of clinical neurophysiology in the ICU and, particularly, for a clinically useful management of individual patients.
Clinical neurophysiology is useful for diagnosis (epilepsy, brain death, and neuromuscular disorders), prognosis (anoxic ischemic encephalopathy, head trauma, and neurological disturbances of metabolic and toxic origin), and follow-up. The prognostic significance of each test varies as a function of coma etiology. A distinction should be made between tests whose abnormalities are indicative of a poor prognosis (bilateral absence of N20 in anoxic coma, abnormalities suggesting pontine involvement in head trauma) and those whose relative normalcy constitutes an argument for a good prognosis (integrity of brainstem conductions in head trauma, presence of cognitive evoked potentials – mismatch negativity, P300 – irrespective of coma etiology).
The highlights of the recent literature mainly concern continuous neuromonitoring for early detection of nonconvulsive seizures, both in adult and neonatal ICU, brain entry into the ischemic penumbra zone, and neuronal functional consequences of intracranial hypertension.
The domain of clinical neurophysiology is similar to that of clinical examination and complementary to that of imaging techniques. It substantially improves the individual management of ICU patients.