What is electrodiagnosis?

Updated: Jan 27, 2020
  • Author: Adam B Agranoff, MD; Chief Editor: Stephen Kishner, MD, MHA  more...
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Electrodiagnosis is the field of study that, by employing the science of electrophysiology, uses electrical technology to study human neurophysiology. Neurodiagnostics (NDS), electromyography (EMG), and evoked potentials (EPs) are aspects of electrodiagnosis.

Information needed to answer any questions regarding nerve injury, muscle injury, muscle disease, localization, and prognosis can be obtained through electrodiagnostic testing. This information should help to focus treatment on the exact site of injury.

Interestingly, the information provided by electrodiagnosis is functional and not static, telling the practitioner how the nerve and muscle are functioning. In contrast, a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) study is a static test that simply provides a picture of anatomy. A relatively benign appearing MRI scan can be obtained from a patient with significant pain. Conversely, MRI scans reveal disk protrusions and herniations in many people who are asymptomatic. Therefore, electrodiagnostic testing can be an important adjunct in diagnosis. [1, 2, 3]

Various specialists perform electrodiagnostic studies. Understanding and performing electrodiagnostic tests is a requirement in the specialty training of physical medicine and rehabilitation (physiatry) residents and is considered an elective in the training of neurology and anesthesia residents.

The American Board of Electrodiagnostics was developed to provide additional certification for physicians who perform electrodiagnostic tests, and this certification is considered the criterion standard for specialty training. The American Board of Neurology also has a subspecialty certification for neurologists with specialty training in electrodiagnosis. [4]

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