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Neuromuscular Disease Division

Diagnostic and Assessment Services

Diagnosis or assessment usually begins with a history and physical examination in which a physician evaluates a patient’s muscle strength, reflexes, and sensation.

Depending on the condition or diagnosis, assessment may include blood tests, radiological studies, and examination of cerebrospinal fluid. Other tests may include:

  • Nerve Conduction Studies
  • Needle Electromyography
  • Quantitative Sudomotor Autonomic Reflex Testing
  • Cardiovascular Autonomic Testing
  • Quantitative Sensory Testing
  • Muscle and Nerve Biopsy

Nerve Conduction Studies (NCS)

A nerve conduction study shows how well signals travel along large nerve fibers and can help find the cause of abnormal nerve function. To perform a study, a physician (or a trained technologist working under a physician’s supervision) applies small electric pulses to a nerve. The pulses cause the patient to feel a mild tingling sensation; and if the muscle is stimulated, it will jump. The type of problem being evaluated determines how many nerves are tested. The study usually lasts 30 – 45 minutes.

Hand NCS setup

Hand NCS setup.


Nerve conductions testing.

Common indications for NCS are:

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Ulnar neuropathy
  • Peripheral Neuropathy
  • Brachial Plexopathy
  • Radiculopathy
  • Myasthenia Gravis
  • Muscle Disease

Needle Electromyography (EMG)

In this test, which usually complements the NCS, a physician inserts a thin needle electrode into muscles and records the electrical activity of each muscle that is examined. The activity is recorded so that the physician can analyze it by looking at the signal, as it is rendered by an oscilloscope, and by listening to the sounds the signals make when played through a speaker. The patient may feel mild discomfort when the needle is inserted. All the needles used are new and sterile. The number of muscles studied varies, and testing may take 15 – 30 minutes.

Common Indications for EMG are:

  • Radiculopathy
  • Neuropathy
  • Muscle Diseases
  • Motor Neuron Diseases

Patients taking “blood thinners” may bleed from an EMG. If you are taking a blood thinner, such as warfarin (Coumadin), let the physician know when the test is being scheduled.

To Schedule NCS/EMG, call 412-647-5424

Rebecca Molczan
(412) 692-4917

What is Neuromuscular Disease?

Diagnostic and Assessment Services

Autonomic Testing

Types of Treatment