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How to Prepare for an EEG Electroencephalogram

Author:   Peter Sedesse MD

What is an Electroencephalogram EEG

An electroencephalogram (EEG) is a routine test that measures brain wave activity. An EEG is completely painless and during the actual test, very little is actually required of the patient other than to remain as motionless as possible while twenty electrodes are attached to the scalp. These electrodes do not send any type of current into the brain, and will not produce any feeling whatsoever, they instead simply read the electrical activity produced in the brain. There are a few different reasons why a doctor would order and EEG, the most common of which is to determine the cause of a seizure and the part of the brain involved. The electroencephalogram will generally take one or two hours.

What Happens During an EEG

The majority of the EEG test will simply involve the patient laying as relaxed as possible with their eyes closed. However, depending on the purpose of the electroencephalogram, the patient may be asked to perform certain actions in order to stimulate different part of the brain so that the changes in electrical activities in the parts of the brain that control those actions can be measured. These types of activities include looking at objects on flashcards, opening and closing the eyes, reading, doing simple math and breathing different ways (deeply, rapidly).

Preparations before your EEG begins

The most important preparation a patient needs to make before an electroencephalogram is simply to avoid caffeine or any drug that can act as a stimulant for twelve hours before the test. Caffeine causes the brain and different parts of the body to become stimulated, which can lead to errors while assessing the results of the EEG. Unless directed different by the doctor ordering the EEG, patients should continue taking any medications which they normally take on a regular basis. It is important to inform the person performing the EEG of any medications you are currently taking, as well as any medications you have recently stopped taking.

Before arriving for an EEG

On the day of the EEG, it is important to come with a clean scalp and avoid using any hair care products, especially gels. Haircare products can reduce the ability of the leads to keep contact with the scalp and extend the length of the test.

Special types of EEGs

Depending on the symptoms that caused the EEG to be needed, there are two special types of electroencephalograms that may be ordered. These are EEGs that are performed when you are sleeping, or when you are sleep-deprived. For the sleep-deprived EEG, patients are asked to stay awake for 24 hours before the test and not use caffeine products. For an EEG performed while sleeping, the patient is asked to go as long without sleep before the test as possible to make it easier for them to sleep during the EEG.

The EEG is a simple test to take and to prepare for. The most important thing to do before an electroencephalogram is to avoid caffeine or any type of drugs that act as stimulants. The patient should make sure their head is clean and free of any hair products that could interfere with the test. Finally, be prepared for the one to two hour duration of the test..

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