Nerve Conduction Study and Electromyography for Children

What are a nerve conduction study and electromyography for children?

A nerve conduction study and EMG will help your child’s doctors evaluate whether your child’s muscles and nerves are working properly by measuring how they respond to electrical stimulation.

Your child’s pediatrician can identify some neuromuscular problems through a physical exam or blood test, but more complex problems may be harder to diagnose. At that point, a nerve conduction study and EMG can help.

A pediatric neurologist will be able to determine if your child’s symptoms are due to a nerve injury or a neuromuscular disorder. EMGs help diagnose three kinds of diseases that interfere with normal muscle contraction:

  • Diseases of the muscle itself (most commonly, muscular dystrophy in children)
  • Diseases of the neuromuscular junction, which is the connection between a nerve fiber and the muscle it supplies
  • Diseases in nerves and nerve roots, which can be caused by either nerve damage or ongoing nerve injury

What happens in a nerve conduction test?

Your child’s care team will make sure your child is as comfortable as possible during this test. Your child may feel static and may twitch at certain points.

Child Life specialists at Rush University Children’s Hospital specialize in helping children cope with health challenges and medical testing. They are available to help your child prepare for these tests and stay calm throughout the tests.

  1. Your child’s clinician will stick painless flat electrodes on top of the skin over the areas that might be causing symptoms. The electrodes look like little buttons, but have sensors that communicate important information about how the nerves respond to stimulus.
  2. Your child’s clinician will use a small machine to stimulate the nerve with the electrode. It doesn’t hurt, but may feel like static electricity. The muscles might twitch a little at some points. The doctor then sees how the nerve responds on a computer screen.
  3. After the doctor reviews the information, he or she will talk to you about the results and any next steps.

What happens in an EMG?

Your child’s care team will make sure your child is as comfortable as possible during this test. The doctor inserts a very thin needle into the muscles that need to be tested, one at a time, to help determine the cause of symptoms. The needle has a tiny electrode that measures responses.

There might be a little discomfort just when the needle goes in, but since the needle is very thin, it shouldn’t be too much.

Your child’s doctor may ask your child to bend an arm or leg to make the muscle move. On a computer screen, the doctor will be able to see what the muscle does when at rest and while in movement. There might be a little bruising or soreness in the muscle for one or two days after the test.

Evaluating results

  • After seeing the results, the neurologist may want to do additional testing or treatment to figure out the problem and come up with the right treatment plan to help you feel better.
  • If something unexpected is discovered, your doctor will talk with about the results, the condition identified and all of the best treatment options available.
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