Electroencephalogram (EEG) Testing for Children

What is an EEG?

An electroencephalogram (EEG) is a test that measures the electrical activity in the brain, called brain waves. An EEG measures brain waves through small button electrodes that are placed on your child's scalp.

Why would a child need an EEG?

EEG testing is the main way we diagnose epilepsy, but it may also be used to diagnose other brain disorders.

Our experience

The EEG Lab at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) supports neurology patients at CHOP's Main Campus, numerous satellite locations and additional regional hospitals. In 2018, our team performed approximately 5,000 outpatient EEG studies, 500 ambulatory EEG studies, 1,500 days of monitoring in the Epilepsy Monitoring Unit (EMU), and 2,000 days of EEG monitoring in CHOP's intensive care units.

Our lab also performs evoked potential tests and corticography. It is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week with EEG technologists certified by the American Board of Registration of Electroencephalographic Technologists.

EEG appointments

EEGs can be scheduled in conjunction with your Neurology appointment or separately. To contact the EEG Lab at Main Campus, please call 215-590-2960. Office hours are Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Routine EEG appointments are offered at all of our satellite locations.

Please see special instructions for the following tests:

What to expect at your routine EEG appointment

Please remember to:

  • Bring your insurance card
  • If your insurance plan requires, bring your referral and co-pay
  • Arrive 15 minutes early for your appointment to check-in (if you are more than 15 minutes late for your appointment, you may be asked to reschedule)

Directions, parking and arrival

Most EEG appointments take place on the 10th floor of the Buerger Center, located on Civic Center Boulevard just south of the Main Hospital. To access parking, turn left from Civic Center Boulevard into Driveway B and follow signs to Garage B. A security officer will be at the parking garage entrance if you have any questions. After registering at the first floor Welcome Center, take the Buerger elevators to the 10th floor.

Find the most up-to-date information about parking and discounted rates for parents and guardians.

If you have questions, please call us at 215-590-2960. Our department business hours are Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Checking in

When you get to the outpatient reception area, check in with the desk staff. At check-in you will sign in your child’s name and then proceed to the EEG department to also notify the EEG staff that you have arrived.

You will then can take a seat in the waiting area for the outpatient staff to call your child’s name. This will begin the registration process. Once registration is completed, you will be handed papers to bring to the EEG Lab.

EEG preparation

Your child’s hair and head must be clean. Hair needs to be washed the night before the test. Do not use hair spray, oils, cream rinse or gel after your child’s hair has been washed. The child can eat before the test, though no caffeinated food and beverages, such as chocolate, soda, tea, coffee, can be consumed during the 24 hours before the scheduled time of the test.

It can be helpful if your child falls asleep during the study. If your child still takes naps, please schedule the EEG appointment during nap time. Please do not let him/her take a nap that day or during the ride to the hospital.

If your child no longer takes naps, it would be helpful if you wake your child up 1 to 2 hours earlier that morning. Also, please bring your child’s favorite stuffed animal, blanket and an extra bottle to help comfort him/her during the study.

Upon completion of the study, his or her hair may be damp (from removing the electrodes) so you may want to bring a hat in the winter months.

During the EEG

The test can take from 45 minutes to 1 ½ hours depending upon cooperation of the child and type of study ordered. You may stay with your child during the procedure.

The EEG technologist will make markings with a red (washable) skin crayon on your child’s scalp. Then he will clean the red areas and place small suction cups (electrodes) with thin, colorful wires on the marked spots. A special paste is used to keep the suction cups in place.

The EEG test is not painful. During the recording, sometimes special procedures are done. Older children may be instructed to breathe deeply through their mouths for 2 to 3 minutes and also to open and close their eyes. Your child will have fun looking at a flashing strobe light during the recording.

Your child might be fearful about the EEG. Our EEG technologists have special training in making children feel safe and comfortable during the test.

If they ask you to remain in the waiting room while the test is in progress, it is because many children are inclined to be more cooperative without their parents present thus a better recording is obtained.

The EEG technologist has been specially trained for this work and will be pleased to answer any questions you may have about the procedure itself, or even about the machine. Everyone in the EEG Lab will do everything possible to comfort you and your child during your visit to CHOP.

Checking out of EEG

If your child is seeing the Neurologist after your EEG appointment, please go down the hall to the Neurology Department and check in at the front desk. You will receive the EEG results at this visit.

If your child is not seeing a neurologist, your child’s EEG results will be faxed to the referring physician that you gave at the time the appointment was made. If you would like an additional doctor to receive the results, please stop at the EEG desk and provide that information to the staff.