Healthcare: Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation

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FAQ about electrodiagnostic studies


Are electrodiagnostics (EDX) or nerve conduction studies (NCS) or electromyography (EMG) the same test?

Often times, people use the same titles to refer to the same diagnostic study. Electrodiagnostic studies often include both nerve conduction studies and needle electromyography. Typically, these studies (combined) can be referred to as “EMG.”

What are nerve conduction studies?

This part of the study involves electrodes that are taped to the patient’s skin to record signals through stimulations (or shocks). These signals are recorded in graph format, and the information provided (speed, size) are compared to normal values.

What is an EMG?

Needle electromyography (EMG) involves a small needle (the size of an acupuncture needle) in muscles. The needle acts as a microphone to record sounds produced by muscles at rest and when activated.

Why was this ordered for me?

Typically, these tests are performed when a patient complains of the following symptoms:

• Numbness and tingling
• Pain in a limb
• Weakness
• Cramps

Does it hurt?

Everyone responds to these tests differently. The nerve conduction studies involve quick shocks that some describe as static electric shocks when you walk on carpet and touch a door knob. The physician may have to do these at multiple locations, some more sensitive than others. The needle portion can also be uncomfortable. This test does not cause prolonged pain, however if you get home and you are still experiencing soreness, you may try ice on the sites for 20 minutes on then 20 minutes off.

What are the risks?

This is a relatively safe test that poses minimal risks with rare complications. The risks include bleeding, infection and lung collapse (only if muscles closer to the neck/chest wall are examined with the needle). The physicians take precaution to reduce these risks by cleaning the areas with alcohol and placing pressure over the sites. You may experience some bruising. These risks are increased if you take blood thinners or have a bleeding disorder, please inform you physician at the beginning of the consultation if you are on those types of medications or have a bleeding disorder. Also, let them know if you have a pacemaker or any other electrical device. You may resume all normal activity after the test, and have no restrictions for activity prior to the examination.

How do I prepare?

Try not to use lotions on the day of the test. You may take all your scheduled medications as prescribed by your physicians (even blood thinners). If you are on Coumadin/warfarin, we cannot do the needle portion of the exam if your INR is greater than 3.0. Please try to arrive 10-15 minutes early to fill out necessary paperwork. If you can, try to keep your hands and feet warm as cold temperatures affect the study. If you are too cold, the physician may give you a heating pad during the test.

How long will the test take?

Depending on the question of the referring provider, the test can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 90 minutes. At Baylor College of Medicine PM&R, we do our best to stay on time; we appreciate you arriving 10-15 minutes early for the study, and your patience with us as we perform this study on other patients. If more testing is required or you arrive late, we may need to schedule addition time on another day.

When will I know my results?

The results will be discussed with you after the examination or sent directly to your referring provider. If your referring provider is outside of the Baylor system, we will do our best to fax them the report. Results are typically available within 24 hours or less of the exam.