CAN AN EEG DETECT TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY?

Can an EEG Detect Traumatic Brain Injury

The Neuro Injury Care Institute always puts our patients first. We provide all of our injured patients with completely Neurologic Evaluations as part of that. One of the many evaluation tools we have available is an EEG. 

EEGs can show early signs of a TBI (traumatic brain injury) when taken close to the accident. Those early signs can help predict the TBI diagnosis and the prognosis and severity of the injury. This, in turn, helps guide the treatment course for patients in New York City, BrooklynManhattanQueensBronx, and Staten Island

Some Background on EEGs

Before exploring the benefits of EEG and how the test helps diagnose TBIs, you should understand what an EEG test is.

EEG To Detect Traumatic Brain Injury

What Is an EEG Test?

An EEG test is the abbreviation for an electroencephalogram test. This test involves connecting electrodes to the scalp and recording the brain’s electrical signals. This is an important test, as your brain cells rely on electrical impulses to communicate with each other. This activity occurs 24/7, even when you are asleep. As such, the test lets doctors see the electrical activity in the brain at a given moment in time.

Types of EEG Tests

There are several different EEG types, with a routine EEG being the most common. This mostly requires you just to lay down quietly and rest. You may have to open and close your eyes, breathe in and out, or look at a flashing light at varying points. 

The following are other types of EEGs: 

  • Ambulatory EEG – This type of EEG is a longer-term test. It involves recording brain activity for at least a day. The patient has a portable EEG reader clipped to their clothes for this. You complete your normal activities with the monitor, except for anything that gets the device wet. 
  • Sleep EEGs – Sleep EEGs occur when you are asleep. This type of EEG is most commonly used to diagnose sleep disorders. However, it can also be an option if your doctor needs more information after a routine EEG. 
  • Sleepdeprived EEGs – These are similar to sleep EEGs, but the doctor asks you to stay awake for the full night before the test. That sleep deprivation helps ensure you can sleep during the EEG. 
  • Video EEG – Video EEG or video telemetry adds a video component. It simply means that you are recorded on video during the EEG test. These tests can take several days and be done in a designated hospital suite.
Do EEG Tests Just Diagnose TBIs

At the Neuro Injury Care Institute, we use EEGs as one of the diagnostic tools to evaluate whether patients have a TBI. But this is just one of the conditions that an EEG test can diagnose. It is most commonly used to diagnose: 

EEGs are also commonly used on patients in comas. They can help anesthesiologists find the ideal dose of anesthetic or let doctors confirm that the patient is still alive.

What to Expect During an EEG?

Before the EEG, you will be asked to lie down on a bed or exam table. The technician will place around 20 electrodes (small sensors) at key points on your scalp. These electrodes will send information about your neuron’s electrical activity to the EEG device. The device will output the results in the form of lines and waves. 

During the EEG, you will need to stay still. You may have to keep your eyes open for the beginning and then close them later in the procedure. Moreover, you may need to look at a flashing light or breathe deeply. This lets the EEG machine monitor how these activities affect your brain waves. 

After the test is complete, the technician will remove the electrodes. They will then remove the glue that secured them. If some glue or stickiness remains, you can remove it with nail polish remover.

Benefits of EEG Tests

Benefits of EEG Tests

Traumatic brain injury EEG tests have a long list of benefits. This is why the test is such a popular diagnostic tool both for TBIs and other conditions.

EEGs Are Safe

One of the biggest advantages of EEGs is that they are completely safe for most people. 

The most common exception to this is in the case of those with a seizure disorder, but even then, the risk is only slight. Although rare, it is possible for the deep breathing and flashing lights associated with the EEG to trigger a seizure. 

Even if someone has a seizure disorder, this risk is rare enough to conduct an EEG. The only caveat is that your doctor will likely have extra medical staff on hand in case you do experience a seizure. 

Preparation Is Simple

Another benefit of an EEG test is that the preparation is very simple. The most challenging instruction is to not have anything with caffeine in it for about eight hours before the test. 

You will also have to wash your hair at night before the test and not use any styling products or leave-in conditioner. If you have extensions with glue on them, you will also have to remove them. 

Other than those two things, the preparation is straightforward. You can normally eat, as low blood sugar can lead to abnormal results. In the case of sleeping EEGs, you may also have additional sleep-related instructions. Of course, you will also have to tell your doctor about any medications and supplements you are taking. 

They Are Relatively Fast Outpatient Tests

A traumatic brain injury EEG is a relatively short outpatient procedure, making it easier to schedule. The test typically takes approximately 45 minutes and two hours. 

You Can Drive Home After the Test

In nearly every case, you will be able to drive home following a daytime EEG test. The only exceptions will be if you are experiencing active seizures or if the doctor recommends against it. If your EEG was overnight, you should have someone drive you. 

It Can Provide Early Detection of TBIs

Because of all of the above benefits, EEGs can offer an incredibly useful early diagnostic tool to help assess TBIs. This can be especially helpful to tell if more invasive tests are necessary. Some research even praises the ability of EEGs to offer a more portable testing method for athletes and those in the military. Of course, this early detection is not just limited to those groups. It can apply to anyone who experiences a TBI.

How EEGs Help Diagnose Traumatic Brain Injuries

How EEG Helps Diagnose Brain Injuries

When discussing traumatic brain injury EEGs, the biggest benefit is the ability of this test to help diagnose a TBI. 

When you look at the EEG of a person with a traumatic brain injury, it is common to notice focal slowing. This is a common theme in both TBIs and head injuries in general. 

TBIs can lead to effects on both the white and gray matter of the brain on an EEG. EEGs of people with a TBI typically show that the posterior dominant rhythm is slower. It also can indicate the slowing of the diffuse theta.

Supplementing EEGs With Other Diagnostic Tests

EEG and Other Diagnostic Methods

In most cases, a traumatic brain injury EEG will be one part of the diagnostic process. If an EEG indicates signs of a TBI, your doctor may perform the following tests if they haven’t already done so. 

  • Glasgow Coma Scale – This test involves following directions to move your limbs and eyes. The test covers 15 points and is a common way to assess the severity of injuries. 
  • CT scan – A computerized tomography (CT) scan is frequently one of the earliest tests for TBIs, even before an EEG. It relies on x-rays to give doctors a more detailed picture of the brain. A CT scan can show brain tissue swelling and bruising. It can also show blood clots or bleeding in the brain and fractures. 
  • MRI – Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) relies on magnets and radio waves to create detailed images of the brain. It is most commonly used if your doctor suspects that something is wrong. Your doctor may suggest it if your symptoms don’t show improvement or after your condition stabilizes. 
  • Intracranial pressure monitor – This test involves inserting a probe through your skull to check the pressure inside the skull. That pressure can increase from TBI-related swelling.

Additional Information on TBIs

Because the Neuro Injury Care Institute commonly uses EEGs to test for TBIs, it is also helpful to familiarize yourself with traumatic brain injuries.

TBI Symptoms

A mild TBI can lead to the following symptoms: 

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Brief loss of consciousness 
  • Confusion
  • Lightheadedness
  • The ringing of the ears
  • Tired eyes or blurred vision
  • Lethargy or fatigue
  • Bad taste in the mouth
  • Mood or behavioral changes
  • Changes to sleep patterns
  • Issues with concentration, thinking, attention, or memory 

In addition to those symptoms, those with severe or moderate TBIs may experience: 

  • Pupil dilation
  • Headaches that worsen or don’t go away
  • Seizures or convulsions
  • Repeated nausea or vomiting
  • Slurred speech
  • Loss of coordination
  • Numbness or weakness in the legs and arms
  • Increased agitation, restlessness, or confusion 

Causes of TBIs

Motor vehicle crashes are among the most common causes of TBIs. Nevertheless, this is just one potential cause of a closed-head injury. Falls are the most common cause for those who are 65 years old or older. Sports injuries, being hit by an object, blast injuries from explosions, and child abuse are also potential causes. 

Some TBIs occur due to penetrating injuries. These can include being hit by shrapnel or a bullet or a weapon like a knife, hammer, or baseball bat. It can also be due to a head injury where a bone fragment penetrates the skull.

TBI Treatment

The Bottom Line: An EEG Spots Early Signs of a TBI

EEG in New York

The most important takeaway is that an EEG helps spot the early signs of a TBI. Given that the test is non-invasive and fairly fast, this makes it a crucial diagnostic tool. If your doctors notice a focal slowing or other indications of a TBI, this lets them take early action. 

This is crucial as early treatment of a TBI early will help ensure a faster recovery. It will also help you avoid activities that could worsen the symptoms. This is especially important as even someone with a mild TBI requires close monitoring to ensure the symptoms don’t get worse. If a patient doesn’t show any symptoms of a TBI, the EEG may be the first indication that there is something to watch out for. 

Patients in BrooklynQueensthe BronxStaten Island, or Manhattan that suspect a head injury should get an EEG test from our New York City team as soon as possible. 

Book an appointment by contacting us today!