EMG “A-train” activity correlates with postoperative facial palsy after vestibular schwannoma surgery. An Intermediate nerve separate from the facial nerve increases A-trains without significant impact on function. Rampp et al., investigated the occurrence of A-train “clusters”, A-trains over a majority of channels within a short time frame.
Data from 217 patients with first surgery for vestibular schwannoma (VS) were evaluated retrospectively. Continuous EMG recorded with 9 channels was evaluated for A-train patterns. “Clusters” of A-trains were identified, i.e. A-trains within 3 seconds over a majority of channels. Relation to a separate intermedius, tumor size and facial palsy was evaluated.
Correlations between A-trains and postoperative facial palsy were higher in patients without separate intermedius (r = 0.562 versus r = 0.194). Clusters were identified in 107 patients (49.3%), separate intermedius in 109 (50.2%), with significant association of both (p < 0.001, Chi-Square test). Excluding clusters slightly increased correlation of A-trains to facial nerve function.
A-train clusters have limited relevance for predicting postoperative paresis. However, they should be regarded as warning signs, suggesting the presence of a separate intermedius nerve.