EEG stands for electroencephalogram (Electro = Electrical activity, Cephalo = Head, Gram = recording or picture).
Cells in the brain use very low levels of electricity to communicate with each other. In an EEG, a measurement of the electrical activity is shown on a monitor and appears as wavy lines. Small metal discs with wires attached are placed on your child’s scalp with some gel. Some centers will use a cap rather than individual wires.The test will only pick up the electrical activity of the brain, it cannot read your child’s mind, nor does it give electric shocks. The wavy lines are read and interpreted by a specialist neurologist. The EEG findings are then considered along with the full medical history by the treating doctor who will decide a treatment plan for your child.
You will be given instructions before your child attends their appointment as to whether they need to be kept awake for several hours prior to the test (sleep deprived). The EEG technician may ask your child to engage in some additional tasks during EEG monitoring, such as blowing a toy windmill (to bring on hyperventilation), asking them to look at flashing lights (photic stimulation), to open or close their eyes, or asking them to try to sleep.
An EEG takes approximately 30 mins. To assist your child during the procedure, bring a toy or distraction that they can use while sitting in a chair. IPads, portable dvds, books, colouring-in, or bubbles are often good choices. Your child’s hair will need to be clean but no conditioner or oils should be used on the hair to enable the electrodes to stick to the scalp. Your child's hair also needs to be dry.
Once the recording has been finished you will be able to go straight home. The technician will give you information on how to best remove the gel from your child’s hair. Once the EEG has been reported, you will need to make an appointment to see your doctor for the results. A report of the results will be sent to your referring doctor, usually in about a week.
The information on this page was published in August 2014 and last reviewed without modification in December 2017.