Through the popular ice bucket challenge, much awareness has lately been drummed up about Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). Also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, it is an invariably fatal condition characterized by a progressive neuro degeneration that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. The effect eventually spreads to the muscles all over the body.
ALS is difficult to diagnose initially. The patient needs to have the correct tests done in order to arrive at the correct diagnosis. Most of the time, nerve conduction velocity testing is performed when a person manifests damage to the upper and lower motor nerve cells. Results from the nerve conduction velocity (NCV) test will ideally lead to the right diagnosis.
What is the NCV Test?
An NCV test, also referred to as nerve conduction study, determines the speed and adequacy by which electrical signals course down a particular peripheral nerve.
Why Is It Performed?
An NCV test is done to detect signs of nerve injury and eventually diagnose nerve damage or nerve dysfunction. It can indicate not only the existence, but the type and extent of nerve damage in a person. It enables the doctor to tell whether you have a nerve disorder or a nerve injury that is affecting the muscles. Such information is important in diagnosis and figuring out the right course of treatment to prescribe.
When Is It Necessary?
When you complain of numbness, tingling, and/or burning sensations, a physician is usually prompted to order an NCV test. The test may also be requested when the doctor suspects a case of pinched nerve or the presence of a nerve disease.
How Is It Carried Out?
Before agreeing to the test, you should learn how to prepare for it. To begin with, you must maintain a normal body temperature because low temperatures slow down the speed of nerve conduction. In case the weather is cold on the day of the test, the doctor will probably make you rest in a warm room for a few minutes before performing the test.
You also need to let your doctor know if you use a pacemaker or a cardiac defibrillator. The electrodes used in the test could mess with the electronic impulses of your device.
With the use of surface patch electrodes placed at various locations on the skin following the length of the nerve, the test works by electrically stimulating the nerve and then measuring the electrical impulse downstream from the stimulus. This may feel a bit like an electric shock, but it shouldn’t be particularly painful. The impulses produced by the current can be seen on a computer screen, allowing the doctor to see how fast they are traveling through the nerve.
The NCV test is often instrumental in diagnosing ALS and other similar diseases. No known risks are associated with it.