Mechanisms of intraoperative brainstem auditory evoked potential changes

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104 Scopus citations


Brainstem auditory evoked potential (BAEP) changes during intraoperative monitoring may reflect damage to or potentially reversible dysfunction of the ear, the eighth nerve, or the brainstem auditory pathways up to the level of the mesencephalon. They may also be caused by other physiologic mechanisms such as anesthesia, hypothermia, and acoustic masking from drilling noise, or they may result from technical factors that prevent proper stimulus delivery or recording of an evoked potential that is actually present. Cochlear ischemia or infarction resulting from compromise of the internal auditory artery and inner ear damage during temporal bone drilling will affect all BAEP components, including wave I. Direct mechanical or thermal trauma to the eighth nerve will delay, attenuate, and possibly eliminate waves III and V, but wave I, which is generated at the cochlear end of the eighth nerve, may be preserved. During scraping of tumor off the eighth nerve, force applied in an ear-toward-brainstem direction can avulse the fragile fibers of the distal eighth nerve at the area cribrosa. Prolonging the I-to-III interpeak interval during retraction of the cerebellum and brainstem reflects stretching of the eighth nerve, and is often reversible. Vasospasm within the eighth nerve can cause similar, potentially reversible BAEP changes. Damage to the brainstem auditory pathways at or below the level of the mesencephalon will delay and attenuate or eliminate wave V. Wave III is affected similarly if the damage is at or caudal to the region of the superior olivary complex. These BAEP changes may reflect direct mechanical or thermal damage to the brainstem, brainstem compression, or ischemia or infarction resulting from vascular compromise. During BAEP monitoring, examination of the pattern of BAEP changes, analysis of their correlation with surgical maneuvers, and investigation for possible contributory technical factors can help to determine the cause of the BAEP changes and provide the appropriate information to the rest of the surgical team.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)396-408
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Clinical Neurophysiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jan 1 2002


  • BAEPs
  • BAEPs, brainstem auditory evoked potentials
  • Brainstem auditory pathways
  • CAP, compound action potential
  • Cochlea
  • ECochG, electrocochleogram
  • Eighth nerve
  • INM
  • Intraoperative monitoring
  • Signal change mechanisms

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Physiology (medical)


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