"We want to make sure that all parts of the nervous system stay functioning," says Ingham Regional Medical Center neurophysiologist James Watt.
The nervous system includes the sensory and motor systems - the two parts that make up the spinal cord. During surgical procedures that involve portions of the neck, back, and carotid arteries, the Intraoperative Neuromonitoring System is crucial. And IRMC, it now has an in-house staff to operate it.
"It's a safety guard as we're working very close to the spinal cord to make sure there aren't any consequences we aren't aware of," says IRMC Orthopedic Surgeon Dr. Michael Winkelpleck.
"A patient could become paralyzed if there was a major complication. Some people may just have nerve injury or numbness or tingling to an extremity," explains neurophysiologist Laurie Braun.
The system works by monitoring the wave forms of specific muscles.
Watt says, "Every single nerve root that comes out of the spinal cord has corresponding muscles. So as long as we know the muscle is fine, we know the root is still intact and connected to the spinal cord."
With even just a small change in the monitoring wave forms neurophysiologists can tell if there's a problem.
"Depending on what type of activity that we see, we can let him know to stop what they're doing, be careful," he says.
"Before that the surgeons, hopefully everything went well during the surgery but they may not know until the patient wakes up," says Braun.
But now any complications are seen in real time.