Electromyography and Nerve Conduction Velocity Studies

The functioning of our nerves and muscles relies on electrical signals. The human body can be thought of as a highly intricate machine with an elaborate wiring system that is more complex than any system designed by an electrician. To assess the functioning of this intricate system, doctors can test how the electricity is conducted by your child's nerves and muscles, much like an electrician would do if there were issues with a machine's wiring.

To assess the functioning of your child's nerves and muscles, doctors may conduct specific tests like nerve conduction studies (NCS) and electromyography (EMG). NCS measures how the electrical signals move through the nerves, while EMG records the signals as they move through the muscles. These tests are commonly referred to as "EMG testing" when conducted together.

The nerves that are evaluated during nerve conduction studies are referred to as "peripheral nerves." These nerves are located outside of the brain and spinal cord and are responsible for transmitting messages throughout your child's body. The peripheral nerves play a vital role in allowing your child to receive sensory information, such as the texture of an object when they touch it, and also in controlling their muscles.

In addition to aiding in the diagnosis of various neuromuscular and muscular conditions, EMG testing is also used by doctors to monitor the functioning of your child's nerves and muscles post-treatment. This ensures that the treatment has been effective and provides valuable insights into any further course of action that may be required.

What happens during the tests?

The first step is to lie on a table/bed. You may also sit in a reclining chair to relax your muscles.


Step 1 – The doctor will insert a needle electrode into a muscle to record the electrical activity. This may feel a quick, sharp pain.

Step 2 - You may be asked to tighten the same muscle slowly and steadily while the electrical activity is recorded.

Step 3 - The electrode may be moved to a different area of the muscle or even a different muscle.

To Conduct Nerve Conduction Studies:

  • Two types of electrodes are attached to your skin.
  • One of these will be placed over a nerve. Now the doctor will give the nerve an electrical pulse.
  • The other type of electrode will be placed over the muscle responsible for controlling nerves.
  • The electrode will record the time it takes the muscle to react to the electrical pulse.
  • You can feel the electrical pulses (small shocks and are safe).

How does having electromyogram (EMG) and nerve conduction studies feel?

The EMG test involves putting needle electrode into a muscle. It feels like a quick, sharp pain.

Nerve conduction studies are conducted. You will be able to feel the electrical pulses. These tests may make some people anxious. However, these are very low-voltage electrical current. And Each electrical pulse is very quick and lasts only less than a second.


Q: Is EMG testing painful?

A: Well, the stimuli in nerve conduction studies (NCS) can feel like static electricity (this is similar to walking across a carpet and touching a metal doorknob). For kids, the electromyography (EMG) may be a bit painful. However, most children get distracted by the crackling sound of electrical activity of their muscles. Hence, they can tolerate the study without too much difficulty.

Q: What information does the study give?

A: The doctors can assess the functioning of nerves and muscles. NCS is used to measure travelling of electrical signals through the nerves. Signals moving through muscles are recorded by EMG. All of the info is helpful for the doctor to diagnose neuromuscular and muscular disorders.

Q: Do you sedate the child for the test?

A: Since most children can tolerate the test better, sedation is not an option. The test is performed faster. Our doctors and technologists do their best to help your child understand the test. They will also comfort him throughout the test.

In some cases, we may use general anesthesia to get better information. The EMG testing for your child may be scheduled in our Day Surgery Unit. This is usually when the child is unable to tolerate the study. General anesthesia involves some smaller risks. This is also the reason we do not use it on a routine basis for this study.

Q: Do I need to apply for a leave from school for my child before the test?

A: Not necessarily. The test only takes an hour. Hence, most children are able to school the same day. Some parents prefer not sending their child to school the same day and allow them some rest. This depends on your personal preference and child’s age.

Q: Does the test produce a risk of nerve damage?

A: No. The test involves the electrical stimuli of NCS which does not cause nerve damage. None of the needle electrodes used for EMG is placed near any major nerves.

Q: Is there a substitute for EMG?

A: Your doctor will be able to decide this better. In case, your child’s doctor thinks your child may have a muscle disorder, genetic testing alone can help with diagnosis. However, in case of an unclear, an EMG can help determine any issue with the normal functioning of nerves or muscles. In some cases, the doctor may also suggest a muscle biopsy or other test for detailed diagnosis.

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