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Nerve Conduction Testing

A nerve conduction study (NCS) is a common diagnostic test used to evaluate the function of nerves in the body. Similar to an EMG, which looks at the way muscles work, this non-invasive procedure measures the speed and strength of electrical signals as they travel along the nerves, providing valuable information about nerve damage, compression, or dysfunction.

NCS can help healthcare providers diagnose conditions affecting the nerves, guiding treatment decisions and improving patient outcomes.

What is an NCS (Nerve Conduction Study)?

A nerve conduction study is a non-invasive medical test used to evaluate the function of nerves in the body. It’s used to diagnose conditions that affect the peripheral nervous system, which are the nerves outside the brain and spinal column. It helps detect peripheral nerve damage by measuring the electrical current flow in motor nerves (muscle control) and sensory nerves (sensations).

During an NCS nerve test, small electrodes are placed on the skin at various points along the nerve pathway being tested. A mild electrical stimulus is then applied to one electrode, which sends a signal down the nerve. The response of the other electrodes is recorded and analyzed by your physician.

The results of nerve testing can provide valuable information about the speed and strength of nerve impulses, as well as how well they are functioning overall. This information enables your doctor to determine if there is any damage or dysfunction and to guide treatment decisions.

A nerve conduction study is a safe and effective way to assess nerve function and diagnose underlying neurological conditions. If you are experiencing symptoms such as numbness, tingling, weakness, or pain in your limbs, we may perform a nerve conduction test to help pinpoint the cause of your symptoms and develop an appropriate treatment plan.

Conditions and Symptoms Diagnosed with a Nerve Conduction Study

An NCS nerve conduction study measures how well electrical signals are able to travel along nerves in the body, helping doctors identify issues such as nerve damage or dysfunction. Some of the conditions and symptoms that can be diagnosed with a nerve conduction test include:

  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: This condition occurs when the median nerve, which runs from the forearm into the palm of the hand, becomes compressed at the wrist. NCS can help determine if there is any damage to this nerve and if carpal tunnel syndrome is present.
  • Herniated Disc: NCS can help pinpoint the exact location and extent of nerve damage caused by a herniated disc.
  • Peripheral Neuropathy: This term refers to damage to peripheral nerves, which are located outside of the brain and spinal cord. NCS can pinpoint where this damage is occurring and help determine its cause, such as diabetes or autoimmune diseases.
  • Radiculopathy: This condition involves compression or irritation of spinal nerves as they exit the spine. Nerve conduction studies can help localize where this compression is happening and aid in diagnosing radiculopathy.
  • Guillain-Barre Syndrome: This rare but serious autoimmune disorder affects the peripheral nervous system, leading to muscle weakness and paralysis. Nerve conduction studies can help confirm this diagnosis by showing abnormal electrical activity in affected nerves.
  • Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease: This inherited disorder affects peripheral nerves, leading to muscle weakness and loss of sensation in extremities like hands and feet. Nerve conduction studies can help diagnose this condition by demonstrating characteristic patterns of nerve dysfunction.

If you experience tingling or numbness in your arms, legs, hands, feet, or face, your healthcare provider may recommend an NCS. This test is often done alongside an EMG (electromyography) test, either in an outpatient setting or during a hospital stay, depending on your needs.

Nerve Conduction Study Overview

During a nerve conduction study, small electrodes are placed on the skin over the nerves being tested. A small electrical impulse is then sent through the electrodes to stimulate the nerve and measure its response. This process is repeated for multiple nerves in different areas of the body.

The results of a nerve conduction study provide us with valuable information about the speed and strength of nerve signals, as well as identifying any abnormalities in nerve function. We use this information to diagnose conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome, peripheral neuropathy, and other neurological disorders. Nerve conduction studies are non-invasive, safe, and generally well-tolerated by patients.

Nerve Conduction Study Results

When you receive your nerve conduction study results, they will typically include measurements of several key factors, including nerve conduction velocity, or how quickly an electrical impulse travels along a nerve. Other elements your doctor will consider are the strength electrical signal produced by the nerve and the time it takes for the signal to travel from one point on a nerve to another.

This information is valuable to your doctor, but they typically don’t lead to a diagnosis on their own. For a diagnosis, the results of your NCS will be considered together with the results of other tests, your medical history, and your symptoms.

For an expert assessment of your condition and a personalized treatment plan, contact Princeton Brain, Spine & Sports Medicine for a consultation with one of our board-certified, award-winning specialists. We have offices conveniently located across New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

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