A nerve conduction study (NCS) is a non-invasive neurology diagnostic test that evaluates the function and health of the nerves in our body. During this test, electrodes are attached to your skin and small electrical impulses are sent through your nerves. NCS measures the speed and strength of the nerve signals, helping to identify nerve damage, compression, or abnormalities. It is commonly used to diagnose conditions such as peripheral neuropathy, carpal tunnel syndrome, and nerve injuries.
The NCS is a bit like a road test for your nerves. Imagine if your nerves are the highways, and electrical signals are the cars driving on them. This test checks how fast and how well these “cars” are moving. During the test, small patches called electrodes are attached to your skin over the nerves. These electrodes are like traffic sensors; they can send out a tiny electrical signal and then record how quickly this signal travels along your nerve “highway”
If the ”cars” are moving too slowly or not reaching their destinations, it might indicate there’s a “roadblock” or some damage to the nerve. This test is useful in diagnosing conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome, sciatica, and other nerve disorders.
The test usually last 15 minutes to an hour duration depending on how many nerves need to be assessed.
Yes, the nerve conduction study (NCS) is generally considered safe. It is a well-established and commonly performed test with a low risk of complications. The procedure is non-invasive, meaning it does not involve any incisions or surgical interventions.
During the NCS, you may experience mild discomfort or a brief sensation similar to a mild electric shock when the electrical impulses are applied to your nerves. However, the discomfort is typically tolerable and temporary. Some people may find the sensations uncomfortable, but the electrical impulses are generally not harmful or dangerous to the body
Occasionally, some individuals may experience skin redness or irritation at the site of electrode
placement and test. These are generally mild and transient. If you have any specific medical
condition, is pregnant or have skin sensitivity, it’ll be good to alert the doctor and the technician
prior to the test.
A doctor may order a nerve conduction study (NCS) for various suspected nerve condition. A patient might have a nerve problem he/she presents with numbness, tingling, pain or weakness at specific areas of the body. In such situation, after a clinical evaluation of history taking and physical examination, the doctor might order a NCS to further confirm the clinical evaluation. The doctor might also need to use the NCS to determine exactly which nerve is involved, and the extent of involvement.
Common conditions that are diagnosed by NCS includes carpal tunnel syndrome, nerve entrapment syndromes, peripheral neuropathy (which can be commonly seen in patients with diabetes), Guillain-Barre Syndrome etc.
The NCS can also be used as preoperative assessment, if the surgical procedure involves nerve. The NCS will help to evaluate the nerve function and provide a baseline for comparison before and after the surgery.
The decision to order an NCS is made by a healthcare professional base on the patient’s clinical assessment. If you have concerns about any nerve condition, please do consult your doctor.