Introduction: Neurophysiologic monitoring can improve autonomic nerve sparing during critical phases of rectal cancer surgery. Objectives: To develop a system for extracorporeal stimulation of sacral nerve roots. Methods: Dedicated software controlled a ten-electrode stimulation array by switching between different electrode configurations and current levels. A built-in impedance and current level measurement assessed the effectiveness of current injection. Intra-anal surface electromyography (sEMG) informed on targeting the sacral nerve roots. All tests were performed on five pig specimens. Results: During switching between electrode configurations, the system delivered 100% of the set current (25 mA, 30 Hz, 200 µs cathodic pulses) in 93% of 250 stimulation trains across all specimens. The impedance measured between single stimulation array contacts and corresponding anodes across all electrode configurations and specimens equaled 3.7 ± 2.5 kO. The intra-anal sEMG recorded a signal amplitude increase as previously observed in the literature. When the stimulation amplitude was tested in the range from 1 to 21 mA using the interconnected contacts of the stimulation array and the intra-anal anode, the impedance remained below 250 O and the system delivered 100% of the set current in all cases. Intra-anal sEMG showed an amplitude increase for current levels exceeding 6 mA. Conclusion: The system delivered stable electric current, which was proved by built-in impedance and current level measurements. Intra-anal sEMG confirmed the ability to target the branches of the autonomous nervous system originating from the sacral nerve roots. Significance: Stimulation outside of the operative field during rectal cancer surgery is feasible and may improve the practicality of pelvic intraoperative neuromonitoring.
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