Books, Brains, Bach, and Broccoli

March 19, 2013 EDT at 9:16 pm

Leipzig bannerI was fortunate to be able to attend the 7th Leipzig Practical Course on Neuro-


The Kosmos

monitoring in Leipzig, Germany March 13-16.  Leaving good weather in Philly, I arrived in Frankfurt with piles of snow and hundreds sleeping on cots in the airport from cancelled flights the night before. Even the normally punctual German trains were delayed on the way to Leipzig.  But once I got there the next few days were educational and fun.

Leipzig is known for books and Bach.  The Leipzig Book Fair was going on in parallel making hotels hard to come by.  This Fair is a massive event for publishers, writers, readers, and publications and builds upon Leipzig’s centuries-old history in publishing.

Rudi and Wine

Rudi and wine from the area around Inomed

 My trip happened on short notice and due to the Fair I didn’t have a hotel for the first night. I lucked out and found a room…the last one…in the Kosmos Hotel.  I like to stay in alternative places when possible as I see too many hotels where you know what your room looks like before you open the door.  The Kosmos was very much alternative; a bed, a chair, a bathroom in the hall…and that’s about it.  But that’s all I needed as I was out “paying homage to Bach” for much of the evening with Rudi Matmueller the founder of Inomed and Michael Malcharek who was running the course.

Inomed is a pretty cool German company that makes intraoperative monitoring equipment.  They aren’t in the U.S. yet, but look for them soon.



Leipzig is the home of Bach and I found a few hours to tour the Bach Museum.  Though small, it is very well done.  Once you go through it, you feel like you knew Bach and you knew the Leipzig he knew.  A highlight for me was the “orchestra wall” that lets you raise the volume of individual instruments of that era in a Bach orchestral piece so you can hear how it contributes to the overall sound.   I often think of multimodal neuromonitoring as an orchestra score for the brain.   Several instruments from Bach’s time as well as some of his original musical scores are on display and you learn how they deciphered who wrote what due to the inks and writing styles.  This museum is in contrast to the Haus Der Musik  in Vienna that I toured a few years ago.  Most musicians of these times eventually lived in Vienna so that museum is larger and covers the works of many musicians.


Michael Malcharek and Maja Rojic

Back to the reason I was there…the Leipzig meeting is one of the few focusing on neuromonitoring and was first organized by Dr. Michael Malcharek, a neuro- anesthesiologist in Leipzig.  He has had encouragement and support from colleagues and vendors including Rudi Matmueller, the president of Inomed.

The meeting covered the use of raw and processed EEG, evoked potentials during surgery, and intensive care monitoring.  As the name implies it is a very practical course providing hands-on experience using the monitoring modalities (furnished by various vendors) as well as a visit to an OR where monitoring is taking place.  I gave a workshop on multimodal neuromonitoring in the ICU and enjoyed many discussions with attendees during the frequent social functions.


Michael Dinkel


Gerhard Schneider

 I ran into friends I hadn’t seen in a while like Michael Dinkel who has been recording intraoperative evoked potentials for most of his career.  I also ran into Gerhard Schneider who I knew when he was “just a kid” running around the ORs in Munich with Professor Kochs.  Drs. Schneider, Malcharek, Dinkel and a few others have helped to maintain a focus on neuromonitoring at a national level in Germany in a time when other topics are getting the spotlight.

 My career has kept me focused on critical care for the past decade and a lot has developed in intraoperative monitoring that has passed me by.  This course provided a glimpse of some of the new techniques.  In an evening symposium Maja Rogic talked about  some fascinating work on recording motor evoked potentials from the cricothyroid muscles in order to better map the speech areas of the brain .  She did some of this work with Vedran Deletis, an old friend of mine who I hoped would be there.   They stick recording needles into the cricothyroid muscles through the skin. Ouch.  Then they stimulate transcranially (C3-Cz, see A below) to elicit a response.  The interesting thing is that you can’t get a motor evoked potential from a single stimulation in anesthetized patients like you can in awake patients.

cricothyroid recording - small

To elicit MEPs, a short train of stimuli must be used to build up an excitatory postsynaptic potential and reach a firing threshold of the target motoneurons. The diagram below shows the path of the stimulation from the primary motor cortex, down the corticobulbar pathways, vagal nucleus, vagal nerve, and superior laryngeal nerve to the cricothyroid muscles. The response is shown as the superposition of four single MEPs from cricothyroid muscle.

So where does broccoli (from the title) fit in?  Maja has also been working on food recognition…something I have no trouble with. She did some interesting experiments in this area and presented the work for the first time at this symposium.  But since it’s so new, she asked that I not include it in this blog until the publication is accepted.  So you have to wait for the broccoli.

Sun, Fun, and EEG – ACNS 2013

February 15, 2013 EDT at 12:19 pm


ACNS logoSunny Miami was the location of the annual meeting of the American Clinical Neurophysiology Society (ACNS), Feburary 5-10.  The heater in my house (in Philadelphia) broke a month before the meeting so the 80 degree warmth made this meeting even more enjoyable. And many attendees from New England were in Miami as their houses were getting buried by the blizzard that weekend. Just before landing in Miami I looked out the window of the plane and saw the house where I grew up (see photo).  It’s still there in Hollywood Beach…but now surrounded by towering condos.  So this meeting was coming home for me.

House with arrow

Hollywood Beach – Arrow is where I grew up

I hadn’t been to the ACNS meeting in several years and this one was very refreshing. I remember the days, not so long ago, when you had to drag EEG folks kicking and screaming to get them to look at any kind of processed EEG.  The argument was always that you would miss events.  But in anesthesia and critical care back then, we were hearing “Wow, look what I can see.”  So it was heartening at this meeting to see the wholesale adoption of processed EEG by the main EEG society in the U.S.  Their justification is that continuous EEG is warranted in many ICU patients but the manpower to read all the EEGs is lacking (and the quality of life of the readers is decreasing according to Dr. LaRoche). So processed EEG is being proposed as a fast screening method but coupled with detailed reading of selected periods of raw EEG. This makes sense.  And according to Cecil Hahn (Sick Kids) 30% of ICU EEG folks already use quantitative EEG in their practice.

Leggatt and Bej

Drs. Bej and Legatt at Mango’s 


At this year’s meeting there was quite a focus on neuromonitoring in the ICU, both adult and neonatal.  The day-long ICU Course on Thursday was standing room only with about 150 attendees.  The Presidential Lecture by Dr. Susan Herman was on continuous EEG in the ICU.  There was a session on quantitative EEG in neurocritical care and a special interest group meeting on ICU EEG Monitoring.  And at the end of the meeting, with still a good-sized audience, there was a symposium on continuous EEG monitoring in neonates.


Discussing whether seizures really exist with Dr. Gotman

Starting out the ICU course, Dr. Heman said it seemed at times like the only criteria for continuous EEG (cEEG) monitoring in the ICU was that the patient had a head.  She urged more thought be put into criteria for monitoring so that the limited resources could be provided to the most critical patients.  In a subsequent talk, she said we should focus more on whether seizures are causing other problems (such as what can be see with other monitoring modalities and imaging) and not just that there are seizures.

Dr. Wustoff (Stanford) noted a good use of cEEG is for observing sleep/wake cycles in neonates which are very useful in outcome prognostication. Dr. LaRoche talked about the “gray area” in determining seizure from non-seizure and to think of this a more of an ictal-interictal continuum.  She also mentioned the importance of the clinical history, imaging, and simultaneous metabolic events that can be seen with multimodal monitoring.

EEG interpretation suffers from the same subjective interpretation pervasive in many areas of medicine.  You ask five neurologists to read an EEG and you get six interpretations.  To counter this, and to address the different nature of EEG in critical care, a standardized terminology for ICU EEG was developed.  The work started in 2005 and was endorsed by the ACNS in 2012. Larry Hirsch described the 7-year effort to develop the terminology.  The terminology is very much needed in order to gain consistency in describing ICU EEG.  But a question from the audience was quite telling:  Do we now have to write two reports:  one with the new terminology, and one that all of us can understand (based on our past training)?   This is expected when terminology changes.

Beach Pic

Drs. Wustoff, Shellhaas, Tsuchida on the Beach

The neonatal session at the end of the meeting covered progress in developing a standardized terminology for neonates similar to that for adults.  Drs. Wustoff (Stanford), Shellhaas (U Michigan), and Tsuchida (Washington) along with Dr. Clancy (CHOP) presented this work.  I had the pleasure of heading to South Beach with the docs for lunch and some needed beach time before heading back north.

Suzette LaRoche (Emory) reported on the Critical Care EEG Monitoring Research Consortium (CCEMRC) Multicenter Database. The goal is to develop a standardized and an efficient means of data entry for clinical research. I’ll be reporting on the CCEMRC in an upcoming blog.

If you have an EEG showing a seizure and you want to get rid of it you can choose to consult a neurologist or an engineer.  The neurologist will give an anti-epileptic drug.  The engineer will run the EEG recording through software filtering to take out spikes and the rhythmicity.  Both approaches get rid of the seizure!  But the clinician gave the patient a toxic drug and the engineer didn’t touch the patient.  Who did the most good for the patient?  I kept thinking about this as I was hearing some of the presentations.  Nick Abend (CHOP) endorsed my feelings when he said whether seizures cause worse outcomes is still an open question…though recent work is starting to support that they do.


Chuck Yingling with Denise Bates

Though this blog doesn’t focus on intraoperative monitoring (there are other forums for this topic) it was good to see many of my friends working in this area such as Marc Nuwer, Alan Legatt, and Chuck Yingling.  I had the opportunity to head to Mangos on South Beach a few times with friends.  Though Mangos is a bit touristy and maybe a bit risqué for conservative folks, it is one of the best places to see the Latin culture in Miami.  The dancing up on the bar (a new set about every 15 minutes) is amazing.   I managed to take a few friends there over the course of the meeting.

I also had some time to visit nearby Haulover Beach.  It is one of the few official clothing optional beaches in the US and it’s always packed with people taking various degrees of that option.  I grew up just north of that beach and generally go there when European friends are visiting.  They are fine with it, but being a true American, I was taught it’s a sin to look at naked people, so I always wear eye patches…and sometimes I wear them on my eyes.

The next meeting of the ACNS is in Atlanta in February, 2014.

The German Brain: ANIM 2013

January 30, 2013 EDT at 4:55 pm

ANIMThe Neurocritical Care Society arranged a joint meeting with ANIM in Mannheim, January 23-27, 2013.  ANIM is the Arbeitstagung  NeuroIntensiv- und Notfallmedizin which is the Workgroup on Neurointensive and Emergency Medicine.


A few of the attendees at ANIM

There were two days with NCS sponsored sessions including two on neuroscience nursing.  ANIM was interesting and a lot of fun. It did not let me down in terms of seeing and leaning new stuff and it provided ample social opportunities to share a beer with old and new friends…my definition of an excellent meeting.


The nursing sessions brought together nurses from the US and Germany to discuss and compare nursing issues.  Each speaker in the morning session was balanced by one from the other country.  From the U.S. were Mary Kay Bader, Cindy Bautista, Susan Yeager, Karen March, DaWai Olson, Sarah Livesay, and Sheila Alexander.   Cindy gave a nice overview of neuromonitoring from Yale’s perspective.  I learned that Yale-New Haven is now the fourth largest medical complex in the US.  And DaiWai, to his credit, even made the German attendees laugh.  I attended most of these sessions as I firmly believe the future of neuromonitoring in critical care is going to be influenced significantly by neuroscience nurses.  I also attended their morning session because it had a great breakfast spread…and I was doing some “late night reporting” for this blog the night before and had to go from bed to lecture very quickly the morning of the symposium.



Dr. Werner Hacke listening to The Codes and Dynamite

Gene Sung (President of NCS) and Werner Hacke (Heidelberg) opened the joint meeting.  There were several topics related to neuromonitorng.  Peter LeRoux gave a nice overview of multimodal neuromonitoring. Jed Hartings talked about monitoring cortical spreading depressions and his COSBID research group.  Jan Claassens talked about the importance of monitoring EEG.

One of the highlights was Stephan Mayer’s talk on the Future of Neurocritical Care…”Where’s My Tricoder”.  He reviewed the specs for the Star Trek Tricoder, the gizmo that Dr. McCoy used to heal all illnesses in the TV series.  He reminded us that we already have amazing technology today such as the Hemedex CBF monitor, the Neuroptics pupillometer, microdialysis, Licox, and many other “futuristic” technologies.  Of course the part of his talk I liked best was when he asked who really invented the Tricoder.  His next slide was of me, our multimodal monitor, and scenes of the Burning Man art festival…and he claimed I invented it during one of my trips (no pun) to that alternative festival in the desert.  Well, of course I didn’t invent the Tricoder, but I did make a solar powered smoothie machine for Burning Man and made smoothies for those walking around in the desert looking at art.  I plan to make it controllable by EEG and have applied to DARPA for funding (the subject of a future post).

There were several neuromonitoring related posters.  Stephen Spainhour and DaWai Olson presented a poster showing how misleading manually recorded ICP values (as seen in the medical record) can be for research projects due to their irregularity and the fact that they may not reflect reality.  My guess is that this applies beyond research and for more than ICP.  Their work is enlightening and supports the rationale for connected devices and continuous data collection.

A neurocritical care meeting would not be complete without a performance by the Codes.  They were followed by Dynamite, rumored to be Dr. Hacke’s favorite band.  They were the awesome.

Social Activities

Underberg and Oliver

Dr.s Sakowitz and Unterberger

Neurosurgeon sandwich

I’ve always learned more outside of the lecture hall and this was true at ANIM.  Heidelberg was nearby and served as a focal point for entertainment. As many know, the castle in Heidelberg has the world’s largest wine barrel…….so we were off to a good start.  There was a tour of Heidelberg one evening for the nursing contingent.  One evening I ended up at a dinner with the speakers and organizers…obviously because of my press credentials for this blog.  It was in a typical quaint Heidelbergerish restaurant with long benches and tall glasses. It was hosted by Andreas Unterberg (head of neurosurgery at Heidelberg). I got to know Oliver Sakowitz, another neurosurgeon at Heidelberg. I experienced a rare “neurosurgeon sandwich” at the meeting (see picture) as I sat between two of them. On the right is Carla Jung (Heidelberg) and on the left is Dortja Engel (St. Galen). My smile shows you how much I like sandwiches. I would marry both of them if I were 30 years younger…and believed in marriage…so I had to settle for sharing some beers.  But I did enjoy some snowboarding with Doortja the following week in Davos.

Drs. Varelas and Hanley

Drs. Varelas and Hanley standing under Pan

Dr. Hartings and Unidentified Friend

Lori Jed Oliver

Dr. Sakowitz, Dr. Stone (retired), Dr. Shutter, Dr. Hartings

In the afternoon of the last day we were bussed to Schwetzingen Palace and Gardens which date back to the 1300s.  We started the afternoon in a brewery next to the palace. The alcohol served as a neuroprotectant had anyone slipped on the ice during the ensuing 2-hour garden tour.  Despite the winter weather and some of the statues being boxed up, the gardens still proved magnificent and the stories about Carl Theodore, one of the residents in the 1700s were fascinating. We then toured the palace where you got a real sense of life in these times.  Then, of course, more beer in the neighboring brewery and the bus trip home.

I found another focal point of “learning” was the lobby bar at the Maritim Hotel where many attendees were staying.  Lisa the bartender gets credit for keeping track of the circles of chairs that would form and re-form as conversations and groups shifted through the evening.

Next year ANIM is in Hannover January 22-25, 2014.  I don’t think they will have the joint session with NCS…but I believe they are trying to organize another joint meeting in the future.  If they do…I recommend it!