Ambulatory EEG Dos and Don’ts
What You Can and Cannot Do During an Ambulatory EEG (AEEG)
So you or someone you know is getting an ambulatory EEG. It’s a fairly simple process that EEG technologists will try to make as comfortable as possible. Back when the technology was bigger and heavier, electroencephalograms couldn’t allow the freedom to move around. With advancements in technology, brain activity can be studied while a patient enjoys themselves in the comfort of their own home. That’s where the “Ambulatory” part of AEEG comes in.
While these advancements are substantial, there are still some limitations to the activities you can do while there are electrodes attached to your head and an EEG recording is taking place. It is best to avoid any activities that can create artifacts. An EEG measures the electrical activity in your brain, and some electronics can interfere with the signal. This electrical “noise” is called an artifact. Artifacts may prevent your study from being properly interpreted.
Depending on what was recommended to you, your recording may last several hours or a few days. Please look at this guide of Dos and Don’ts along with frequently asked questions that patients usually ask before their AEEG begins.
Ambulatory EEG Dos – What Should You Do
- Do take a shower before or after your study. Shampoo your hair, but do not use any conditioners. Your hair should be clean and dry. Make sure your scalp is easily accessible prior to the test.
- Do wear a button-down or wide-neck shirt so you can easily change your top without disturbing the electrode wires that will be on your head.
- Do stay in front of the camera’s field of view as much as you can. If this means staying in one room for most of the study, that is an ideal solution.
- Do follow instructions from your doctor regarding medication.
- Do have fun things to do during the study. Watch movies, do puzzles, play video games, work on a computer, or read a book.
- Do be cautious and listen to your technologist regarding electronics. Charging electronics near your AEEG device may create a 60Hz artifact throughout the recording. If you are charging something, don’t let it touch you or the device to keep your data artifact-free.
- Do have a diary or journal to chronicle your activities and how you feel during the study. For example, if you have a headache, write down the time it started and what you were doing. Report any events that you experience.
- Do secure the AEEG device when using the restroom and keep it away from the sink or toilet to minimize the chances of damaging the equipment.
Ambulatory EEG Don’ts – What You Shouldn’t Do
- Don’t use any hair products or wash your hair during the study. You will be unable to shower or bathe until the study is complete. Try to not let anything touch your head, especially liquids.
- Don’t exercise or become too sweaty. Avoid any activity where you could become wet, such as swimming or using a hot tub. Moisture could loosen the electrodes from your scalp and water could damage your equipment.
- Don’t tamper with the EEG equipment or the electrodes. This includes not scratching your head even if you are itchy. Tap on the itchy area while in view of the camera so anyone viewing your study can see what is causing the activity. Don’t plug phones or other devices into the EEG laptop or tablet to charge.
- Don’t chew gum or tobacco. Try not to snack excessively. These activities show up in the data and could make the diagnosis more challenging.
Ambulatory EEG: Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Can I wear jewelry?
A: Yes, provided the jewelry isn’t on your head. Avoid wearing large earrings if possible, to minimize the chance of getting snagged as the electrodes are removed from your scalp.
Q: Can I smoke?
A: It would be best if you avoided smoking any substance, especially something that may affect your brain chemistry. The purpose of an EEG is to gather accurate data, after all. For optimal results, do not smoke or vape any substance. Chewing tobacco is prohibited because it causes a chewing artifact on the EEG.
Q: Can I use headphones, earphones, or earbuds?
A: Refrain from using any device that will go over the top of your head, like headphones. Earbuds are an exception since they just stick into your ears.
Q: Can I play video games?
A: Yes, provided you aren’t playing a game that uses a VR headset. Computer games or video games are an excellent way to pass the time during a study!
Q: Can I drive a vehicle?
A: While the study is meant to be ambulatory, the goal is to remain on camera for as much as possible. Yes, you can drive, but you should limit your time out of the house to 30 minutes or less to get the most out of your study.
Q: Can I wear makeup?
A: You can wear makeup, but remember that you cannot take a bath or shower and don’t want to get the electrodes wet. If you want to remove the makeup or wash your face, use makeup removal tissues or a damp washcloth instead of washing your face with running water.
Q: Can I eat?
A: You can eat! You can eat before, during, or after your EEG as normal. Eat as usual during meal times, but try to limit your snacking and DO NOT chew gum because chewing can obstruct other important data. We recommend avoiding very sugary substances and chocolate if possible.
Q: What can I drink?
A: You can drink water and tea as you normally would during a study. Try to avoid substances like caffeinated drinks and alcohol.
Q: Can you sleep?
A: You have to! Sleeping during the study is a great way to see how your brain behaves. Follow your normal sleep schedule even though it may be challenging to do so with electrodes on your head. We have tips on how to fall asleep during an AEEG because some people find it difficult.
A: Wearing deodorant does not interfere with the study. Since you cannot shower or bathe during the study, wearing deodorant is probably a good idea!
Q: Can the EEG technologist read your mind?
A: No, they cannot read your mind. They are only looking for abnormalities in your brain’s electrical activity so don’t worry – your thoughts are your own. You may be on camera though, so remember that you’re being watched! Of course, your privacy is protected by HIPAA regulations, and only the medical professionals conducting and interpreting your test will have access to the video and data.
Q: Can an EEG cause a seizure?
A: EEGs do not cause seizures, but they can help detect them, including the absence seizures that are difficult to see and any seizures you may have during sleep. Seizures can be triggered by many things, but the electrodes sitting on your head aren’t one of them.
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