Kids Health Info

Electroencephalography (EEG)

  • An electroencephalogram (EEG) is a safe and pain-free test which records the electrical activity of the brain. The information is recorded on a computer and interpreted by a neurologist.

    What happens during an EEG?

    • Before testing, the EEG technologist will ask a few questions about your child even though you may have already given this information to your doctor.
    • Your child will either sit in a reclining chair or be held by you.
    • After explaining the procedure, the technologist will measure your child's head and mark the scalp with a soft pencil where electrodes will be placed.
    • The technologist will clean these areas lightly with a cotton bud before placing the electrodes (usually 23 small metal discs) on the scalp.  The electrodes will be kept in place with a sticky paste (not glue) and some light tape.
    • After the electrodes have been placed, your child needs to remain only reasonably still while the technologist sits at the computer watching the screen.
    • A video is recorded in case an event occurs. This gives the neurologist an accurate visual record in conjunction with the EEG recording. If no typical events are recorded, the video is deleted.
    • Children old enough to cooperate will be asked to open and close their eyes during the recording.
    • Later they will be asked to hyperventilate (do some deep breathing).
    • The last part of the EEG test involves your child looking at a controlled flashing light.

    Requirements for an EEG

    • We need your child to have clean, dry hair with no extra products such as oil, mousse or gel applied. If your child has head lice, please make a new appointment.  Health precautions prevent us from carrying out an EEG on a child with head lice.
    • A recent outbreak of chicken pox must be completely healed in order for the EEG to occur.
    • Ideally, we need your child to be fairly still during the recording. Toddlers may not enjoy the experience, in much the same way that they may not enjoy having their hair washed or cut.  The EEG technologist is experienced in helping children to relax, and distractions such as toys and DVDs are provided. Younger children may benefit from dummies, bottles and other comforters. Please bring these with you to the appointment.
    • If your child has special needs or you think he or she may not be able to cooperate with the procedure, please contact our EEG staff to discuss your concerns and the best course of action.
    • If your child has episodes during specific situations, for example during sleep, please speak to your doctor or our EEG staff about the implications for the EEG recording, as it may be possible to provoke these episodes.

    What about sleep?

    Often we record sleep during the EEG. Sometimes doctors will specifically request that a child sleeps as part of the recording. This can be achieved in a number of ways, depending on the age of your child, typically with prior sleep deprivation. Sedation is not used.

    If your child is young and still having morning or afternoon naps, please postpone the nap for the EEG. If your child is older and we require him or her to be sleep deprived, please follow the instructions provided when you make the appointment.

    Please do not let your child sleep on the journey to the EEG.

    Can I stay with my child?

    Yes. You are welcome to stay in the recording room during the EEG unless you feel that your child will be more comfortable without you. It is important to arrange for another adult to look after any other children while the recording is being done as they cannot stay in the room. There are no child-minding facilities at the RCH.

    Common concerns

    During setup, your child will not feel anything other than their scalp and hair being touched.  The paste is easy to wash out of the hair after the test is completed. There are no side effects from an EEG.

    An EEG is not harmful, there are no X-rays or injections and it cannot read your thoughts. All EEG recordings and relevant portions of video are saved and kept in a secure place in RCH Neurodiagnostics.

    Where do I go and how long with it take?

    Neurodiagnostics is located on the ground floor, just off Main Street, at Specialist Clinics Reception Desk A3.  The test usually takes about an hour but sometimes it may take longer, especially if a sleep recording is needed.

    When will I receive the results?

    The EEG technologist cannot tell you the results, and administration staff will not provide results over the telephone.

    You must make arrangements with your doctor to receive the results. Please allow at least one week. In urgent situations, your doctor may obtain a preliminary report by telephoning one of our neurologists.

    What if I am unable to keep the appointment?

    There is a waiting list for EEG testing, so it is important we fill every appointment.

    If you are unable to attend, please telephone us on 9345 6180. This way we can offer your child's appointment to another family.

    Key points to remember

    • EEG is completely safe and pain free for your child.
    • Wash your child's hair the night before.
    • Bring your Medicare card and the EEG request card or referral letter (if it has not already been sent in).
    • Arrange child-minding for other children, as they cannot be present for the EEG.
    • If sleep recording is required, follow the instructions we will provide separate to this fact sheet, and do not let your child sleep on the way to the EEG.

    For more information

    Specialist Clinics, Reception Desk A3
    The Royal Children's Hospital
    Telephone: 9345 6180

    Individual information

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    Developed by The Royal Children's Hospital Neurodiagnostics. First published: May 2012

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