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What is a nerve conduction velocity test (NCV)?
A nerve conduction velocity test (NCV) is an electrical test that is used to determine the adequacy of the conduction of the nerve impulse as it courses down a nerve. This test is used to detect signs of nerve injury.
In this test, the nerve is electrically stimulated, and the electrical impulse 'down stream' from the stimulus is measured. This is usually done with surface patch electrodes (they are similar to those used for an electrocardiogram) that are placed on the skin over the nerve at various locations. One electrode stimulates the nerve with a very mild electrical impulse. The resulting electrical activity is recorded by the other electrodes. The distance between electrodes and the time it takes for electrical impulses to travel between electrodes are used to calculate the speed of impulse transmission (nerve conduction velocity). A decreased speed of transmission indicates nerve disease or abnormal pressure on the nerve. A nerve conduction velocity test is often done at the same time as an electromyogram (EMG). An EMG is carried out in order to exclude or detect muscle conditions which may be present due to muscular or neurologic disease.
Why the nerve conduction velocity test is performed
Symptoms that might prompt a health care professional to order a nerve conduction velocity test test include numbness, tingling, and/or burning sensations. The nerve conduction velocity test test can be used to detect true nerve disorders (such as peripheral neuropathy and mononeuritis multiplex) or conditions whereby nerves are affected by mechanical compression injury (such as carpal tunnel syndrome and other compression neuropathies). A normal body temperature must be maintained for the nerve conduction velocity test, because low body temperatures slow the speed of nerve conduction.
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Horowitz, Steven H. "Overview of nerve conduction studies." UptoDate. Updated Feb. 19, 2014.
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Carpal Tunnel SyndromeCarpal tunnel syndrome is a condition in which irritation of the wrist's median nerve causes tingling and numbness of the thumb, index, and the middle fingers. Treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome depends on the severity of the symptoms and the nature of any disease that might be causing the symptoms.
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Chronic PainChronic pain is pain (an unpleasant sense of discomfort) that persists or progresses over a long period of time. In contrast to acute pain that arises suddenly in response to a specific injury and is usually treatable, chronic pain persists over time and is often resistant to medical treatments.
Degenerative Disc Disease and SciaticaDegenerative disc disease makes the disc more susceptible to herniation (rupture) which can lead to localized or radiating pain. The pain from degenerative disc or joint disease of the spine is usually treated conservatively with intermittent heat, rest, rehabilitative exercises and medications to relieve pain, muscle spasm and inflammation.
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Electromyogram (EMG)Electromyogram or EMG is defined as a test that records the electrical activity of muscles. Normal muscles produce a typical pattern of electrical current that is usually proportional to the level of muscle activity. Diseases of muscle and/or nerves can produce abnormal electromyogram patterns.
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What Do Nerve Conduction Studies and Electromyography Diagnose?Nerve conduction studies and needle electromyography (EMG) are tests performed to assess the health of nerves and muscles. A neurophysiologist stimulates specific nerves and muscles and studies the resulting activity to evaluate if the nerves and muscles are functioning normally.
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