neurological studies

Procedures

Electroencephalogram

Why is this procedure done?

An electroencephalogram is a test done to look at your brain's electrical activity. It is also known as an EEG. It gives details about your brain. It looks at brain wave patterns. This test helps your doctor learn about your brain and any problems you may have. Your doctor may be looking for:

  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Alzheimer's disease or dementia
  • Brain death
  • Confusion
  • Sleep disorders
  • Tumors
  • Head injuries
  • Memory problems
  • Narcolepsy

What will the results be?

The results will help your doctor understand if you have a problem with your brain. Together you can make a plan for more care.

What happens before the procedure?

  • Talk to your doctor about all the drugs you are taking. Be sure to include all prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs, and herbal supplements. Tell the doctor about any drug allergy. Bring a list of drugs you take with you. Some drugs may affect the test results.
  • Do not eat or drink anything with caffeine, such as coffee, tea, soda, or chocolate, 12 hours before the test.
  • Do not take any sleeping aids, tranquilizers, sedatives, or muscle relaxers before the test.
  • Wash your hair before the test and do not use any hair care products until the test is over. Be sure you have shampoo to wash your hair when you get home after the test.
  • You may be asked to not sleep the night before your test, or get a minimum of only 4 to 5 hours of sleep.

What happens during the procedure?

  • You will be asked to lie on a bed or sit on a chair.
  • You may be asked to lie still and not talk.
  • You may be asked to breathe deep and fast, look at a strobe light, or sleep.
  • The staff will ask you to close your eyes and relax during the test. They will attach 16 to 20 small, sticky patches on your scalp. These are called electrodes.
  • The electrodes are connected to a machine. It records your brain's electric signals. These are printed on paper for the doctor to see. They may also be seen on a small screen.
  • You may be asked to breathe fast and deeply during the test.
  • This test does not hurt. It may take about 1 hour. Sometimes, this test is done when you are asleep. The sleep EEG lasts about 30-90 minutes.

What happens after the procedure?

  • The staff will take off the electrodes.
  • Ask your doctor when you can start taking any drugs you take again.
  • You may go home after the test.

What care is needed at home?

Ask your doctor what you need to do when you go home. Make sure you understand everything the doctor says. This way you will know what you need to do.

What follow-up care is needed?

Your doctor will give you the results of your test. Be sure to keep these visits. Ask your doctor when you will talk about the test results.

What problems could happen?

  • If you have a seizure disorder, this test may trigger a seizure attack.
  • It may take a few hair washings to remove all the sticky gel from your hair.

Electromyography

Why is this procedure done?

Electromyography is also called EMG. It is a test that measures the electrical activity of the muscles while at rest and when you move. Your doctor may also do other tests at the same time. This will help your doctor see if there are any problems with the way your nerves and muscles work together. Doctors order this test to learn more about signs like numbness and tingling. They may also order it if you have muscle problems like weakness, pain, or cramping.

EMG is done to help look for:

  • Muscle conditions. Some examples are muscular dystrophy or polymyositis.
  • Nerve and muscle connection problems. Myasthenia gravis is one kind of connection problem.
  • Nerve problems outside of the spinal cord. Carpal tunnel syndrome is a nerve problem.
  • Health problems that affect the nerves in the brain or spinal cord. Some examples are amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or a herniated disc in the spine.

What will the results be?

Your doctor will learn more about what is causing your muscle problems. This will help your doctor decide if you need more treatment.

What happens before the procedure?

  • Your doctor will take your history and perform an exam.
  • Talk to your doctor about all the drugs you are taking. Be sure to include all prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs, and herbal supplements. Tell the doctor about any drug allergy. Bring a list of drugs you take with you.
  • Talk to your doctor about any bleeding problems. Be sure to tell your doctor if you are taking any drugs that may cause bleeding. Some of these are Coumadin®, ibuprofen, Aleve® (naproxen), or aspirin. Certain vitamins and herbs, such as garlic and fish oil, may also add to the risk for bleeding. You may need to stop these drugs as well. Talk to your doctor about them.
  • Take a shower on the day of your test. Do not use any creams, moisturizers, or powders on your skin.
  • Avoid smoking or drinking liquids with caffeine 3 hours before the test.
  • If it was very cold outside, wait in a warm room a few minutes before you take the test.

What happens during the procedure?

  • Your doctor will clean your skin with antiseptic.
  • Your doctor will put a very thin needle electrode through your skin into a muscle in your arm or leg.
  • The electrode will pick up the electrical activity made by your muscles. The activity shows up on a monitor and is tracked. You may hear pops or crackles when your muscle moves.
  • Your doctor will test your muscle while it is still.
  • Your doctor will then test your muscle while it moves.
  • The procedure takes 30 to 60 minutes.Immediately after the test you can go home.
  • You may see bruises on the puncture site. Take pain drugs as ordered by your doctor, if needed.

What care is needed at home?

  • Ask your doctor what you need to do when you go home. Make sure you ask questions if you do not understand what the doctor says. This way you will know what you need to do.
  • You can go back to your normal activities after the test.

What follow-up care is needed? 

  • Your doctor will give you the results of the test.
  • The results will help your doctor understand what kind of problem you have with muscles. Together you can make a plan for more care.

 What problems could happen?

  • Pain
  • Bleeding
  • Infection at the electrode sites

When do I need to call the doctor?

  • Signs of infection. These include a fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, chills.
  • Redness, drainage, or warmth at the puncture site
  • Very bad pain or bleeding at the puncture site

Nerve Conduction Study

Why is this procedure done?

The nerves in our body make the muscles move. This lets us feel different sensations such as touch, pain, and temperature. Nerves have electrical signals that are sent to and from the brain. When there is a slowing of these signals, the body may not work the normal way. There may be muscle weakness and no ability to move the muscles at all. You may not be able to feel sensations well. This most often happens when nerves are damaged or there are other movement problems. A nerve conduction test measures the signals in your nerves.

Nerve conduction studies are done to:

  • Find the cause of nerve problems like numbness or weakness
  • Find out if nerves are working like they should be
  • Find out if your problem is with your nerves, muscles, or both
  • Check the progress of a damaged nerve

Many times, this test is done at the same time as an electromyelogram. An electromyelogram or EMG is a test done with needles to test how your muscles are working.

What will the results be?

The signals measured in the test will help the doctor figure out what is causing your health problem. If your nerve is damaged, the signal will be slower and weaker.

What happens before the procedure?

  • Talk to your doctor about all the drugs you are taking. Be sure to include all prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs, and herbal supplements. Tell the doctor about any drug allergy. Bring a list of drugs you take with you.
  • Tell your doctor if you have a pacemaker or heart defibrillator.
  • Avoid cold temperatures beforehand if possible. Low body temperature will slow down the nerve activity and may affect your test results.

What happens during the procedure?

  • Your skin will be cleaned. Small patches called electrodes will be taped to the skin in the area being studied.
  • Your technologist will apply a small electric current into the electrodes that will cause the nerves to turn on.
  • The electrodes will send information to a computer about how fast your nerves are working and how strong the signals are.
  • Your doctor will check different spots along the pathway of a nerve.
  • You may feel only slight discomfort during the test.
  • The test takes 30 to 90 minutes.

What happens after the procedure?

  • You can go home right after the procedure.
  • You should not feel any discomfort once the test is over. If you have an EMG test at the same time, you may feel some discomfort from the needles.

What care is needed at home? 

  • You can go back to your normal daily activities right away.

What follow-up care is needed?

Your doctor will give you the results of your test. Together you can make a plan for more care. Your doctor may send you to physical therapy or occupational therapy to help with your problem.

What problems could happen?

There are no problems from this test.