How to prepare for an EEG

By Lisa Marinelli Smith 
NeuLine Health

EEGs, short for electroencephalograms, offer a non-invasive, painless way for neurologists to find out more about someone’s brain activity to diagnose or rule out neurological conditions, such as epilepsy, sleep disorders, strokes and chronic headaches. 

By attaching electrodes to the scalp, forehead and temples, technicians use EEGs to measure brain waves that form when neurons in the brain communicate with each other. Each type of brain wave has a standard frequency, height and shape.

Routine EEGs conducted in an office can take anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour. Some patients will need to go to an epilepsy monitoring unit at a clinic for several days. Other patients have the option of an at-home, ambulatory EEG.

How should a patient prepare for an EEG?

When you’re instructed to go to an office for an EEG, please:

  • Wash and dry your hair before the appointment. 
  • Do not use gel, hairspray, mousse or any other hair products.
  • Take medication as usual unless your health care provider instructs you otherwise. 
  • Eat and drink as usual. You don’t have to fast. 
  • Do not go to sleep the night before if your doctor ordered a “sleep-deprived” EEG.
  • Bring someone to drive you home if you have a sleep-deprived EEG.

What to expect during testing?

Your testing experience will differ if you have an ambulatory EEG at home, at an epilepsy monitoring unit or at a clinic.

Clinic 

Routine EEGs are conducted in a clinic setting. You will have your EEG in a small, darkened room, sitting in a reclining armchair.  

The technician will:

  • Measure your head with measuring tape. 
  • Use a wax pencil to make temporary markings on your head. 
  • Wash the markings off with a cleanser.
  • Place electrodes on the spots using a special paste. 

As the EEG records your brain waves, your technician may ask you to:

  • Open and close your eyes several times.
  • Do some breathing exercises.
  • Sit in front of a bright, flashing light. For some people, this can trigger a seizure, which would alter brain waves. 
  • Drift into sleep.

This process takes about one hour. When your results are uploaded, a technician will “prune” the report to pull out the highlights, and a board-certified neurologist will interpret the results. 

NeuLine Health offers routine EEGs for patients in a clinic setting. 

Epilepsy Monitoring Unit 

An Epilepsy Monitoring Unit (EMU) is an inpatient unit at a hospital specifically designed to monitor and develop treatment plans for patients with seizures. 

During the EEG, patients will also be monitored by a video to record their behavior related to an EEG reading. You will likely undergo other diagnostic tests, including an MRI, routine EEG, neuropsychological testing and SPECT (nuclear imaging) scans. 

Epilepsy centers provide a multidisciplinary team approach to diagnosing and treating epilepsy. This team typically includes:

  • EEG technologists
  • Epileptologists (neurologists with expertise in treating seizures)
  • Neuropsychologists
  • Neurosurgeons
  • Nurse specialists
  • Social workers and others with special training and experience in epilepsy treatment

Ambulatory EEG  

NeuLine Health also offers ambulatory, long-term EEGs. A tech will coordinate with you to set up the appointment. 

The tech will prepare you for the exam at your home and set up the equipment, including video monitoring. In most cases, your EEG will last for 72 hours. 

When your test is done, a tech will return to your home to remove electrodes and pack up the equipment. Your results will be sent to a specialized technician to “prune” or pare down the results. Then a board-certified neurologist will interpret them.

For more information about NeuLine Health EEGs, read about us online or call (844) 212-5321.

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