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March 08, 2021  
EDUCATION CENTER: Shoulder Procedures
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  • EMG (Electromyography)

    Reviewed by Dr. Peter Simonian

    EMG (also called Electromyography) is the most reliable way to assess nerve damage in a patient. By sending small electrical impulses into a patient’s nervous system, a physician studies the degree of connectivity between nerves in a specific part of the body. A doctor will order an EMG to see if muscles and nerves of a specific area have been damaged, either by acute trauma or a chronic condition. The exam consists of two parts: the first, a series of electrical shocks intended to measure the connectivity between nerves; the second, a battery of small impulses delivered by a pin electrode at various points in the patient’s musculature.

    Detailed Description

    Physiatrist, Rehabilitative Medicine, or Neurologist

    Electromyography tests nerves the same way an electrician would test a wire. Since nerves operate by conducting electrical impulses, the easiest way to see if they are damaged is to send a current through a nerve from one end to see if it reaches the other. If the current reaches the other point at full strength, there is no damage to the nerve. If the impulse is reduced, or does not come through at all, there may be damage to the nerve.

    At the beginning of the procedure, the patient lays on a table with the EMG machine beside him or her. In the first part of the procedure, known as “nerve conduction study,” a set of electrodes will be placed on the skin somewhere on the joint or limb to be studied; these will be the “receiving” electrodes. The neurologist will then use an electrode to deliver small shocks to the skin at other points. While he does this, the patient may feel a tingling or even slightly painful sensation for the brief amount of time that the doctor administers the procedure.

    The second part of the procedure is known as needle examination. During this part of the procedure, the neurologist will insert a needle into the muscle to determine the extent of muscle damage caused by the nerve injury. While lying on the table or sitting in the chair, the patient may feel slight muscular discomfort and may hear a static-like noise while the neurologist measures the amount of activity in the muscle.


    None. Usually an outpatient procedure.

    Tell your doctor if…

    You are on prescription blood thinners, you are taking medication for Myasthenia Gravis, or you experience great amounts of discomfort during the procedure.

    Last updated: 01-Jan-00


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