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EMG with Nerve Conduction Studies

Conemaugh Physician Group - Neurology
Conemaugh East Hills
1450 Scalp Avenue, Second Floor
Johnstown, PA 15904
Phone: (814) 269-5211

Electromyography (EMG) and nerve conduction studies (NCS) are tests that measure muscle and nerve function. The tests are often performed together with the NCS done first

Before the Study

A physician's order is required for an EMG. A member of Conemaugh's team will contact the patient to schedule a procedure appointment. The patient will provide identification and insurance information. If not covered by insurance, the patient should call (814) 410-8470.

Each patient will receive specific instructions, which may include not taking certain medications prior to the procedure. 

Day of the Study

The patient should shower or bath the morning of the EMG procedure, but not use any lotions, oils, or creams on the body. Loose fitting, clean, and comfortable clothing is recommended.

Patients should not use nicotine or consume any caffeine for four hours prior to the study. Avoid chocolate, coffee, tea, soda, or any other products containing caffeine.

If approved by the physician, the patient may take over-the-counter pain medications to reduce discomfort of the procedure. Medications work best if taken one hour prior to the study. 

The patient should bring identification and insurance cards as follow-up to information obtained during scheduling.

Children under 18 years of age or incapacitated adults must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian. The patient may be accompanied by one adult family member or friend. Children should not accompany adults having a procedure.

The staff may ask the patient the same questions several times, including name and birth date. This assists staff in verifying and re-verifying very important information to ensure that the study is safe. The patient will be asked to sign a consent form that legally permits the physician to perform the EMG procedure.

During the Study

The patient will be taken into the procedure room and may be asked to put on a hospital gown. The patient will be instructed to either sit or lie down on an exam table depending on the nerves and muscles being tested. There will be an EMG machine on a table that looks like a computer.

A Neurologist or Physiatrist will perform the EMG study. The patient should notify the physician if he or she has a pacemaker or other electrical devices, are taking any blood thinners, has any bleeding tendencies, or has immune system problems. The physician will explain everything that is happening and answer any questions.

Electromyography (EMG) and nerve conduction studies (NCS) are tests that measure muscle and nerve function. The tests are often performed together with the NCS done first.

The NCS checks how quickly impulses travel between nerves. Small metal disks, called recording eletrodes, are attached to the patient's skin with conduction gel or part of the limb or body. Mild electrical currents are delivered from the machine through a pair of electrodes attached to another part of that limb or body part. A brief electric shock is delivered, and is kept at a safe level. A tingling sensation is felt and the muscles twitch as the current flows, and is recorded on the EMG machine. The study is not harmful, but the patient may experience some discomfort. This may be repeated several times per area to evaluate each nerve in that area or extremity. Each area that needs evaluated will be tested in the same way. The physician may pause at times to make calculations and take measurements. It will be approximately 15 to 30 minutes per extremity tested.

The EMG, also called the needle test, assesses muscle function to evaluate if there is a problem in the muscle itself rather than the nerve. The physician uses very thin, fine needles about one and a quarter inches long that are attached to the EMG machine. The skin is cleansed with an alcohol wipe and the needle is inserted into the relaxed muscle to be evaluated. A pinch or a sting may be felt as the needle is inserted through the skin and into the muscle. This is necessary to assess the ability of muscles to respond to nervous stimulation. No electric currents are used. The EMG will record the muscle activity and can be heard as static on the EMG machine. The patient will be asked to tighten the muscles to also evaluate them at work. This may be repeated several times, usually using about five or six muscles per extremity. This may also be performed on more than one extremity depending on the problem area. Each muscle takes about two to five minutes; and the time for one extremity is approximately 15 to 20 minutes.

The entire test will take approximately 60 to 90 minutes.

After the Study

Once the testing is complete all the electrodes are removed. The patient will be assisted off the table or up from the chair if necessary. The patient may get dressed and leave. If instructed to hold any medications, the patient should ask the physician when to resume a regular schedule.

The Neurologist / Physiatrist will interpret the results and send a report to the physician that ordered the test. If the study was ordered STAT by the physician, the technician will alert the doctor and clerical staff to ensure the physician receives the results as soon as possible.

There are no activity restrictions. At times the patient may have some minor aches or discomfort. There is a slight risk of bleeding or infection at the electrode sites. If the patient notices any bleeding, increase in discomfort, or signs of infection such as redness, warmth, swelling, pain, drainage or fever over 101 degrees F, call the referring physician immediately.