Nerve Conduction Studies

These are tests that measure the speed and strength of electrical signals as they travel along a nerve.

These are tests that measure the speed and strength of electrical signals as they travel along a nerve.

Nerve conduction studies (NCS) are tests that measure the speed and strength of electrical signals as they travel along a nerve. They are frequently done along with an electromyogram (EMG) to help diagnose conditions involving the muscles and/or nerves. An EMG measures the electrical activity in muscles.

  • During an NCS, small electrode patches are placed on the skin. These patches are put in different locations over the nerves that are being tested. The tester will then send a mild electrical impulse to one of the patches to stimulate a nerve.
  • After the electrical impulse is received, the machine will measure how strong the nerve's reaction is. It will also test the time it took for an impulse to travel along the nerve.
  • A complete NCS includes the results of the test, the doctor's interpretation, and a written report.

Nerve conduction studies may be done in a doctor's office, a specialized lab, or hospital. Although there is usually no special preparation for NCS, there are some things you should know.

  • Avoid using creams or lotions on the day of the test.
  • Let your healthcare provider know if you have a pacemaker or cardiac defibrillator.

Your healthcare provider may recommend NCS to evaluate a variety of nerve and muscle diseases. During the test you may feel the impulse used to stimulate the nerve. The discomfort is usually minimal and brief, but how uncomfortable it is depends on the strength of the impulse. There are no lasting or long-term effects.

  • Sometimes, an electromyography (EMG) is performed after NCS. The EMG can cause minor soreness in the muscles testing and bruising for a day or so.
  • Abnormal results can indicate a condition affecting the function of the nerve.

What should I ask my healthcare provider before having this test?

  • Before your test, make a list of your questions, concerns, symptoms and medications (including over-the-counter).
  • Is there any other special preparation for the test? (If so, get clear instructions on what you need to do.)
  • What is the reason for the test? Are the test results likely to change my treatment plan, and if not, do I need the test?
  • What conditions or circumstances can alter the test results? Under what circumstances will I need to have the test repeated?


Also known as:

Neuromuscular Disease
Nerve Conduction Studies
Muscle Wave Recording
Muscle Electrical Activity
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