What are the clinical uses of somatosensory evoked potentials (SEPs)?

Updated: Aug 20, 2019
  • Author: Jasvinder Chawla, MD, MBA; Chief Editor: Selim R Benbadis, MD  more...
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Clinical uses of SEPs include the following:

  • Evaluation of the peripheral nervous system and the large-fiber sensory tracts in the CNS

  • Localization of the anatomic site of somatosensory pathway lesions

  • Identification of impaired conduction caused by axonal loss or demyelination

  • Confirmation of a nonorganic cause of sensory loss

Although SEP findings are not disease specific, they can confirm afferent conduction impairment associated with certain disorders.

Other disorders

SEPs have been used to confirm the presence of normal conduction pathways in patients with conversion disorder, malingering, or other psychological disturbances. Findings must be interpreted carefully, because normal SEPs can be seen in patients with organic sensory loss. For example, some patients with pure sensory strokes due to lacunar infarcts may have normal SEPs.

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