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What is an Electroencephalogram?

An electroencephalogram [ih-lek-troh-en-SEF-uh-luh-gram], or “EEG,” is a test used to measure the electrical activity of the brain. It is used to diagnose or monitor health conditions like:

  • Seizures
  • Sleep problems
  • Changes in behavior
  • Changes in brain chemistry
  • Brain diseases
  • Head injuries
  • Tumors
  • Infections

Sometimes an EEG is used to check the brain before brain surgery or an organ transplant.

What are the Risks and/or Side Effects?

The EEG test is very safe and has very low risks. The tests only gets information from your child’s brain.

Sometimes, the fast breathing required during the test, along with the flashing lights, can cause seizures in patients who have had them before. Your child’s healthcare provider is trained to take care of your child if that happens.

What are the Benefits?

The EEG test helps your healthcare provider check the electrical activity of your child’s brain. It can be used to diagnose or monitor several different health conditions.

How Do I Prepare?

You can prepare your child for an EEG by:

  • Making sure their hair is clean and free of conditioner, sprays, and oil. This will help the electrodes stick to your child’s scalp, which is necessary for the test to work well.
  • Checking to see if your child needs to stop taking any medicine before the test.
  • Having your child avoid caffeine for at least 8 hours before the test. This will help your child sleep during the test if needed.

How is it Done or Administered?

Your child may have an EEG in a doctor’s office, hospital, or a lab.

  • Your child may be asked to sit still in a chair or lie on a bed during the test.
  • An EEG technician will use a sticky paste to attach several electrodes (wires) to different parts of your child’s head.
  • Your child may be asked to look at a flashing light or breathe fast. If your child has a seizure disorder, this can help cause a seizure so the EEG can record it. If this happens, your healthcare providers will be prepared to manage it.
  • The electrical signals from your child’s brain pass through the electrodes and show up as wavy lines on a computer screen.
  • Your child will not feel any shocks during the test.

While an EEG isn’t uncomfortable, it may be stressful for your child to have electrodes sticking to their head during the test. You may be able to stay with your child during the test, or you may stay in a waiting area. The test usually takes about an hour.

When Will I Know the Results?

It generally takes a few days to get the results. A doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of brain and nerve problems—a neurologist [nyoo-ROL-uh-jist]—will read the EEG results and let you know what they mean.

What are Follow-up Requirements and Options?

Your child’s follow-up options depend on the EEG test results. Your child’s healthcare provider will let you know what to do after the results are available.

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