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Electroencephalograms (EEG)

Dr Bhanjan - Durban - Neurologist

What is an EEG?

An electroencephalogram, or EEG, is one of the available tests used to diagnose epilepsy.

An EEG is a common test used in the diagnosis of epilepsy. This is done by measuring the electrical activity of neurons in the brain. An EEG can tell your healthcare provider if there is abnormal electrical activity in the brain and, in some cases, the types of seizures you might be experiencing. An EEG can also help your healthcare provider identify any other abnormalities existing in the brain, such as a coma, brain death, or the presence of a tumour or a stroke. Other common referrals for an EEG by health care providers include:

  • Headaches
  • Behavioral Problems / Attention Disorders
  • Dizziness / Vertigo
  • Sensory / Sensation Impairments
  • Confusion
  • Learning Difficulties / Concentration Difficulties
  • Depression

All of which could be related to epilepsy or more especially sub clinical epileptic disorders.

What Should I Expect When I Get An EEG?

An EEG is a simple and painless yet important procedure that will help your healthcare provider identify any abnormal activity occurring in your brain.

EEGs are typically performed in a neurology clinic by a trained technologist or in the hospital on an outpatient basis. You are fully awake for this procedure. An EEG cap will then be placed over your head and conduction gel will be inserted into individual electrodes to ease with the recording. The gel used is non toxic and water based and is easily removed with warm water. The electrodes will then record your brain activity.

The entire EEG should take between 30 minutes to an hour. Activation procedures are then performed to see how your brain responds. The activation procedures include photic or light stimulation, blinking, and rapid breathing. In some cases, a sleep record may be requested however the patient will be informed of this before the recording.

How Do I Need To Prepare For an EEG?

There are not a lot of things that you can do for an EEG, other than:

  • Don’t consume alcohol before the procedure.
  • Tell your healthcare provider all of the medications you are taking, since some types of medications may produce an abnormal result.
  • Keep your hair clean before the test, and free of conditioners, gels or anything that can interfere with the recording by the electrodes.
  • Get a good night’s sleep before the procedure. Keep in mind that, in some cases, your neurologist may want you to stay up the night before, since this can increase the likelihood of epileptiform activity.

EEGs for children and adolescents with learning and concentration difficulties.

Does your child have:

  • Poor school performance
  • A short attention span
  • Difficulties in concentration
  • Erratic behavior / mood swings
  • Memory problems

If yes to any of the above than there is a possibility that your child could be suffering from an underlying epilepsy disorder or subclinical seizures.

What are subclinical seizures:

Subclinical seizures are seizures that occur without altering consciousness.

  • All may seem fine clinically however these underlying seizures may cause serious long term problems.
  • It can occur anytime day / night without any changes in movements or consciousness.

How does the EEG help diagnose seizures / subclinical seizures.

  • The EEG records changes in brain activity.
  • Epilepsy is caused by rapid changes in the activity of the brain.
  • These changes are then recorded by a technologist and analyzed by a neurologist. A clinical correlation is then made between the area in which the abnormality is noted and the symptoms of the patient.

For more information on EEG and Epilepsy download our booklet (pdf)

For more information on strokes download the FAST campaign booklet (pdf)