Intraoperative neuromonitoring can help to navigate anesthesia. Pronounced alpha oscillations in the frontal electroencephalogram (EEG) appear to predict favorable perioperative neurocognitive outcomes and may also provide a measure of intraoperative antinociception. Monitoring the presence and strength of these alpha oscillations can be challenging, especially in elderly patients, because the EEG in these patients may be dominated by oscillations in other frequencies. Hence, the information regarding alpha oscillatory activity may be hidden and hard to visualize on a screen. Therefore, we developed an effective approach to improve the detection and presentation of alpha activity in the perioperative setting.
We analyzed EEG records of 180 patients with a median age of 60 years (range, 18–90 years) undergoing noncardiac, nonneurologic surgery under general anesthesia with propofol induction and sevoflurane maintenance. We calculated the power spectral density (PSD) for the unprocessed EEG as well as for the time-discrete first derivative of the EEG (diffPSD) from 10-second epochs. Based on these data, we estimated the power-law coefficient κ of the PSD and diffPSD, as the EEG coarsely follows a 1/fκ distribution when displayed in double logarithmic coordinates. In addition, we calculated the alpha (7.8–12.1 Hz) to delta (0.4–4.3 Hz) ratio from the PSD as well as diffPSD.
The median κ was 0.899 [first and third quartile: 0.786, 0.986] for the unaltered PSD, and κ = −0.092 [−0.202, −0.013] for the diffPSD, corresponding to an almost horizontal PSD of the differentiated EEG. The alpha-to-delta ratio of the diffPSD was strongly increased (median ratio = −8.0 dB [−10.5, −4.7 dB] for the unaltered PSD versus 30.1 dB [26.1, 33.8 dB] for the diffPSD). A strong narrowband oscillatory alpha power component (>20% of total alpha power) was detected in 23% using PSD, but in 96% of the diffPSD.
We demonstrated that the calculation of the diffPSD from the time-discrete derivative of the intraoperative frontal EEG is a straightforward approach to improve the detection of alpha activity by eliminating the broadband background noise. This improvement in alpha peak detection and visualization could facilitate the guidance of general anesthesia and improve patient outcome.