Also known as NCS, a nerve conduction study is often performed to identify nerve damage. This is a diagnostic test that doctors may order to determine the health of the nerves in a certain area of the body. There are many reasons why someone might benefit from a nerve conduction study, especially in terms of diagnosis. Nerves are complicated, so it can be difficult to get a diagnosis quickly without the use of tests like a nerve conduction study.
The Nervous System
Nerves are made up of cells called neurons that transmit information around the body. This information can be pain, responses, or the instructions needed to move the parts of the body. Nerves are delicate and can be injured in many different ways. The nervous system starts at the brain, where information can be transmitted all over the body through the spinal cord down to the other peripheral nerves. If a nerve becomes damaged, it stops sending signals or it sends them slowly. Nerves send these transmissions through electrical impulses, which can be measured through an NCS.
Why Get a Nerve Conduction Study?
Because an NCS is a diagnostic test, it is used to help a doctor diagnose the patient. The main reason is that if someone is experiencing symptoms like numbness, weakness, or pain, it can be difficult to tell if that is coming from the nerves or the muscles of the body. There are several conditions that a nerve conduction study can help with diagnosing, including carpal tunnel syndrome, guillain-barre syndrome, neuropathy, sciatica and more. It can also rule out many different conditions if someone is experiencing multiple symptoms.
What Happens During a Nerve Conduction Study?
Because this is a mild and non-invasive test, the preparation is minimal. Most patients will be asked to stop using lotion or ointments for a few days prior to the study, and the doctors will ask which medications you are currently taking to try to avoid any interference with the test. They may also ask you to abstain from alcohol or caffeine beforehand.
You will first have to remove any metal from your body like jewelry, which may interfere with the electrical pulses. Depending on the area that is being tested, you may have to remove some clothing and wear a gown. The technician will then place electrodes on your skin, usually with a hypoallergenic body-safe glue or paste. A neurologist will help the technician know exactly where to place these electrodes. Electrodes look like small stickers attached to wires. Then, a small electrical current will be sent through the electrodes to stimulate your nerve. This should not be painful, but there may be slight discomfort. The results will be reviewed by your doctor. Depending on how many nerves need to be tested, the entire process can take from 20 minutes up to about an hour.
Once you have been tested, the results can indicate if the nerve that has been tested is normal or diseased and malfunctioning. Although this is key information, it does not indicate how the nerve became dysfunctional. There are many different ways a nerve can become damaged, so it is up to the doctor to make a diagnosis based on your other symptoms and any other tests that have been performed.
Nerve Conduction Study Orders
If your doctor has ordered a nerve conduction study for you, there is nothing to fear! These are safe, simple procedures that can help you get a diagnosis. It is important to understand that this may be only one in a series of tests needed to reach a specific diagnosis. Having a doctor who understands the nervous system along with the musculoskeletal system is key to understanding what may be going on in your body. Make an appointment with our office today!