Prepare for the test
It is important to follow these directions to get a good reading. If not, we might have to repeat or reschedule your child’s appointment.
Your child needs to be sleepy for the test.
- Keep your child up 2-3 hours later than usual the night before the test.
- Get him up 2-3 hours earlier than usual the morning of the test.
- Children over 3 years of age should not sleep more than 5 hours the night before the test.
- Do not let your child nap the day of the test.
Your child's physicians will give you instructions about when your child can eat before and after the procedure.
- Your child may eat or drink a regular diet before the test, but may not have foods or drinks with caffeine (such as sodas, coffee or tea) or anything that is high in sugar. Natural sugars such as fruit are OK.
- If your baby still takes a bottle, please bring full bottles with you.
- Wash and rinse your child’s hair the night before the test. Do not use any oil, gel, or hairspray. If your child's hair is long, do not braid or put it up. No hair extensions please.
- Bring a comfort item such as a pacifier or blanket if needed. If your child is a baby or toddler, bring diapers with you.
Bring a list of all the medications (dose and schedule) your child takes.
- If your child is taking medicine, give it at the regular time if this is at least 2 hours before the test time.
- If the medicine is due during the 2 hours before the test, check with your doctor to see if it should be given early or held until after the test.
Arrive at the hospital 30 minutes early to allow time to park and register.
- The test can take as long as an hour and a half. If you are more than 15 minutes late, we might need to reschedule your child’s appointment.
- Bring money for parking (Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta does not validate).
What to expect
To get the maximum information from this test, your child's physician will try to record EEG during wakefulness and sleep.
- A trained, registered neurophysiology technologist will perform the test.
- Your child will be asked to lie down on a bed or stretcher. The technologist will explain the procedure to you and your child.
- The EEG technologist prepares your child’s head for wires called electrodes (small, flat, round discs) that will be placed on your child’s scalp. The technologist measures your child's head and makes small marks on the scalp with a washable marker or pen. Each marked area is rubbed with a gritty lotion so the electrodes transmit well. Glue is put on the electrodes, which are applied to each of the marked spots on the scalp. We may wrap your child’s head in gauze to hold the electrodes in place. The electrodes do not hurt or shock your child.
- The electrodes are connected to the EEG machine and the test begins. The machine records the electrical activity of the brain.
- After the technician checks all the sensors, the technician will take the first reading while your child is awake, your child will breathe quickly for three minutes for the next part, we will turn out the lights, and your child will sleep for 10 to 15 minutes and when your child wakes up, the technician will use flashing lights to test his reaction. He can keep his eyes closed—as long as he does not go back to sleep.
- The test can take as long as an hour and a half. If your child’s doctor asks for a video EEG to give more time to study the brain waves the procedure may take longer. It may last six to eight hours.
- Your child is usually videotaped during the EEG.