How does normal aging affect the results of somatosensory evoked potential (SEP) testing in children?

Updated: Oct 25, 2019
  • Author: Andrew B Evans, MD; Chief Editor: Selim R Benbadis, MD  more...
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Myelination occurs earlier in the peripheral nerves than in the central pathways. Consequently, changes are noted in SEPs seen as children mature. These changes are seen in the latency and morphology of waveforms. As with peripheral nerve conduction studies, the conduction velocities are decreased and do not reach adult values until age 3-4 years for peroneal nerve stimulation.

With respect to the SEP waveforms, the mean Erb point latency will not change with maturation. Central conduction times are increased in infants and decrease as individuals mature. The morphology is comparable to that of cortical waveforms, which are broader in the young and decrease with age.

Finally, it is important to understand when SEPs can be reliably recorded in infants. The tibial SEP is absent in patients younger than 31 weeks’ gestational age but is present in 50% of newborns. The median nerve SEP is reported to be present in 66-85% of term infants. Therefore, if the SEP is abnormal, serial SEPs would be warranted because of the variable presence of the response in this group. [83]

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