Health Tips: What To Expect During An Eeg

A guide for knowing what to expect upon having an EEG and information regarding the test being performed on children. Answers when, how why and under what medical conditions or circumstances it is performed.

An EEG is a test used to evaluate a patient with epilepsy, attention disorders, unexplainable headaches, behavior problems or fainting spells, but is primarily used to test for problems related to epilepsy in children. The test is used to record the brain wave patterns of the patient and will show spikes or sharp waves on the graph paper in a person who is suffering from the ailment. The patient does not need to be experiencing an actual seizure, headache or fainting spell for the test to produce the results. In fact, the tests aren't done during these occurrences, but will normally continue on if the patient does have an episode during the test. The testing is usually done at a hospital, but can be done, if the equipment is available, at a clinic or physician's office. The physician will schedule the test for a particular date, usually a couple of days from examination. The doctor may also order the EEG if a person has had a severe head injury or trauma, or is having other health problems that may affect the brain.

The patient is usually asked to show up at the clinic or hospital with clean hair, free of gels or spray for the outpatient procedures. It's a good idea to arrive a half hour early to allow time for registering and being taken to the room. The technique will be explained to the patient if they are old enough, or to the parent of an infant or child. The patient will then lie down on a bed while 16 to 32 electrodes are placed on the head and held by a type of rinse-off adhesive gel. Babies and small children may be held by the parent if they are awake and noticeably upset. The electrodes are pads that have electrical wires attached. The electrical wires are then fed into a machine which monitors the brain activity or brain waves. The test is completely pain free and is only slightly irritating in that the electrodes are glued into the hair. Other than that, there is no pressure, pain or any type of discomfort, but small children are likely to be scared simply by the wires, machines and all.

The testing will be scheduled for about two hours, but can be scheduled for a longer period of time, often, four hours. It's important that the patient have little or no sleep the night before the EEG, since the technician needs to get a reading from an active brain, a brain that is approaching sleep, and the brain during complete sleep. If the patient simply can't go to sleep, they are sometimes given a mild sedative so that the tests can be completed. The attending physician may ask the patient to have an ambulatory EEG, which means the patient will wear the electrodes and take along a portable machine which will monitor brain waves throughout regular daily activity. This could take one or two days, or longer, depending upon the recommendation of the physician.


After the brain waves are recorded before, during and after sleep, the electrodes are then removed from the hair with a solvent or water to dilute the adhesive. The hair should be washed upon arriving at home to remove any remaining glue. Within a few days, the physician will have the tests results back from the EEG and will discuss them with the patient and/or parents. Further testing, medication, rehabilitation or other medical suggestions may be made by the doctor at that time.

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