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Electroencephalogram (EEG)

What is an EEG?

The nerve cells in your brain work by carrying tiny electrical charges. An electroencephalogram (EEG) is a procedure that records this electrical activity in your brain.

When is it used?

An EEG can help your healthcare provider diagnose medical problems, such as epilepsy, sleep apnea, dementia (the loss of the ability to think, remember, reason, and plan), brain infection, and brain tumors. This procedure is sometimes used during surgery to check the effect of anesthesia. It may be used to test for brain death in cases of severe injury or illness.

How do I prepare for an EEG?

  • Your child may or may not need to take their regular medicines the day of the procedure. Tell your child’s healthcare provider about all medicines and supplements that your child takes. Ask your provider if your child needs to avoid taking any medicine or supplements before the procedure.
  • Tell your child’s healthcare provider if your child has any food or medicine allergies, or if your child has a pacemaker.
  • Ask if there is anything your child should avoid before the procedure, like any food or drink containing caffeine.
  • On the day of the procedure, your child should take a shower to remove oil from their hair. Some EEG labs ask that the hair be clean and free of hair products, such as hairspray or mousse.
  • Follow any other instructions your healthcare provider gives you.
  • Ask any questions you have before the procedure. You should understand what your healthcare provider is going to do. You have the right to make decisions about your child’s healthcare and to give permission for any tests or procedures.

What happens during the procedure?

An EEG is painless and normally takes 45 minutes or may be done as part of an overnight sleep test. During the procedure your child will relax in a reclining chair or bed. Small metal plates (electrodes) will be pasted or taped to your child’s head. The electrodes will send information to a machine that records your child’s brain waves on paper. Young children do not like the feel of the electrodes, but it doesn’t hurt except when the electrodes are removed.

EEGs may be done while your child is:

  • Sleeping (Your child may be given a medicine to help them sleep.)
  • Resting with eyes closed (for babies, this may be done by placing a hand over the baby’s eyes and playing peek-a-boo)
  • Resting with eyes open
  • Breathing rapidly (and just after)
  • Looking at a flashing light

The EEG records how your child’s brain responds to these different situations.

Your child may have a video EEG instead. During a video EEG, your child is watched on a video screen for several hours. This allows healthcare providers to see your child's brainwave activity when your child has a seizure.

What happens after the procedure?

Your child may be able to go home as soon as the procedure is done.

Ask your child’s healthcare provider when and how you will get the result of the procedure.

Make sure you know when your child should come back for a checkup. Keep all appointments for provider visits or tests.

What are the risks of this procedure?

There are no risks. Discuss any concerns you have with your healthcare provider.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Pediatric Advisor 2015.3 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-07-08
Last reviewed: 2014-12-31
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.
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