The prognostic value of somatosensory evoked potentials in children after cardiac arrest: the SEPIA Study

William McDevitt*, Tracey A. Rowberry, Paul Davies, Peter R. Bill, Lesley M. Notghi, Kevin Morris, Barney Scholefield

*Corresponding author for this work

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Purpose: Absent cortical somatosensory evoked potentials (SSEPs) reliably predict poor neurologic outcome in adults after cardiac arrest (CA). However, there is less evidence to support this in children. In addition, targeted temperature management, test timing, and a lack of blinding may affect test accuracy.

Methods: A single-center, prospective cohort study of pediatric (aged 24 hours to 15 years) patients in which prognostic value of SSEPs were assessed 24, 48, and 72 hours after CA. Targeted temperature management (33–34°C for 24 hours) followed by gradual rewarming to 37°C was used. Somatosensory evoked potentials were graded as present, absent, or indeterminate, and results were blinded to clinicians. Neurologic outcome was graded as “good” (score 1–3) or “poor” (4–6) using the Pediatric Cerebral Performance Category scale 30 days after CA and blinded to SSEP interpreter.

Results: Twelve patients (median age, 12 months; interquartile range, 2–150; 92% male) had SSEPs interpreted as absent (6/12) or present (6/12) <72 hours after CA. Outcome was good in 7 of 12 patients (58%) and poor in 5 of 12 patients (42%). Absent SSEPs predicted poor outcome with 88% specificity (95% confidence interval, 53% to 98%). One patient with an absent SSEP had good outcome (Pediatric Cerebral Performance Category 3), and all patients with present SSEPs had good outcome (specificity 100%; 95% confidence interval, 51% to 100%). Absence or presence of SSEP was consistent across 24-hour (temperature = 34°C), 48-hour (t = 36°C), and 72-hour (t = 36°C) recordings after CA.

Conclusions: Results support SSEP utility when predicting favorable outcome; however, predictions resulting in withdrawal of life support should be made with caution and never in isolation because in this very small sample there was a false prediction of unfavorable outcome. Further prospective, blinded studies are needed and encouraged.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)30-35
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Clinical Neurophysiology
Issue number1
Early online date4 Nov 2019
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021


  • Somatosensory evoked potential
  • Targeted temperature management
  • Prognosis
  • Pediatrics
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Hypoxic ischemic injury


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