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Ambulatory EEG

What is an EEG?

EEG stands for ‘electroencephalograph’

  • Electro – the electrical impulses that are being measured
  • Encephalo – the head
  • Graph – the way the results of the test are presented

An EEG is a test done in specialist hospitals. The test records the electrical activity that your brain makes whilst sending messages to and from the body. EEGs are  done on babies and children of all ages and abilities.

What is an ambulatory EEG test?

Your child may already have had a standard EEG (Electroencephalogram) recording. An ambulatory EEG is recorded over a longer period of time (24 to 48 hours).

How will having the test help my child?

An ambulatory EEG recording gives us more information than a standard EEG. It is helpful to record the brain activity whilst they are awake and asleep. Recording over a longer period increases the chances of capturing your child’s typical attacks. This information helps us to make an accurate diagnosis.

Will my child need to stay in hospital for this test?

No, you will come to the Clinical Neurophysiology Department at Sheffield Children’s Hospital to have the equipment connected. Then you will be able to go home with the equipment.

You will need to come back to the hospital the following day to have the equipment disconnected or restarted for a further 24 hours.

Parents and carers should note, we are not able to allow other children to be supervised whilst your child is having their EEG. If you have any problems arranging childcare, please ring the department to discuss this.

Is there anything we need to do before the test?

Yes, before the test, you should make sure that your child:

  • Wears clothes that button through to make it easier when they are getting dressed and undressed (for example, shirts or blouses) and so that we can get to the shoulders easily.
  • Has clean, dry, hair which is free from hairspray or gel
  • Continue to take any prescribed medicines, it is helpful to bring a list of your child’s current medications with you
  • You may wish to bring a hat or cap for them to wear

Where will the test be done?

The test is performed in a recording room on E Floor, Grey stairs or lifts, at Sheffield Children’s Hospital, S10 2TH.

The nearest entrance to the department is on Damer Street around the corner from the Emergency Department.

Then follow the signs to Grey lifts or stairs and travel to E floor and report to reception. You can also follow the signs for Grey lifts from the Main Entrance.

A map of Sheffield Children's Hospital highlighting the entrance on Damer Street

Public transport is the best way to travel to Sheffield Children’s Hospital. We are well served by bus services (51, 52, 273, 274, 275) and close to the tram route. Find out more on our public transport webpage: www.sheffieldchildrens.nhs.uk/patients-and-parents/public-transport

Please allow plenty of time for delays and roadworks. For up-to-date parking information visit our webpage on parking:

What happens when we come for the appointment?

When you come to have the equipment fitted a physiologist will explain the test to you and your child. They will connect the equipment and this takes between 1 and 1.5 hours.

Please bring any favourite toys or drinks and snacks that may help, your child may like to bring their own DVD to watch.

The equipment we use includes some small discs with a wire attached to them. The wires are linked to a recorder box that is worn on a belt round your child’s waist, with a small child it can be carried in a back pack or hung onto a pram. This allows them to move around freely and continue with most of their normal activities.

Setting up the test involves making sure the discs are placed in the correct positions.

Each position is rubbed with a gritty paste and the discs fixed in place with sticky paste and special glue. Gel is sometimes inserted into a small hole in the electrode using a syringe if the contact needs to be improved.

Two stickers are placed on your child’s shoulders to record their heartbeat (ECG). Sometimes additional stickers are applied to monitor muscle movements. The wires are taped together and taped to or fed down the back of their clothes. The wires connect to the recorder that goes into a bag or backpack. We make some checks to ensure that everything is working properly. Before you go home, we will give you a diary with contact numbers and an appointment for the following day. If you have any questions at this stage please ask the physiologist.

Illustration of child having sticky paste put onto their forehead to connect to wires Illustration of child having their head measured

What happens during the test?

The recorder box will store your child’s brain activity. We will also ask you to press a button and to keep a note of any attacks that your child has in the diary we give to you. If your child’s episodes are only seen if you are watching them carefully, it may be useful to arrange for a friend or family member to help you for some of the time.


We need to know when you return the next day whether we have captured a typical event during the recording period.

They can attend school if staff are able and willing to report any attacks and are they are happy to complete the diary.

During the test, your child can carry on with most normal activities. Whilst wearing the recorder, they will not be able to have a bath or shower. They will be able to have a standing wash.

Illustration of child standing up with wires connected from their head to a box that is wore over their shoulder

Is it safe?

The test records the brain activity that your child produces naturally. Your child may feel some discomfort as the head is rubbed when the discs are applied but the recording itself is painless. Occasionally patients experience minor skin irritations due to the products we use.

Children and infants will require constant supervision (day and night) to make sure that they do not get entangled with the leads and equipment.

What happens when we come back to the hospital?

The physiologist will check the recording and discuss any attacks your child may have had.

If we have not captured an attack and if you agree, then we would usually extend the test for a further 24 hours.

When the test is finished we use an oily solution to dissolve the glue and remove the electrodes. It is unavoidable that some glue is left in your child’s hair. This will come out after you have washed and conditioned their hair a few times. You may wish to bring an old hat that you do not mind getting damaged for them to wear on the journey home.

What happens next?

You will not get your results on the day the test finishes. This is because the information collected needs to be interpreted by one of our doctors. They will send a report to your hospital consultant within 3 weeks. The consultant will discuss the results with you as arranged at your child’s last clinic appointment.

How do I find out more information?

We will always ask for your consent before for any procedure takes place. Staff will explain all the risks benefits and alternatives before they ask for your consent.

If you are unsure about any aspect of the procedure proposed, please do not hesitate to ask for more information.

If you have any questions or worries after reading this information please ring the Department of Clinical Neurophysiology on:
0114 271 3237, open Monday to Friday from 8.30am to 4.30pm.

Is something missing from this resource that you think should be included? Please let us know

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Please note: this is a generic information sheet relating to care at Sheffield Children’s NHS FT. These details may not reflect treatment at other hospitals. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professionals’ instructions. If this resource relates to medicines, please read it alongside the medicine manufacturer’s patient information leaflet. If this information has been translated into another language from English, efforts have been made to maintain accuracy, but there may still be some translation errors. If you are unsure about any of the guidance in this resource or have specific questions about how it relates to your child, always ask your healthcare professional for further advice.

Resource number: NPS4

Resource Type: Article

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