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Evoked potentials studies measure electrical activity in the brain in response to stimulation of sight, sound, or touch. Stimuli delivered to the brain through each of these senses evoke minute electrical signals. These signals travel along the nerves and through the spinal cord to specific regions of the brain and are picked up by electrodes, amplified, and displayed for a doctor to interpret.
Evoked potentials studies involve three major tests that measure response to visual, auditory, and electrical stimuli.
Evoked potential studies may be used to assess hearing or sight, especially in infants and children, to diagnose disorders of the optic nerve, and to detect tumors or other problems affecting the brain and spinal cord. The tests may also be done to assess brain function during a coma.
A disadvantage of these tests is that they detect abnormalities in sensory function, but usually do not lead to a specific diagnosis about what is causing the abnormality. However, the evoked potentials test can sometimes confirm a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis.
There may be other reasons for your healthcare provider to recommend an evoked potentials test.
The evoked potential studies are considered safe procedures. The tests can cause a little discomfort. The electrodes only record activity and do not produce any sensation.
There may be risks depending on your specific medical condition. Be sure to discuss any concerns with your healthcare provider prior to the procedure.
Certain factors or conditions may interfere with the results of the test. These include:
Ask your healthcare provider to tell you what you should do before your test. Below is a list of common steps that you may be asked to do:
An evoked potentials test may be done on an outpatient basis or as part of your stay in a hospital. Procedures may vary depending on your condition and your healthcare provider's practices. Talk with your healthcare provider about what you will experience during your test.
Generally, the evoked potentials test follows this process:
The test will generally proceed as follows.
Once the test is complete, the electrodes will be removed and the electrode paste washed off. In some cases, you may need to wash your hair again at home.
Your healthcare provider will inform you as to when to resume any medications you may have stopped taking before the test.
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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