American Association of Neuromuscular & Electrodiagnostic Medicine

View all recommendations from this society

Released February 10, 2015

Don’t perform dermatomal somatosensory evoked potentials (SEPs) for a pinched nerve in the neck or back, as they are an unproven diagnostic procedure.

Although techniques such as needle EMG and nerve conduction studies can be helpful to diagnose pinched nerve in the neck (cervical radiculopathy) or back (lumbar radiculopathy), dermatomal SEP is of unproven worth for this purpose but does increase costs. There are a number of causes of neck, shoulder, and upper limb pain besides cervical radiculopathy. There are also a number of causes of back, hip, thigh, and lower limb pain besides lumbar radiculopathy.

These items are provided solely for informational purposes and are not intended as a substitute for consultation with a medical professional. Patients with any specific questions about the items on this list or their individual situation should consult their physician.

How The List Was Created

The Professional Practice Committee (PPC) of the American Association of Neuromuscular & Electrodiagnostic Medicine (AANEM) developed this list of recommendations. The PPC includes both neurologists and physical medicine and rehabilitation (PMR) physicians who come from varying practice settings and also includes the AANEM’s representatives to the American Medical Association (AMA) Current Procedural Terminology Panel and Relative Value Update Committee. The PPC members identified areas to be included on this list based on the greatest potential for overuse/misuse, quality improvement and availability of strong evidence-based research/support in the literature. The committee’s recommendations were discussed at an AANEM Board meeting that included chairs from AANEM committees. The PPC reviewed the feedback from this group and voted on the final Top Ten recommendations. These were then approved by the AANEM Board of Directors.

AANEM’s disclosure and conflict of interest policy can be found at


American Academy of Neurology. Assessment: Dermatomal somatosensory evoked potentials. Therapeutics and Technology Assessment Subcommittee. Neurology. 1997 Oct;49(4):1127-30.

Rodriguez, AA, Kanis L, Rodriquez AA, Lane D. Somatosensory evoked potentials from dermatomal stimulation as an indicator of L5 and S1 radiculopathy. Arch Phys Med Rehab. 1987 Jun;68(6):366-8.

Yazicioglu K, Ozgül A, Kalyon TA, Gündüz S, Arpacioğlu O, Bilgiç F. The diagnostic value of dermatomal somatosensory evoked potentials in lumbrosacral disc herniations: a critical approach. Electromyogr Clin Neurophysiol. 1999 Apr-May;39(3): 175-81.