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Question about EMGs...............

cbergensccbergens Posts: 31
Can somebody tell me exactly what can an EMG show with regard to whether or not the nerve damage is permanent? I had an orthopedic surgeon order an EMG and he said I have severe damage that will take one to two years to heal. However, when I recently went back for another EMG, the neurologist (same one) said EMG's cannot tell that and she doesn't know why he say such a thing. I then asked my own surgeon and he said the same thing. He said it's strictly a 'wait and see" kind of thing. But other people on the site seem to indicate differently. Can somebody give me the real scoop on exactly what they can tell with regard to nerve damage? Do any of the moderators know? Thank you.


  • Keep in mind I can only go off what i have been told. But emg's can only show there is a issue with a nerve and unfortunately are not as reliable as one would think. It is true that it can take up to a year for the nerve to heal depending on the length and time of compression. For myself they have deemed mine permanent damage as the nerve still shows on the emg but is not active denervation any longer, but then that surgery was three years ago. Now I was also told the emg's will only land within a level and are not precise. So I guess I am saying don't put all your faith in one of those, let your doctor's guide you as far as what is going on. The emg needs to be taken into account with a physical examination.
  • Is that they are also open to the interpretation of the individual performing the EMG. Some have more specialized training in this compared to others.
  • I am scheduled on the 23rd for an EMG this post is making me wonder if it is worth doing. So when is it worth doing? My doctor seems to think that it will let him know if there is more going on than what showed in the MRI. He doesn't want to do a fusion on me but it also doesn't want nerves to be in a position that will cause me permanent damage. Now I am confused!!! I really don't want to have this darn test done and I don't want to go through all the pain for nothing.
  • Here's my 2 cents for what their worth. :) Normally when they send you for a study, they conduct an NVC and and EMG. The NVC (Nerve Velocity Conduction) tests the reactions of your nerves on the surface of your skin with a probe...not with needles. After that they conduct the EMG (Electromyography)with needles which tests the electrical activity in your muscles.

    For me anyway, when they get to the needle portion, I insist on the Neurologist to conduct it and not the technician! The Neurologist is better trained in the placement of the needles, and too the interpretation of the F-waves and such from the exam. It is also good (at least I've found), with him doing it, I can get a 'basic' report before I leave verbally as to what might be going on.

    So far I've had 5 of these, 4 done by the Neurologist, and have been pretty dead on. The first and "last" one I let a tech do, was way off the mark. As was already said, the test is based on the skills and knowledge of the person placing the probes and needles for your exam. Like an MRI, they are *part* of the diagnostic puzzle. I hope that helps. Take care. :)

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • Thanks Brenda...I will settle down. I do want the Dr. to have a whole picture of what is going on. If I can avoid a fusion for a little while great but if I need one sooner then ok I'll deal.
  • Rwill,

    Needles have never bothered me, so for me, the test was not that bad. The ones that did get me squinting the eyes a bit where the needles along the spine (more so in the affected regions that I have issues in). They test there to test the nerve activity in the Paraspinal muscles along the spine. Those pinch - but it helped on my readings and diagnosis. Good luck with your test. Please let us know how it goes. :)

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • I had a bad experience with a Mylegram many years ago so tests similar like this tend to give me panic attack type feelings. I am a pretty tough cookie but for some reason this is a stumbling block for me(3 natual child births). I am sure it will go fine I have just gotten myself worked up.....Thanks for the help!!!
  • 3 Natural Child Births?!?! That isn't too common anymore! (G) Heh!!! This will be a cake walk woman! (G) *HUGZ*

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.

  • I have also had 3 Natural Child Births.
    I used to say 'I have had babies, I can do anything.'
    Now I say 'I have had spinal surgery, I can do anything!'

    You can do this Renea! >:D<
  • Jellyhall-I just had to say your comment made me smile.

    I had an EMG today b/c when I awoke from my bi-level PLIF on June 22, I had no feeling in my right buttock or thigh. Seven weeks out, only slight sensation had returned. I was told by the administering doctor, a physiatrist, that my L4 had been affected but that it was "recovering." My surgeon said basically that it was a fingers-crossed deal where we hope that I will regain full sensation in the right leg. I believe the physiatrist was right for the simple fact that I do have more sensation in the leg than I did when I came home from the hospital.

    Good luck!

  • If the sensation in your right leg is returning, that it a very good sign that things will continue to get better.

    Strangely, after my fusion, I had a very sore, sensitive area about the size of an open hand, over my right buttock, well away from the incision or area where he had worked. Even my clothes touching it hurt. Very slowly, it improved and now feels fine most of the time. Very occassionally I get pain there, but the sensitive feeling is gone.

    I hope that your recovery continues well, and that you will feel 'normal' before too long. >:D<
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