Influence of electrode impedance on threshold voltage for transcranial electrical stimulation in motor evoked potential monitoring

H.L. Journee, H.E. Polak, M. de Kleuver

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Motor potentials evoked by transcranial electrical stimulation (TES) are used for monitoring the motor pathways, with emphasis on the spinal cord and brainstem. The stimulus voltage threshold is the voltage below which no motor response can be elicited. It has frequently been used as a monitoring parameter. However, its value can be limited, because it is affected by the impedance of the stimulus electrode. For example, the voltage threshold can change owing to formation of oedema of the scalp. The relationship between the TES voltage threshold and the electrode impedance of different electrode types was studied and discussed in the context of neuromonitoring: 323 impedance and voltage threshold pairs were studied, and TES was performed with disc cup EEG electrodes (six), corkscrew electrodes (type I: seven, type II: eight), multiple EEG needle electrodes (16) and a large needle electrode Cz′ (anode) together with a ground strip over the forehead (cathode) (286). The study found the voltage threshold to be strongly dependent on electrode impedance when the impedance was higher than 460Ω (correlation: R2= 0.87; p <0.001). Below 460Ω, which included 91% of the category with the largest electrode surfaces, 25% of the multiple EEG electrodes and 75% of type II corkscrew electrodes, no significant correlation (R2= 0.0064; p = 0. 15) was found. It was concluded that the correlation between the TES voltage threshold and electrode impedance can be markedly reduced by using TES electrodes with large contact surfaces, resulting in limit values for these parameters . This also may improve the reliability of TES motor evoked potential monitoring. © IFMBE: 2004.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)557-561
Number of pages5
JournalMedical and Biological Engineering and Computing
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jul-2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Brain
  • Impedance
  • Motor evoked potentials
  • Safety
  • Threshold monitoring
  • Transcranial electrical stimulation

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