6 Facts to Know About Electrodiagnostic Testing

Electrodiagnostic testing is a relatively new and powerful tool that physicians can use to monitor the health of their patient. This kind of testing gathers information about the movement of electrical currents within nerves and muscles, which allows doctors to identify damaged tissue. While some patients are nervous at the prospect of electrodiagnostics, the procedure is minimally invasive and can usually be conducted within an hour or two.

The Two Main Types of Testing

There are two standard types of electrodiagnostic tests commonly used for patients: electromyography (EMG) and nerve conduction velocity (NCV). Both procedures require the use of electrodes, which are small patches placed at certain points on the skin. EMG tests focus on electrical activity in muscle tissue, while NCVs track currents moving through the nervous system.

You Don’t Need to Wait for Testing

While there is a commonly held belief that patients should wait several weeks before getting an electrodiagnostic test, but this is usually not the case. Recent research has shown that tests show evidence of nerve damage almost immediately after it occurs, although it may not be able to gauge the extent of the injury. Certain types of nerve damage develops over the course of several weeks, so follow-up tests are recommended in some cases.

It Doesn’t Hurt Much

Electrodes are attached with a small needle, which penetrates the skin and outer layers of muscle. While patients often experience some pain from the needle, it is the chief source of discomfort throughout the entire procedure. The practicing physician may also manipulate the muscles, like bending an arm, to stimulate electrical activity.

The Potential for Immediate Results

Unlike blood work and other types of laboratory tests, electrodiagnostic procedures can produce accurate results very quickly. Doctors may even be able to conduct tests, evaluate the results and present them to the patient all during the same appointment. Some cases may require additional time to generate meaningful results, depending on individual circumstances.

Nerve Signals Don’t Always Indicate Pain Levels

Another interesting fact about electrodiagnostic testing is that readings don’t necessarily indicate the level of pain experienced by the patient. Even though the tests can reveal detailed information regarding electrical activity in the body, the actual level of discomfort from the injury is highly variable. Physicians must consult with the patient and examine other factors when deciding on a pain management strategy for nerve damage.

Applications for Many Professions

Electrodiagnostics aren’t a niche tool that is only useful for a few specific professions, it has applications in all kinds of medical fields. Nerve and muscle health play a pivotal role in overall health, so physical therapists, neurologists, chiropractors and pediatricians can also make effective use of the tests.

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