BACKGROUND: The bilateral absence of the cortical N20 median-nerve somatosensory evoked potential (SSEP) is a strong predictor of poor outcome from coma. However, when N20s are present, accurate prognostication is challenging. Here, we investigated the potential for later SSEP components to help disambiguate outcome in these cases.
METHODS: In a retrospective review of data from two intensive care units, the amplitudes and latencies of the N20, P25, and N35 components of 28 patients in coma were quantified and related to outcome at discharge from primary care (average 1-month post-injury). Only patients who had survived primary care were included in order to avoid self-fulfilling prophecies, and to focus outcome prediction on those patients with relatively present SSEPs.
RESULTS: The amplitudes of the N20 and N35 components (averaged across hemispheres) significantly predicted the range of outcomes beyond death. Abnormal amplitudes of the N20 and N35--as derived from a healthy control group--were significantly associated with poor outcome. The relative latencies of the cortical components were not related to outcome.
CONCLUSIONS: While it is well documented that absent SSEPs are highly predictive of poor outcome, the current data indicate that the relative preservation (absolute amplitude) of "present" N20 and N35 SSEP components can also provide predictive value and thereby inform clinicians and families with decision-making in coma. Further prospective study will elucidate the relative contributions of etiology to the predictive power of these SSEP measures.
- Evoked Potentials, Somatosensory
- Median Nerve
- Middle Aged
- Retrospective Studies
- Young Adult
- Somatosensory evoked potentials