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Electroencephalogram (EEG)

What is an Electroencephalogram (EEG)?

An EEG or electroencephalogram (e-lek-tro-en-sef-ah-lo-gram) is a recording of the electrical activity of the brain.

Before the EEG

  • Explain the test to your child.
  • Shampoo your child's hair well the night before the test. Do not use any hair spray, oil, or mousse. Remove any hair extensions, pieces, or weaves.
  • Your child may eat and drink as usual and should take any prescribed medications.
  • You may bring your child's favorite toy and / or security item such as a blanket.

For a sleep-deprived EEG, put your child to bed at their normal time. Then, wake your child at the following suggested times:

  • Under 3 years old: awaken at 4 am
  • 3-11 years old: awaken at 2 am
  • 12 years and older: awaken at 12 am

For a routine EEG:

  • Under 2 years old: put your child to bed at their normal time. Child is to take no naps prior to the test, especially not sleep in the car on the way to the EEG.
  • 2 years and older: keep your child up two hours past regular bedtime the night before. Do not allow any naps prior to the test.

During the EEG

The technologist will explain and show your child what will happen during the test. Electrodes (referred to as buttons, with wires) are placed on areas of the child's head using a thick paste, after cleaning each area with a cotton tip

Your child will need to lie very still with their eyes closed and try to relax. Some children have difficulty laying still for the electrode placement. When this happens, the child may be swaddled or placed on a papoose board during the electrode placement. After the electrode placement is finished, the parents may be able to hold the child. Only two additional persons will be allowed in the EEG testing room. Other visitors are asked to wait in the waiting room.

The electrodes pick up signals about how the brain is working. These messages are sent to a computer which records the activity.

During part of the test, the technologist flashes a bright light in front of the child for 10 seconds approximately nine different times. We may ask your child to breathe deeply for two to three minutes during the test.

After the EEG

After the test, the electrodes are removed and the hair and scalp are cleaned with a wet washcloth. There will still be some cream that will need to be washed out at home. After the test, your child can resume their normal activities.

A neurologist, a doctor who specializes in the nervous system, will read the tracing. A report will be sent to the requesting doctor or clinic. Results from the test can take up to three to five business days.

Last Updated 05/2020

Reviewed By Gail Greene, RNII

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