Electromyogram (EMG)

As part of the Center for Pediatric Neurosciences at Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare, our neurodiagnostic services are designed to meet the needs of all children, teens and adults. Our staff has extensive experience working with children and with patients who have cognitive (thinking and learning) and physical disabilities. To support the diagnosis, treatment and monitoring of our patients, we offer a variety of neurodiagnostic tests, including electromyograms.

Why Choose Gillette?

  • Our electromygraphers are familiar with the nerve and muscle conditions that affect children most often.
  • Our electromygraphers understand the unique reasons that a child might need an EMG and how EMGs performed on children differ from EMGs performed on adults.
  • We provide a child-friendly atmosphere and Child Life specialists who offer positive distraction when needed.
  • We provide multiple types of sedation, if needed, to make the EMG testing process a smoother experience.

Definition

An electromyogram (EMG) is a series of diagnostic tests that uses different electrodes to assess the electrical activity of muscles and nerves. EMG results can help specialists diagnose nerve or muscle dysfunction.


Candidates for an Electromyogram (EMG)

We might recommend an EMG to help diagnose or rule out medical conditions such as disorders of the muscles or nerves.

We might also recommend an EMG if a patient experiences symptoms such as:

  • Numbness
  • Tingling
  • Paralysis
  • Muscle twitching
  • Muscle weakness
  • Muscle pain or cramping

Getting Ready

We recommend preparing for an EMG in the following ways.

  • Make sure the skin is clean (don’t put on lotion before the EMG).
  • Wear shoes and socks to keep your feet warm—this is important for testing. Don’t wear sandals, even if it’s hot outside.
  • Bring a pair of shorts and a short-sleeved shirt.
  • Eat, drink, and take medicines as usual before and after the study.

What to Expect During an Electromyogram (EMG)

An EMG usually consists of two parts—the nerve conduction study and the direct measurement of electrical activity in the muscle. We might provide medicine or nitrous oxide to help patients feel more comfortable during the test. Patients may eat, drink and take medicines as usual before and after the test.

Nerve Conduction Study

If we perform this test, we attach flat metal disc electrodes to the skin with tape. We place these recording electrodes over muscles controlled by a nerve. Next, we place a nerve stimulator over the nerve. The stimulator sends mild and brief electrical shocks to the nerve, causing a tingling sensation. Our equipment records the size and speed of the electrical responses. A nerve conduction study typically takes 15 to 60 minutes—sometimes longer, depending on the number of muscles and nerves we study.

Electromyogram

We ask patients to lie on a bed or in a reclined position that allows the muscles to relax. Next, we clean the skin above the muscle to be studied and insert the EMG electrode. The EMG electrode is a very small needle or wire inserted into the muscles and attached to a recording machine. During this portion of the test, patients receive no electrical shocks. We record one muscle at a time, often testing multiple muscles in sequence. When the electrode is in place, we record both muscle activity when the muscle is at rest and when the patient tightens the muscle slowly. The EMG machine will convert the muscle’s activity into sounds—typically a popping or snapping sound. An EMG might take 30 to 60 minutes.

After the Electromyogram (EMG)

A specially trained electromyographer will interpret the EMG test. Results might not be available right away. We will send the test results to the referring provider, who will discuss the final test results with patients.


Electromyogram (EMG) Safety

An EMG is a very low-risk procedure, and complications are unusual. There’s a small chance of bleeding or infection in the areas where the needle electrode was inserted.


Resources and Publications

At Gillette, we’re committed to helping you feel prepared and supported. That’s why we offer resources to help you prepare for your EMG.

Educational Booklet

This booklet helps families and caregivers prepare children for their upcoming visit.

All About Your EMG

Or, for more information, see Preparing for Your Visit.