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Did Your Newborn Suffer Cerebral
Palsy or Another Brain Injury Before
or During Labor and Delivery?

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Our Birth Brain Injury Resource Guide

the guide

Get a FREE guide of resources available throughout Ohio to children and families of children who were born with brain injuries.

Our guide can help you build a foundation of knowledge and tools that will help you help your child
now and in the future.

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Diagnostic Procedures Electroencephalogram (EEG)

An electroencephalogram (EEG) is a test that is done to review and evaluate brain activity. The test is non-invasive and may be performed on patients of all ages, including infants. It is used to diagnose problems in the brain by reviewing electrical activity.

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The test monitors and records brain waves. It is often used in cases involving suspected birth injuries. The doctor evaluates brain wave patterns to find any that could be considered abnormal. Other problems are also detected using an EEG such as the presence of seizures in the patient.

The EEG is one of the first tests that may be performed when there is an indication that asphyxia occurred during labor or delivery. It is a particularly helpful test for infants who are showing only mild signs of problems but is also used on all infants who have shown any possibility of brain damage. Testing is easily completed without any risk of side effects or potential problems.

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How an EEG is performed

An EEG measures the patient’s brain wave activity. To prepare for the test, small electrodes are placed at regular intervals on the scalp. These are attached with a special adhesive that does not hurt the skin and is easily removed. The electrodes are attached to wires which are connected to the monitoring equipment. A doctor or other medical professional may monitor the examination while it’s being conducted. The results can be viewed real-time on the screen. Additionally, the information is stored and may be viewed at a later time. Testing might be done numerous times so the child’s doctor can compare results to see if there are any differences.

Additionally, the doctor may provide specific stimulation to the child during the test in order to elicit a response. Infants with brain injuries may suffer from seizures. Sometimes the seizures are noticeable, but in other cases, the infant could have a seizure that goes undetected. An EEG will help doctors better determine whether a child suffers from seizures and what conditions may bring on a seizure.

Neonatal electroencephalograms are typically administered in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) with specialty equipment. The test typically lasts about one hour. In some cases, continuous monitoring is done. It may be done as part of testing during neonatal cooling therapy. A cooling cap is available that also includes the ability to monitor the infant’s cerebral activity with electrodes. A neonatal EEG is often used in conjunction with other monitors such as those to manage respiration rate, eye movements using an electrooculogram (EOG) and electrocardiogram (ECG) for heart monitoring.

Evaluating an EEG

The brain typically shows specific wave patterns when it’s functioning normally. When it is not working properly, the brain waves will show variances from what would usually be expected. Doctors and medical technicians know how to read and evaluate the results of EEG tests. A range of brain disorders can be identified through the results of this type of testing including the possibility of learning and developmental issues. Doctors are trained to evaluate results from this testing.

The patient’s age is taken into consideration when evaluating the results. There are two ways that age is determined. Gestational age is the number of weeks from conception while conceptual age is the gestational age plus the chronological age. The EEG typically includes a number of categories that are reviewed while interpreting the results of testing. These include when the infant is awake, drowsy states, transitional states, sleep, arousal, and activation. The patterns for infants and children are different than those of adults. The doctor will evaluate the child’s EEG results based on age.