What is Electrodiagnostic Medicine?

An electrodiagnostic exam uses sensors to check the electrical activity of muscles and nerves in order to determine if they have been damaged. Electrodiagnostic medicine specialists are the technicians that perform these exams and the physicians who interpret the results to determine which treatments are necessary.

An electrodiagnostic exam can tell you how well the nerves and muscles of the body are functioning or connected. Nerves work by conducting electrical impulses, and muscles are controlled by electrical charges from nerves. Certain symptoms, injuries, or illnesses can indicate a problem with the function of this electrical system within the body. A patient may be referred for an electrodiagnostic exam for conditions such as:
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Limb trauma, such as a very deep cut that may have injured the nerves
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's disease, which can destroy nerve cells
  • Unexplained numbness, pain, or weakness

There are two main tests done as part of electrodiagnostic medicine: nerve conduction testing to check the function of nerves, and electromyography to check the health of muscles. Both tests involve inserting a needle into the affected area, applying a small electrical current, and measuring the response. The tests are painless except for inserting the needle, and the electricity usually feels like a mild tingling or buzzing if it can be felt at all. Depending on what is being tested, an electrodiagnostic exam may take only a few minutes or more than an hour.

Electrodiagnostic medicine is not routine, but it is an important diagnostic tool for patients living with neuromuscular disease.
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