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EEG or Electroencephalogram

An electroencephalogram (EEG) is a test to detect problems in the electrical activity of

the brain.


The major areas of the brain have one or more specific functions.
The brainstem auditory evoked response test (BAER), is performed to help diagnose
nervous-system abnormalities, hearing losses (especially in low-birth weight newborns),
and to assess neurologic functions. The test focuses on changes and responses in brain
waves. The brain waves are stimulated by a clicking sound to evaluate the central
auditory pathways of the brainstem.

Alternative Names
Electroencephalogram; Brain wave test

How the test is performed

Brain cells communicate by producing tiny electrical impulses. In an EEG, electrodes are
placed on the scalp over multiple areas of the brain to detect and record patterns of
electrical activity and check for abnormalities.

The test is performed by an EEG technician in a specially designed room that may be in
your health care provider's office or at a hospital. You will be asked to lie on your back
on a table or in a reclining chair.

The technician will apply between 16 and 25 flat metal discs (electrodes) in different
positions on your scalp. The discs are held in place with a sticky paste. The electrodes are
connected by wires to an amplifier and a recording machine.

The recording machine converts the electrical signals into a series of wavy lines that are
drawn onto a moving piece of graph paper. You will need to lie still with your eyes
closed because any movement can alter the results.

You may be asked to do certain things during the recording, such as breathe deeply and
rapidly for several minutes or look at a bright flickering light.

How to prepare for the test

You will need to wash your hair the night before the test. Do not use any oils, sprays, or
conditioner on your hair before this test.

Your health care provider may want you to stop taking certain medications before the
test. Do not change or stop medications without first talking to your health care provider.

You should avoid all foods containing caffeine for 8 hours before the test.

Sometimes it is necessary to sleep during the test, so you may be asked to reduce your
sleep time the night before.
How the test will feel

This test causes no discomfort. Although having electrodes pasted onto your skin may
feel strange, they only record activity and do not produce any sensation.

Why the test is performed

EEG is used to help diagnose the presence and type of seizure disorders, to look for
causes of confusion, and to evaluate head injuries, tumors, infections, degenerative
diseases, and metabolic disturbances that affect the brain.

It is also used to evaluate sleep disorders and to investigate periods of unconsciousness.

The EEG may be done to confirm brain death in a comatose patient.

EEG cannot be used to measure intelligence or diagnose mental illness.

Normal Values

Brain waves have normal frequency and amplitude, and other characteristics are typical.

What abnormal results mean

Abnormal findings may suggest the following:

• Seizure disorders (such as epilepsy or convulsions)

• Structural brain abnormality (such as a brain tumor or brain abscess)
• Head injury
• Attention deficit problems
• Encephalitis (inflammation of the brain)
• Hemorrhage (abnormal bleeding caused by a ruptured blood vessel)
• Cerebral infarct (tissue that is dead because of a blockage of the blood supply)
• Sleep disorders (such as narcolepsy)
• Drug or alcohol abuse
• Migraines (in some cases)
• Hallucinations
• Syncope
• Vertigo

EEG may confirm brain death in someone who is in a coma. Note: a normal EEG does
not mean that a seizure did not occur.

Additional conditions under which the test may be performed:

• Arteriovenous malformation (cerebral)

• Benign positional vertigo
• Cerebral aneurysm
• Complicated alcohol abstinence (delirium tremens)
• Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease
• Delirium
• Dementia
• Dementia due to metabolic causes
• Febrile seizure (children)
• Generalized tonic-clonic seizure
• Hepatic encephalopathy
• Hepatorenal syndrome
• Insomnia
• Labyrinthitis
• Meniere's disease
• Metastatic brain tumor
• Multiple sclerosis
• Optic glioma
• Partial (focal) seizure
• Partial complex seizure
• Petit mal seizure
• Pick's disease
• Senile dementia (Alzheimer's type)
• Shy-Drager syndrome
• Syphilitic aseptic meningitis
• Temporal lobe seizure

What the risks are

The procedure is very safe. If you have a seizure disorder, a seizure may be triggered by
flashing lights or by hyperventilation. The health care provider performing the EEG is
trained to take care of you if this happens.