If you or a loved one is experiencing seizures, blackouts, or other neurological symptoms, your doctor may recommend an EEG (electroencephalogram) brain scan. EEGs are a non-invasive test that measures the electrical activity in your brain. But what does an EEG brain scan show, and what conditions can it diagnose? And are there any side effects or associated costs? In this guide, we’ll explore everything you need to know about EEG brain scans.
What is an EEG Brain Scan?
An EEG brain scan is a test that records the electrical activity in the brain. This is done by attaching small sensors, called electrodes, to your scalp. These sensors detect electrical signals produced by the brain’s nerve cells, or neurons. The signals are amplified and recorded by a machine, which produces a tracing called an electroencephalogram.
EEGs are typically done in a hospital or clinic. The procedure is painless and non-invasive, and there are no known long-term side effects.
What Does an EEG Brain Scan Show?
An EEG brain scan can help diagnose several neurological conditions, including:
The most common reason for an EEG brain scan is to diagnose epilepsy, a brain disorder that causes seizures. EEGs can detect abnormal electrical activity in the brain that can indicate seizures.
2. Brain Tumors
EEGs can also be used to help diagnose brain tumors. Tumor cells can produce abnormal electrical activity in the brain, which can be detected by an EEG.
3. Sleep Disorders
EEGs can be used to diagnose sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea, narcolepsy, and REM sleep behavior disorders. EEGs can reveal irregularities in brain activity during sleep.
4. Head Injuries
EEGs can be used to diagnose head injuries and monitor recovery. Damaged brain cells can produce abnormal electrical activity, which can be detected by an EEG.
EEGs can be used to help diagnose dementia, a group of conditions that cause cognitive decline. EEGs can reveal abnormalities in brain activity that are associated with dementia.
EEGs can be used to help diagnose stroke and monitor recovery. Stroke can cause abnormal electrical activity in the brain, which can be detected by an EEG.
7. Multiple Sclerosis
EEGs can be used to diagnose multiple sclerosis, a chronic autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system. EEGs can reveal abnormalities in brain activity that are associated with multiple sclerosis.
EEGs can be used to help diagnose autism spectrum disorder (ASD). EEGs can reveal differences in brain activity in individuals with ASD compared to those without.
9. Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
EEGs can be used to diagnose ADHD, a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects attention and behavior. EEGs can reveal differences in brain activity in individuals with ADHD compared to those without.
EEGs can be used to detect abnormal brain activity during migraines, which can help diagnose the condition and guide treatment.
What Can an EEG Show That an MRI Cannot?
While EEGs and MRIs (magnetic resonance imaging) are both non-invasive tests that can help diagnose neurological conditions, they provide different types of information. EEGs measure the electrical activity in the brain, while MRIs produce detailed images of the brain’s structure.
EEGs can detect abnormal electrical activity that might not be visible on an MRI. For example, some types of seizures can only be diagnosed with an EEG. On the other hand, MRIs can detect structural abnormalities in the brain, such as tumors or lesions, that might not be detectable with an EEG.
What Are the Side Effects of an EEG Brain Scan?
EEGs are generally safe, non-invasive tests with few side effects. Some people may experience mild discomfort or itching from the electrodes, but this is usually temporary. In rare cases, the test may trigger a seizure in individuals with epilepsy. However, this is very rare and typically only occurs in individuals who are already at a high risk of having a seizure.
How Long Does an EEG Brain Scan Take?
An EEG brain scan typically takes 30-60 minutes, although the actual recording time is usually shorter. You will need to sit or lie still during the test, and you may be asked to breathe deeply or look at a flashing light to stimulate brain activity.
How Long Does It Take to Get EEG Results?
It typically takes 1-2 weeks to receive the results of an EEG brain scan. Your doctor will review the results with you and discuss any next steps or treatment options.
What Is the Cost of an EEG Brain Scan?
The cost of an EEG brain scan can vary depending on several factors, including your location, the hospital or clinic where it is performed, and whether you have insurance. On average, the cost of an EEG in the United States is between $500 and $3,000. However, some insurance companies may cover part or all of the cost.
EEG Test for Kids
EEGs can be done on children, and they are generally safe and well-tolerated. However, younger children may have difficulty sitting still or cooperating with the test. Sedation or anesthesia may be necessary to help children stay still during the test. Your doctor will discuss the risks and benefits of sedation or anesthesia in children.
An EEG brain scan is a safe, non-invasive test that can help diagnose several neurological conditions. If you or a loved one is experiencing seizures, blackouts, or other neurological symptoms, talk to your doctor about whether an EEG is appropriate. With advances in technology and treatment, many neurological conditions can be managed effectively with appropriate diagnosis and care.