Background Electroencephalogram (EEG)-based depth of anaesthesia monitoring is susceptible to contaminating electromyographic (EMG) activity. Many authorities have suggested that anaesthesiologists using these monitors should interpret the raw EEG waveform seen on the anaesthesia monitor. Methods In 34 patients anaesthetized with propofol using two doses of rocuronium (0.6 and 1.2 mg/kg), we studied whether the EMG arousal can be detected visually on the anaesthesia monitor. The Bispectral Index (BIS) and Entropy biosignals on the monitor were recorded with a video camera, and the one-channel EEG recorded by the Entropy strip was collected on a laptop computer. The recordings and the one-channel EEG were analyzed offline by two experts (anaesthesiologist and neurophysiologist), both with a long experience on anaesthesia-related EEG. Results EMG arousal existed in 14/34 and 13/33 patients in the BIS and Entropy biosignals, respectively. The anaesthesiologist detected EMG on the monitor in 7/14 patients with BIS (sensitivity 50%) and in 4/13 patients with Entropy (31%). The clinical neurophysiologist detected EMG in 6/14 (43%) patients with BIS and in 5/13 (38%) with Entropy. The specificity of the EMG analyses was 55 and 65% with BIS, and 85 and 90% with Entropy. EMG arousal was detected in BIS biosignal in 10/17 and 4/17 patients with 0.6 and 1.2 mg/kg doses of rocuronium (P = 0.04). Conclusions In contrast to many EEG phenomena, EMG activity cannot be accurately detected visually from the raw EEG on the anaesthesia monitor. Further development in the quality of the anaesthesia monitors is warranted.
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