What to Expect During Your EMG Test

Our EMG staff includes:

  • EMG physicians, with specialized training and experience in the diagnosis of nerve and muscle disorders,
  • a lab coordinator,
  • Registered EMG technologists.

Most of the testing will be done by one of the EMG technologists. The physician may examine you as well, depending on what your physician has requested. The EMG physician will discuss the results of your test with you before you leave.

Note: Paediatric EMG is done at Victoria Hospital.

How long will the test take?

The tests may take from 45 minutes to two hours, depending on the nature of the issue.   

We do our best to see patients on time. Occasionally there are delays because of the complexity of the tests required. We will let you know of any expected delays. We appreciate your patience.  

On the day of your appointment, please allow extra time for delays or additional tests that may be required.

What does the patient experience during this test? (See images below)

For nerve conduction tests, a small electrical pulse is applied to the skin using a hand-held stimulating electrode. Each stimulation is very brief and is not harmful. The stimulation may cause some muscles to twitch, or the skin in the area of the nerve to tingle.  

Depending on the problem, in some cases we test muscle activity using a very thin disposable recording needle inserted very gently into the muscle. The muscle's electrical activity is then recorded at rest and during movement.  

The majority of the more than 3,000 patients we test each year tolerate these tests very well.

Are there any risks?

There are a few minor risks to these tests. It is important that we know if you are on blood thinning medications (anticoagulants). The electrical stimulation is of no significant risk for most patients. However, it is important that you tell us if you have an implanted cardiac pacemaker, any metal implants or fragments within your body, or epilepsy, as we may have to use different test procedures.    

If needle studies are required, sterilized disposable electrodes are used and are discarded immediately afterwards. You will never be tested with a needle that has been used on someone else.

What are the side effects?

The electrical nerve conduction tests have no lasting side effects. Some patients may experience a small amount of local irritation at the site of needle insertion. You will be able to drive and return to work following the tests. Our staff make every effort to ensure your comfort and safety.

A typical nerve conduction study of the hand
A typical nerve conduction study of the hand



A typical nerve conduction study of the forearm
A typical nerve conduction study of the forearm



Nerve conduction study results on the EMG testing equipment
Nerve conduction study results on the EMG testing equipment