What Is Nerve Conduction Testing?
Nerve conduction testing, also known as a nerve conduction study (NCS), is a diagnostic test that determines the extent of nerve damage. Commonly referred to as a nerve conduction velocity, this test measures the speed at which an electrical impulse travels through a nerve.
Often performed in conjunction with electromyography, EMG, this test can differentiate nervous system complications from musculoskeletal issues. Additionally, nerve conduction testing can pinpoint the source of the damage and diagnose the cause.
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What Can Nerve Conduction Testing Diagnose?
At Park Avenue Endocrinology and Nutrition, we use nerve conduction studies for the evaluation of paresthesias (numbness, tingling, burning) and/or weakness of the arms and legs. Some of the common disorders we can diagnose or rule out by nerve conduction studies are:
- Peripheral neuropathy
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Ulnar neuropathy
- Guillain-Barré syndrome
- Facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy
- Spinal disc herniation
- Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease
- Sciatic nerve problems
What Is The Goal Of A Nerve Conduction Test?
The goal of a nerve conduction test is to establish if you have nerve compression and possible damage. It does this by measuring the speed of electrical activity in specific nerves. This is different than the above-mentioned electromyography, which measures electrical activity in your muscles.
Compression is a common cause of nerve problems. When a patient has a herniated disc, the center of the disc pushes outward. This often places pressure on a spinal nerve and causes pain and eventual damage to the nerve.
Sciatica is another common nerve problem in the legs. It usually is caused when a bulging or ruptured spinal disk presses on the nerve roots leading to the sciatic nerve. Pain then radiates all the way down through the legs, making simple movements difficult.
A nerve conduction test can help pinpoint which nerve is being impacted. This enables your doctor to know where to look for issues such as compression.
Ideal Candidates For Nerve Conduction Testing
At Park Avenue Endocrinology & Nutrition, patients complain of numbness, tingling, burning, or weakness in their arms and legs. That’s when a nerve conduction test makes sense, as those symptoms point to possible nerve damage or nerve compression.
How To Prepare For Nerve Conduction Test
This is a simple test. You will not need to fast or have sedation prior to your test at Park Avenue Endocrinology & Nutrition. It’s wise to not place lotion or oils on the skin where your electrodes will be placed for a couple days prior to your test. The test is quick (taking only around 10 minutes) and without any residual effects.
Nerve Conduction Testing Procedure
An NCV test can be an outpatient procedure or done during a hospital stay. First, a member of our staff will place two electrodes on your skin. One electrode will stimulate your nerve with an electrical pulse.
Then, the recording electrode, placed at a precise distance away, records how fast the nerve reacted to the stimulation. We repeat this process in various spots on the body for each nerve being tested.
The placement will vary by patient and will coordinate with places we presume affected nerves are. The nerve conduction velocity test takes a total of about 10 minutes.
Potential Risks Of Nerve Conduction Tests
A nerve conduction study is noninvasive and the voltage of electrical pulses are considered very low. Therefore, patients normally do not experience any side effects.
However, if a patient has sensitive skin they may have some irritation from the gel used to attach electrodes. There may be some discomfort during the exam but patients can typically resume normal activities immediately.
If you have a cardiac defibrillator, pacemaker, or any underlying conditions notify our staff before the exam as we may need to take special precautions.
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What Happens After Nerve Conduction Testing?
When we have completed your nerve conduction test, we will review your results and write a summary for your doctor. If the results point to nerve compression and possible damage, you’ll probably be referred to a specialist. This test will give your doctor a much better idea of if and where your nerve issues are occurring.