An electroencephalogram (EEG) is a test that measures and records the electrical activity of your brain. Special sensors (electrodes ) are attached to your head and hooked by wires to a computer. The computer records your brain‘s electrical activity on the screen or on paper as wavy lines. Certain conditions, such as seizures, can be seen by the changes in the normal pattern of the brain’s electrical activity.
An electroencephalogram (EEG) may be done to:
Before the day of the electroencephalogram (EEG) test, tell your doctor if you are taking any medicines. Your doctor may ask you to stop taking certain medicines (such as sedatives and tranquilizers, muscle relaxants, sleeping aids, or medicines used to treat seizures) before the test. These medicines can affect your brain’s usual electrical activity and cause abnormal test results.
Do not eat or drink foods that have caffeine (such as coffee, tea, cola, and chocolate) for 12 hours before the test.
Since the electrodes are attached to your scalp, make sure your hair is clean and free of sprays, oils, creams, and lotions. Shampoo your hair and rinse with clear water the evening before or the morning of the test. Do not put any hair conditioner or oil on after shampooing.
To find certain types of abnormal electrical activity in the brain, you may have to be asleep during the recording. You may be asked not to sleep at all the night before the test or to sleep less (about 4 or 5 hours) by going to bed later and getting up earlier than usual. If your child is going to be tested, try to keep him or her from taking naps just before the test. If you know that you are going to have a sleep-deprived EEG, plan to have someone drive you to and from the test.
An electroencephalogram (EEG) may be done in a hospital or in a doctor’s office by an EEG technologist. The EEG record is read by a doctor who is specially trained to diagnose and treat disorders affecting the nervous system (neurologist
You will be asked to lie on your back on a bed or table or relax in a chair with your eyes closed. The EEG technologist will attach 17 to 21 flat metal discs (electrodes) to different places on your head, using a sticky paste to hold the electrodes in place. A cap with fixed electrodes may be placed on your head instead of individual electrodes. In rare cases, these electrodes may be attached to the scalp with tiny needles.
The electrodes are hooked by wires to a computer that records the electrical activity inside the brain. A machine can show the activity as a series of wavy lines drawn by a row of pens on a moving piece of paper or as an image on the computer screen.
Lie still with your eyes closed during the recording, and do not talk to the technologist unless you need to. The technologist will watch you directly or through a window during the test. The recording may be stopped from time to time to allow you to stretch and reposition yourself.
The technologist may ask you to do different things during the test to record what activity your brain does at that time.
An EEG takes 1 to 2 hours. After the test, you may do your normal activities. But if you were sleep-deprived or given a sleep medicine, have someone drive you home after the test.
There is no pain with an electroencephalogram (EEG).
If paste is used to hold the electrodes, some paste may stay in your hair after the test, so you will have to wash your hair to remove it. If needle electrodes are used (which is rare), you will feel a brief, sharp prick (about like having a hair pulled out) when each electrode is inserted. If electrodes are placed in your nose, they may cause a tickling feeling and, rarely, some soreness or a small amount of bleeding for 1 to 2 days after the test.
If you are asked to breathe rapidly, you may feel lightheaded or have some numbness in your fingers. This reaction is normal. It will go away a few minutes after you start breathing normally again.
An electroencephalogram (EEG) is a very safe test. The electrical activity of your brain is recorded, but at no time is any electrical current put into your body. An EEG should not be confused with electroshock (electroconvulsive) therapy.
If you have a seizure disorder such as epilepsy, a seizure may be triggered by the flashing lights or by hyperventilation. If this occurs, the technologist is trained to take care of you during the seizure.