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EEG - What is it?

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What is an EEG?

An EEG (Electroencephalogram) is a test that measures the electrical activity in the brain, called brain waves. An EEG measures brain waves through small button electrodes that are placed on your child’s scalp.

What should we do to get ready for the EEG?

  • Wash your child’s hair the night before. Do not put any oil, gel, or hairspray on the hair. If the hair is long, do not braid or put it up. No hair extensions please.
  • To get the maximum information from this test we try to record EEG during wakefulness and sleep.
  • Give medicines as usual. Bring a list of all medicines (how much and when) your child takes to the EEG Lab.
  • Your child should not eat one hour before the test.
  • On the day of the EEG, your child should not have any drinks with caffeine (Coke, Pepsi, coffee, tea)
  • Your child must be sleepy for the test. Please follow the guidelines for your child’s age:
  • Infant - 2 years: Wake your child up at 5:00 am on the test day. No nap before test.
  • 2 - 4 years: Keep your child up a few hours later than usual the night before the test & wake him/her up at 5:00 am test day.
  • 5 - 12 years: Keep your child up as close to midnight as possible, wake up at 5:00 am on test day.
  • 13 or older: Keep your child up until 2:00 am & wake him/her up at 5:00 am test day. Please do not let your child nap from the time he/she wakes up until the technologist performs the test.

Who does the EEG?

A trained registered Neurophysiology technologist will perform the test.

How is the EEG done?

Your child will be asked to lie down on a stretcher bed. The technologist will explain the procedure to you and your child. The EEG technologist measures your child’s head and makes small marks on the scalp with a washable grease pencil. Each marked area is rubbed with a gritty lotion so the electrodes transmit well. Paste is put on the electrodes, which are applied to each of the marked spots on the scalp. The electrodes are connected to the EEG machine and the test begins. Your child will need to be as still as possible. He/she will be asked to breathe fast (hyperventilate), look at flashing lights, and rest quietly. The test takes about one hour from start to finish and your child is usually videotaped during the EEG. The doctor may order a video EEG to give more time to study the brain waves. The procedure is the same, but may last four to six hours. (See Video EEG Fact Sheet)

What happens after the EEG?

Once the test is complete, the electrodes will be removed and the paste washed off with warm water and a washcloth. The child’s hair will need to be washed at home to remove any residual paste or prep. The child may leave after the procedure is completed.

Are there any risks?

Experts in neurology have studied EEG for many years and report it is a safe procedure.

Who looks at the EEG?

A neurologist will read the EEG on the day of the study and a report will be sent to your child’s doctor.

Who will give me the results?

The results will be faxed to your child’s referring physician and accessible in two to three business days. Please call your doctor’s office if you have not heard anything after a few days.

How should I prepare my child?

Infants - You cannot explain the exam to your baby, but you can help your baby feel more comfortable during the test by bringing a special blanket, toy or pacifier. Please bring along a bottle of juice or formula to feed your baby if needed to calm your child during the recording.

Toddlers and preschool-age children- Young children remember things for only a short time, so the best time to talk about the test is right before you are ready to come to the hospital. Tell your child that you are going to the hospital to have some “pictures” taken that the doctor needs to help him/her get better. Try to use simple words.

It is important to be honest with your child. Children at this age are afraid of being separated from their parent. Let him/her know that mom or dad will stay with him/her as much as possible. Your child may become upset which is expected in younger children. Bring a favorite book, toy or blanket that might be a distraction or comfort. You may also bring along a snack for after the test.

School-age children - School-age children have the ability to understand the procedure when explained to them. The technologist will show and explain everything that he/she will do during the study. Your child is welcome to express any concerns that they might have so that they can be addressed prior to the start of the recording.

Please call your child’s doctor or the EEG laboratory (668-7219) if you have any questions or concerns.


Disclaimer: This information is not intended to substitute or replace the professional medical advice you receive from your child's physician. The content provided on this page is for informational purposes only, and was not designed to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Please consult your child's physician with any questions or concerns you may have regarding a medical condition.

Reviewed: 5/11

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