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.