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A nerve conduction velocity (NCV) test — also called a nerve conduction study (NCS) — is a measurement of the speed at which an electrical impulse moves through your nerve. NCV can determine nerve damage.
During the test, your nerve is stimulated, usually with surface electrode patches attached to your skin. Two electrodes are placed on the skin over your nerve. One electrode stimulates your nerve with a very mild electrical impulse and the other electrode records it. The resulting electrical activity is recorded by another electrode. This is repeated for each nerve being tested.
The NCV (speed) is then calculated by measuring the distance between electrodes and the time it takes for electrical impulses to travel between electrodes.
A related procedure that may be performed is an electromyography (EMG). This measures the electrical activity in your muscles and is often performed at the same time as an NCV. Both procedures help to detect the presence, location, and extent of diseases that damage the nerves and muscles.
NCV is often used along with an EMG to differentiate a nerve disorder from a muscle disorder. NCV detects a problem with the nerve, whereas an EMG detects whether the muscle is functioning properly in response to the nerve's stimulus.
Diseases or conditions that may be evaluated with NCV include, but are not limited to, the following:
Nerve conduction studies may also be performed to identify the cause of symptoms, such as numbness, tingling, and continuous pain.
Other conditions may prompt your healthcare provider to recommend NCV.
The voltage of the electrical pulses used during an NCV is considered very low.
There may be risks depending on your specific medical condition. Be sure to discuss any concerns with your healthcare provider before the procedure.
Certain factors or conditions may interfere with the results of NCV tests, such as damage to the spinal cord, severe pain before the test, and body temperature.
Tell your healthcare provider if you have a cardiac defibrillator or pacemaker, as precautions may need to be taken.
An NCV procedure may be performed on an outpatient basis, or as part of your stay in a hospital. Procedures may vary depending on your condition and your doctor's practices.
The NCV is performed by a neurologist (a doctor who specializes in brain and nerve disorders), although a technologist may also perform some portions of the test.
Generally, an NCV procedure follows this process:
The paste used to attach the electrodes will be removed from your skin.
After the test, you may return to your previous activities, unless your healthcare provider advises you differently. Your healthcare provider may instruct you to avoid strenuous activities for the rest of the day.
Your healthcare provider may give you additional or alternate instructions after the procedure, depending on your particular situation.
Before you agree to the test or the procedure make sure you know:
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