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Pediatric Electroencephalogram (EEG)

An electroencephalogram (EEG) is usually done if a child has developmental delays or is experiencing seizures or atypical movements or behavior. The information about the brain from an EEG can help the care team make a diagnosis.

Children's Health offers care from some of the top experts in the country in pediatric neurology. We have deep expertise and experience diagnosing and caring for children with a wide range of conditions that affect the brain.

What is a Pediatric EEG?

An EEG measures the brain waves or electrical activity in your child’s brain.

Before an EEG, a technician will place small, sticky discs attached to wires (electrodes) on your child’s head. These electrodes can detect the electrical activity in the brain cells. The EEG records these tiny electrical charges during the test and shows them as a graph of the brain’s electrical activity. Your care team can use this information to understand and evaluate your child for different brain conditions, including seizures, abnormal movements, brain infection or a brain tumor.

What are the benefits of a Pediatric EEG?

An EEG can give your care team important information about your child’s brain that can help them understand symptoms, diagnose conditions, and plan treatment.

What are the risks of a Pediatric EEG?

EEGs are safe and painless.

If your child has epilepsy or another seizure disorder, some procedures performed during the EEG (such as flashing lights or blowing on a pinwheel) might trigger a seizure. Sometimes this is done intentionally to gather additional information. If your child does have a seizure, the care team will immediately treat and take care of them.

What to expect with a Pediatric EEG?

EEGs are common tests. Your care team will have careful instructions about what you and your child should expect.

What to expect before an EEG?

Before an EEG, your care team will cover the medications your child uses, because some medications interfere with the test.

What to expect during an EEG?

The technician will measure your child’s head and mark where they will place electrodes. They may rub a gritty cream on those places to help the electrodes stick better. They will then glue the electrodes on each spot that they marked. Some children may find this part of the process a little uncomfortable.

The technician will connect the electrodes to the EEG machine and start the test. Your child may be asked to look at flashing lights, to breath hard or try to sleep. The technician may record your child with video to get additional information.

An EEG usually takes 60 to 90 minutes. You will be allowed to stay in the room with your child. Your child can bring a pillow, stuffed animal or other favorite object they find comforting.

What to expect after an EEG?

After the EEG, the technician will remove the electrodes and wash away the glue. If some glue remains, you may need to wash your child’s hair after you get home. They can return to their usual activities.

How do I prepare my child for a Pediatric EEG?

The care team will give you detailed instructions about how to prepare your child. This will include what your child can eat, what medications they can take and in what other ways you should prepare before the EEG.

What is my child allowed to eat and drink before an EEG?

Because low blood sugar can affect the EEG results, your child should not fast the night before. Be sure to follow instructions you are given about what they can eat. They should not eat or drink anything with caffeine (including chocolate, coffee, tea and some sodas) for eight to 12 hours before the EEG.

What are the prep instructions for an EEG?

If part of the EEG needs to take place while your child is sleeping, they may need to sleep less the night before so that they can nap during the test.

The night before the EEG, your child’s hair needs to be washed. To make it easier for the electrodes to be attached, don’t use any oil, conditioner, hair spray or other products. Also, remove hair extensions and don’t braid or put-up long hair.

What questions should I ask my provider about a Pediatric EEG?

  • Are there any other tests that we should be considering?
  • What results should I expect from the EEG?
  • When and how will we receive the results?
  • Who will explain the results to us?
  • How will this inform treatment?

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Who gives and interprets the EEG to children?

    Our team of highly trained neurologists with expertise in epilepsy and EEGs, reads the EEG results. Our EEG technicians are specially trained in EEG technology and in working with children. They know how to identify normal actions a child may make, such as sneezing or yawning, that are important to note for the neurologists who will interpret the results.

  • Could my child get an electric shock from undergoing an EEG?

    No. There is no risk that your child might get an electric shock. The electrodes record electrical activity only, and they do not cause shocks. In general, EEGs have been used for decades, and they are safe. The EEG does not cause pain.

  • What does my child need to know about an EEG?

    It’s helpful to explain that they will have electrodes attached to their head and that they may need to stay very still for quite a while.

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