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An electroencephalogram (EEG, electro-en-kef-alo-gram) is a safe and pain-free test that records the electrical activity of the brain. The information is recorded on a computer and interpreted by a neurologist (a doctor specialising in disorders of the brain).
Your child's doctor may request an EEG to find out what's going on in the brain if your child has abnormal movements, seizures or sleep problems.
An EEG is not harmful. There are no X-rays or injections and there is no risk of electric shock. The electrodes just record brain activity. Some children may fear that the machine can read their thoughts or dreams, it is important to reassure your child that this does not occur.
During setup, your child will not feel anything other than their scalp and hair being touched, and the procedure will not hurt at all. There are no side effects from an EEG.
If your child has seizures during specific situations (e.g. during sleep) please speak to your doctor or the EEG staff about the implications for the EEG recording. It may be possible to provoke a seizure and record an EEG during the seizure episode, which is beneficial as this is when
the most useful information can be found.
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.
You are welcome to stay in the recording room during the EEG if you wish. 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.
A video is recorded in case a seizure episode occurs. This gives the neurologist an accurate visual record along with the EEG recording. If no events are recorded, the video is deleted.
Sometimes doctors will request that an EEG is performed while a child is asleep.
Please do not let your child sleep on the way to your EEG appointment. Sedation is not used to help your child get to sleep for an EEG.
How long will the EEG take?
The test usually takes about an hour, but sometimes it may take longer, especially if a sleep recording is needed.
Are there any risks associated with EEGs?
EEGs are very safe. The electrodes record activity – they don't stimulate the nerves or send any electricity into the brain, so there is no risk of getting an electric shock. EEGs don't involve X-rays or pain. If stimulated, an EEG can cause a seizure in a child who has a seizure disorder,
but the experienced staff know what to do in these circumstances. Talk to your doctor about any risks associated with EEGs and any concerns you have.
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.
Developed by The Royal Children's Hospital Neurology department. We acknowledge the input of RCH consumers and carers.
Reviewed July 2018.
This information is awaiting routine review. Please always seek the most recent advice from a registered and practising clinician.
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