Not so Shocking: Electromyography in Pediatrics Remains Feasible and Diagnostically Useful


Background:Electrodiagnostic testing, including nerve conduction studies (NCS) and electromyography (EMG), assists with localizing lesions within the peripheral nervous system. NCS/EMG in children can be technically challenging and its relevance has been questioned in the era of affordable genetic testing. NCS/EMG provides information that may not be available in the examination of a young or developmentally delayed child. Our goal was to review the volume and referral sources of NCS/EMG studies and evaluate its feasibility and diagnostic yield at a pediatric tertiary care hospital.

Methods:Retrospective chart review of NCS/EMG studies done in pediatric patients at one center from 2014 to 2019.

Results:A total of 725 studies were performed, with a median age of 13.2 years (range 0–18 years). The annual number of studies remained constant throughout the study period. Neurologists and surgeons were the most common referral sources, but an increased number of referrals from geneticists was observed. Most (94.5%) NCS/EMG were done on awake patients, with only 5.5% of studies being terminated early due to tolerability of the patient. Of all studies, 326/725 (44%) demonstrated a neuromuscular abnormality, of which 63.5% (207/326) were acquired conditions. Mononeuropathies and polyneuropathies were the most common electrophysiologic diagnoses.

Discussion:Our study indicates that NCS/EMG remains a useful diagnostic tool, both for the diagnosis of acquired neuromuscular conditions but also as an adjunct for interpreting genetic results, as indicated by the recent increase in referrals from geneticists. Overall NCS/EMG is well tolerated and able to be performed without sedation in children of all ages.

Lead Researchers

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  1. Richard Webster

    Investigator, CHEO Research Institute

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