ELECTRONEURODIAGNOSTIC (EEG) TECHNOLOGY

Electroneurodiagnostic (EEG) technicians focus on brain waves, which can be recorded by an electroencephalograph machine. They work under the direction of neurologists, physicians who study the brain. The objectives of EEG diagnostic tests include the following:

  1. Diagnosing brain tumors, strokes, toxic/metabolic disorders, and epilepsy
  2. Measuring the effects of infectious diseases on the brain
  3. Determining whether individuals with mental or behavioral problems have an organic impairment such as Alzheimer’s disease
  4. Determining the absence of brain activity, to assess the probability of recovery from a coma, or to determine cerebral death

Typical Job Responsibilities

The EEG technician takes patient medical histories and strives to make patients comfortable during diagnostic testing. The technician selects the appropriate settings and electrodes required for the designated test and attaches the electrodes to the patient’s head. For special tests that record activity from the central and peripheral nervous systems, the EEG technician may attach electrodes to the chest, arms, legs, or spinal column as well. Often EEG tests are performed while the patient is undergoing surgery, requiring that technicians understand how anesthesia affects brainwaves.

EEG technicians conduct ambulatory monitoring of the brain, and sometimes the heart, over a 24-hour period while a patient goes about the daily routine. Activities are recorded on a small monitor, which is attached to the body with electrodes. Technicians review the recorded activity, a process that takes several hours, and highlight sections for the physician to examine.

Other common tests conducted by EEG technicians include evoked potential testing to measure sensory and physical responses to specific stimuli and nerve conduction testing, which measures how long it takes a stimulated nerve impulse to reach a muscle.

Specialized training is required to participate in sleep studies and to perform brain-wave mapping. These procedures monitor respiration and heart activity as well as that of the brain. Stages of sleep are studied to examine neurological and cardiopulmonary activity during each period. The recordings are reviewed and summarized for the physician’s review.


ELECTROCARDIOGRAPHIC TECHNOLOGY (EKG)

Electrocardiograph (EKG) technicians perform diagnostic tests that record heart activity. Electrodes are attached to the patient’s chest, arms, and legs, and connected to an electrocardiograph machine operated by the specially trained technician. The electrical impulses transmitted by the heart are recorded and the results are studied for indications of cardiovascular problems. An EKG test is usually included in routine physical examinations for people who have reached middle age and normally is conducted before most kinds of surgery.

Special training is required to conduct ambulatory testing using a Holter monitor over an extended period of normal activity, usually 24-48 hours. Using electrodes attached to the chest and a portable EKG monitor, the technician monitors heart stress, which is recorded to a tape, and scans the results before sending a report to the physician.

Another stress test is conducted by the EKG technician using a treadmill. After taking the patient’s history and explaining the test, the technician connects the patient to an EKG monitor. Then the technician records the heart’s performance to determine the effect of increased exertion, first measuring activity while the patient is resting and then while walking at increasing speeds on the treadmill.

Work Environment

Most EEG and EKG technicians work in hospitals in clean, comfortable surroundings. Most work a standard work week but may be on-call on evenings, weekends, and holidays for emergencies. Evenings and weekends are part of the regular schedule for some technicians.

Career Outlook

Job opportunities are expected to grow at a higher rate for EEG and EKG technicians who have the specialized training necessary to conduct advanced procedures such as sleep studies and stress tests than for those with only basic skills as many nurses and assistants are being trained to perform the more basic tests.