Neurology Diagnosis

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Advanced Testing for Neurological Conditions

It’s natural to be concerned if your doctor recommends that you or your child undergo testing for a possible neurological disorder (a condition that affects the brain, spinal cord or nerves). However, having an accurate, thorough diagnosis is the first step in understanding your condition and relieving your symptoms.

Our expert neurologists and certified technologists will use our advanced testing procedures to diagnose your condition. We’ll share your test results with you and your doctor, and then we’ll work together to create a personalized treatment plan based on your unique needs.

We use a wide range of diagnostic exams for both children and adults, including:

  • Imaging tests
  • Neuropsychological tests
  • Neurodiagnostic tests

Imaging Tests

In many cases, we need to view what’s happening inside your body to be able to accurately diagnose your neurological disorder. Some of the many imaging tests we use to do this include:

  • CT scan
  • MRI scan
  • PET scan
  • SPECT (single-photon emission computed tomography, which uses a small amount of a radioactive material and a special camera to view inside the body)
  • Ultrasound, including transcranial doppler (TCD), which measures blood flow through the brain

Learn more about our neuroradiology testing.

Neuropsychological Tests

Depending on your condition, your doctor may recommend neuropsychological testing. Neuropsychology focuses on how the brain is involved with thinking, learning and behavior. These tests examine various areas of thinking, such as:

  • Executive function (processes that allow you to focus your attention, make plans and control impulsive behaviors)
  • Language
  • Memory
  • Mental processing speed

We’ll also examine your behaviors to better understand what you’re able to do well and what challenges you may be facing. These tests sometimes show that what appears to be a neurological disorder is actually due to a psychological or behavioral issue. This can help us create a more effective treatment plan for you.

Neurodiagnostic Tests

Neurodiagnostic tests let us measure and record the activity and function of various areas of your nervous system. In addition to sleep studies as part of our sleep medicine care, we use the following advanced tests to diagnose neurological disorders:

Electroencephalography (EEG)

An EEG lets us detect and measure your brain’s electrical activity. During this test, we’ll attach electrodes to your scalp. Depending on your condition, your doctor may recommend one of the many types of EEGs we use, such as:

  • Ambulatory EEG (AEEG), which records your brain activity for 24 to 72 hours while you perform your normal activities at home
  • EEGs performed as part of a sleep study
  • Video EEG (VEEG), including six-hour video EEGs

Conditions We Diagnose With EEG

We use EEGs to diagnose and evaluate many neurological disorders, such as:

Electromyography (EMG) and Nerve Conduction Testing

An EMG lets us measure the health of your muscles and the nerve cells that control them. This test works by recording the electrical activity of your nerves and muscles.

During the nerve conduction portion of the test, we’ll send small electrical shocks over your skin to measure how well your nerves and muscles work. Next, for the EMG portion, we’ll insert a small needle into several muscles to record those muscles’ electrical activity at rest and while they work.

Your doctor may recommend an EMG if you have:

  • Muscle weakness
  • Muscle pain or cramping
  • Numbness
  • Pain in your limbs
  • Tingling

We perform EMGs on both an inpatient and outpatient basis, and the test is available for both children and adults. Our Neurodiagnostics & Sleep Center at Baystate Medical Center includes the largest EMG laboratory in western Massachusetts. Our EMG laboratory has been accredited with Exemplary Status by the American Association of Neuromuscular and Electrodiagnostic Medicine.

Conditions We Diagnose With EMG

We use EMG to test for both common and complex neuromuscular disorders, including:

  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, also called Lou Gehrig’s disease, a condition that involves muscle weakness and decreased physical function)
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome (numbness and tingling in the hand and nerve due to a pinched nerve in the wrist)
  • Cervical radiculopathy (inflammation or pain in the nerves of your upper spine)
  • Guillain-Barré syndrome (a rare condition in which your immune system attacks your nerves)
  • Lumbar radiculopathy (inflammation, pain or numbness/weakness in the nerves of your lower spine)
  • Muscular dystrophy (a group of conditions that cause weakness and loss of muscle mass)
  • Myasthenia gravis (weakness and fatigue of your skeletal muscles)
  • Myopathy (conditions that affect the muscles)
  • Neuropathies (nerve damage) of the upper and lower extremities, including the peroneal, tibial, sciatic, radial and ulnar nerves
  • Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA, a genetic disease that involves the loss of nerve cells in the spinal cord)

We also assess patients who have urinary or rectal incontinence, and we treat various movement disorders with therapeutic injections of Botox (botulinum toxin).

Evoked Potential (EP) Tests

EP tests can help us diagnose multiple sclerosis (MS), a type of neuromuscular disorder. EP tests measure your brain’s electrical activity as we stimulate specific sensory nerve pathways.

We offer three main types of EP tests:

Visual evoked potential (VEP): During this test, you’ll sit in front of a screen that shows alternating patterns, and electrodes will measure your brain activity. This is the most common type of EP test.

  • Somatosensory evoked potential (SSEP): During this test, you’ll have electrodes attached to various areas of your arms or legs as well as to your scalp. You’ll feel mild electrical pulses in these areas, and we’ll measure how quickly the pulses travel along your nerves to the brain.
  • Brainstem audio evoked potential (BAEP): During this test, we’ll attach electrodes to your scalp and earlobes and deliver a series of clicking sounds to each ear. We’ll measure your brain’s ability to process the sounds you hear.

Wada Test

A Wada test often plays an important role leading up to epilepsy surgery. The test helps us know which side of your brain controls your language and memory function.

During this test, a neuroradiologist will use anesthesia to sleep with anesthesia. We’ll then show you several pictures and words. After we awaken the sleeping portion of your brain, we’ll ask you to remember what you saw. Then we’ll repeat the procedure on the other side of your brain.

We’ll compare the results from each test to determine which side of your brain is dominant in language and memory function. This lets us map out your brain so your epilepsy surgery doesn’t harm these important functions.

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