Monday, November 13, 2006

The Diagnostic Tests - Part I (The ECG and EEG)

After I had a seizure, I underwent some diagnostic tests to find out what was wrong. I did a blood test, a chest X-ray, an ECG, EEG, CT Scan and a MRI.

The ECG (Electrocardiogram)

An ECG is a test that records the electrical activity of the heart on a graph. It has a prime function in the screening and diagnosis of cardiovascular diseases.

I remember the physician put two metal clips on my wrists for a brief period and that was it. Test completed. I'm not sure why this test was required but I guess the physician felt that a full medical including blood tests and chest X-Ray is required to do a proper diagnosis.

The EEG (Electrocardiogram)

An electroencephalogram (EEG) is a test that measures and records the electrical activity of the brain by using sensors (electrodes) attached to the head and connected by wires to a computer. It may may be done to diagnose epilepsy and determine what type of seizures are occurring. EEG is the most useful and important test in confirming a diagnosis of epilepsy. However, an electroencephalogram (EEG) is not a foolproof test of whether epilepsy is present. Some people with abnormal EEG results do not have epilepsy, and some people who have epilepsy will have normal EEG results, despite repeated tests. This site has a very good and detailed explanation of an EEG.

For this test, I was brought to a darken room and made to lie down. Then the technician (is that what you call them?) started glueing electrodes on my head with a sticky paste. There were many electrodes, each of them connected to the computer.

The test was supposed to be conducted under different conditions eg drowsy and sleep state. I was also asked to hyperventilate (breath in and out hard and fast) and lights were flashed into my eyes periodically.

I do question the accuracy of the EEG conducted on me because it was later recorded that it was done in a drowsy and sleep state. I did not feel drowsy neither was I asleep at the time so how could the results claim that I was?

Ok so I was a little bit sleepy because I didn't sleep well the night before from worrying but I don't think I was drowsy and certainly not asleep! Anyway, here's what I recall of it. To get me into a drowsy state, I remember the lights were dimmed. I remember they put a cloth (with cross stitch on it) to cover my head and face. I remember my husband was sitting in the room (providing me with the comfort of his presence and support which lessen my fear, although there's really nothing to fear. I was just feeling apprehensive overall). I remember the technician's handphone rang and he answered speaking softly. Drowsy state? Asleep? I don't think so.

And yet under the test notes, were recorded that I had spontaneous sleep with no sedation. Other words mentioned were generalised seizure during sleep, Grand Mal Epilepsy and partial form of seizure disorder. Scary big words. Is it any wonder I lost 5 pounds in a week from worry?

To anyone who has to do an EEG and happened to land on this page, don't worry. Its not scary, its painless and there's no discomfort. A seizure may be triggered by the flashing lights and hyperventilation but the people at the lab or hospital should be experienced enough to deal with it.

Will write about the other tests in another post.

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