Video EEG

When your healthcare team needs more information about your seizures and why they are happening, they may recommend a video EEG (electroencephalograph) test.

Video EEG is a real-time test that records you while you are having a seizure. The test records your activity on video and measures your brainwaves at the same time. A video EEG may also be called:1

  • EEG telemetry
  • EEG monitoring
  • Video EEG monitoring
  • LTM (long-term monitoring)
  • Ambulatory EEG
  • Routine EEG

The test also records any sound during testing, like someone talking. This way, doctors reading the EEG can tell whether changes in brain activity may be due to the sound or a seizure.

How does video EEG help with epilepsy?

Video EEG is usually done for the following reasons:1,2

  • To figure out if another medical problem or medicine side effect is causing seizures
  • To find where in the brain seizures happen to prepare for surgery
  • To determine what type of seizures someone is having
  • To monitor how often you have seizures
  • To adjust seizure medicine

What can I expect during a video EEG?

Although you can take a video EEG test at home, you will likely need to check into a hospital or lab. Since there is often no way to tell when a seizure will happen, you may need to stay in the hospital for a few days or longer for monitoring.1

On test day, you will check into a room equipped with audio and video recorders. The team in the hospital or lab will attach electrodes to your head with a special paste. They will then cover the electrodes with a cap or gauze. The electrodes then connect to either a wired or wireless machine that monitors brainwaves. Your doctor could try to trigger a seizure by:1,2

  • Lowering your seizure medicine, and sometimes stopping it entirely
  • Keeping you awake (sleep deprivation)
  • Having you exercise
  • Using less common methods such as flashing lights, hyperventilation, or alcohol intake

What are the possible risks?

You may be required to stay in bed in view of the video camera while you wait for a seizure to happen. If you are allowed to move around, a staff member will keep an eye on you. This is to stop you from hurting yourself or pulling out the electrodes during a seizure. Other safety equipment includes oxygen and suction machines for prolonged seizures and a padded bed.1,2

During a seizure, staff will monitor if you can follow commands like raising your arms or legs. After you have recovered, they will ask whether it was a typical seizure. However, some people are unable to remember the details of their seizures.2

These are not all the possible risks of video EEG. Talk to your doctor about what to expect with video EEG. You also should call your doctor if you have any changes that concern you about video EEG.

Things to know about video EEG

Sometimes doctors may need to perform a more invasive EEG where they place electrodes inside your skull on the surface of your brain. This type of test involves surgery, and you may need to stay in the hospital for a month or more.2

Here are some other things to keep in mind before you take a video EEG test:1

  • You will have a lot of downtime before the test, so bring something to keep yourself occupied, like books or games.
  • Ask if using a laptop, cellphone, or tablet is ok. Electronic devices sometimes disrupt EEG equipment.
  • You will not be able to pull shirts over the EEG equipment on your head, so bring tops with buttons or zippers. You will likely be asked to wear a hospital gown during the admission.
  • Children or people with disabilities may need a family member or other caregiver to stay with them during the test. They can help watch for seizures that staff may not notice.
  • Stagger visits from friends and family so you will have company at different times. Be your to call the facility in advance to ask about their COVID-19 visitation policy.
  • If you take medicine or have other health problems, share this information with staff at the hospital or lab. If you take other medicine at home unrelated to seizures, your doctors will determine if it is safe for you to continue these drugs during the admission. Hospitals carry most medicines in their pharmacy, but you can bring your own supply from home to be safe.

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Written by: Alyson Powell Key | Last reviewed: February 2022