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Intra-operative monitoring of the spinal accessory nerve: a systematic review

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  29 August 2014

A C McGarvey*
Physiotherapy Department, Calvary Mater Newcastle Hospital, NSW, Australia School of Health Sciences, Faculty of Health, University of Newcastle, Callaghan, Australia
G R Hoffman
School of Medicine and Public Health, Faculty of Health, University of Newcastle, Callaghan, Australia Department of Surgery, John Hunter Hospital, New Lambton, NSW, Australia
P G Osmotherly
School of Health Sciences, Faculty of Health, University of Newcastle, Callaghan, Australia
P E Chiarelli
School of Health Sciences, Faculty of Health, University of Newcastle, Callaghan, Australia
Address for correspondence: Aoife C McGarvey, Physiotherapy department, Calvary Mater Newcastle Hospital, Edith St, Waratah, NSW 2298, Australia E-mail:



To investigate evidence that intra-operative nerve monitoring of the spinal accessory nerve affects the prevalence of post-operative shoulder morbidity and predicts functional outcome.


A search of the Medline, Scopus and Cochrane databases from 1995 to October 2012 was undertaken, using the search terms ‘monitoring, intra-operative’ and ‘accessory nerve’. Articles were included if they pertained to intra-operative accessory nerve monitoring undertaken during neck dissection surgery and included a functional shoulder outcome measure. Further relevant articles were obtained by screening the reference lists of retrieved articles.


Only three articles met the inclusion criteria of the review. Two of these included studies suggesting that intra-operative nerve monitoring shows greater specificity than sensitivity in predicting post-operative shoulder dysfunction. Only one study, with a small sample size, assessed intra-operative nerve monitoring in neck dissection patients.


It is unclear whether intra-operative nerve monitoring is a useful tool for reducing the prevalence of accessory nerve injury and predicting post-operative functional shoulder outcome in patients undergoing neck dissection. Larger, randomised studies are required to determine whether such monitoring is a valuable surgical adjunct.

Review Article
Copyright © JLO (1984) Limited 2014 

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