The quicker we can clarify and define what is causing neuromuscular symptoms, the sooner we can recommend the best treatment. Some neuromuscular problems may be easily identified by a doctor's exam or a blood test. But other problems are difficult to diagnose, especially when patients exhibit unusual symptoms. In fact, many people with neuromuscular disorders are misdiagnosed or may go years before a diagnosis is established.
In the Electromyography (EMG) Laboratory at Rush, we have assembled some of the most sophisticated diagnostic technology available for detecting muscle and nerve disorders. In fact, we are one of a select number of medical centers in the Chicago area capable of performing single-fiber EMG — one of the most sensitive neuromuscular tests available.
However, technology alone is not what makes a great EMG lab. Experience matters even more. Our fellowship-trained neuromuscular physicians have conducted thousands of muscle and nerve tests on adults, children and infants. As a result, our physicians are able to discern the most subtle abnormalities in muscles and nerves and arrive at a diagnosis with almost 100 percent accuracy. They have helped patients with all types of neuromuscular problems, including:
- motor neuron disease, including amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
- muscular dystrophy
- myasthenia gravis
- nerve injuries, such as carpal tunnel syndrome and other forms of neuropathy
- pinched nerve roots in the neck and back
Two of the most common tests we perform are nerve conduction studies and EMGs. These two tests measure the electrical activity inside nerves and muscles. All muscles and nerves naturally produce electricity. EMGs and nerve conduction studies tell us whether this electrical activity is normal or not. Abnormal electrical activity indicates that there may be muscle or nerve damage.
These two tests, typically performed together, takes about one hour. Here's what patients can expect:
Nerve conduction studies give us detailed information about a patient's nerves. First, we tape patches on bare skin over each muscle or nerve in the area that is causing symptoms. These patches contain electrodes, or electrical conductors. Then, we stimulate the nerve and obtain a nerve response. This allows us to measure live nerve function and determine the health of the nerve.
EMGs help us detect and define any muscle damage. A very thin electrode is inserted into the muscle being examined. Once the electrode is inserted, the electrical activity inside the muscle is viewed on a computer screen. The patient is asked to move the muscle so the muscle's electrical activity both at rest and during movement may be seen.
Both EMGs and nerve conduction tests are very safe. Our team has extensive experience helping children of all ages through diagnostic tests.
Our respected neuromuscular physicians have completed fellowships in clinical neurophysiology, which means they received additional training in the physical and chemical activity of the nervous system. In addition, they have years of experience working one-on-one with patients with neuromuscular disorders. At Rush, the physicians who work in our EMG lab are the same physicians who treat patients in all of our neuromuscular clinics. In other words, Rush's neuromuscular physicians are uniquely trained to detect — and treat — abnormalities in muscle and nerve function.