Career in Neurodiagnostics
Electroencephalogram [EEG] – Reveals different brain patterns
The Electroencephalogram [EEG] is a recording of the on-going electrical activity of the brain. An EEG is used to assist in the diagnosis of epilepsy and a variety of neurological symptoms. EEGs also are used to evaluate the effects of head trauma or the consequences of severe infectious disease. EEG information can help doctors determine medical and surgical treatment of epilepsy. Patients having surgery on arteries in the neck or around the heart often have EEG monitoring performed during the procedure, providing the surgeon with additional information about brain function and assuring surgeons that the brain receives enough oxygen. In conducting an EEG, highly sensitive monitoring equipment records the activity through electrodes that are placed at measured intervals on a patient’s scalp. The test is not painful. The test itself usually takes about 90 minutes and the principal role of the patient is simply to remain still, relaxed and comfortable.
The simultaneous recording of EEG and videotaped behavior over extended periods of time is referred to as long-term monitoring (LTM). It is useful in diagnosing patients with intermittent or infrequent disturbances as well as in the diagnosis of seizures and other neurological disorders, such as unexplained coma.
Intraoperative Neuromonitoring – Monitors nervous system during surgery
Intraoperative Neuromonitoring [IONM] is the use of neurophysiological monitoring techniques during surgery to provide information to the surgeon about nervous system integrity. The use of IONM guards against neurological complications during surgery and helps reduce the risk of negative surgical outcomes such as paralysis or stroke. IONM is used to monitor neurosurgical procedures and orthopedic procedures, including spinal surgery for scoliosis, tumors, and aneurysms; vascular surgeries; acoustic neuroma surgery; and carotid endarterectomy. Otolaryngologists use intraoperative neuromonitoring to monitor cranial nerve function during ear, nose, and throat (ENT) surgeries.
The Polysomnogram [PSG] is a recording during sleep that uses EEG and other physiologic monitors to evaluate sleep and sleep disorders, such as loud snoring, difficulty staying awake during the day, falling asleep at inappropriate times, insomnia, and uncontrollable urge to move one’s legs. Physicians use polysomnograms to identify dysfunction in sleep/wake cycles, to diagnose breathing disorders during sleep, and to evaluate treatment of these disorders.
Evoked Potentials [EP] are recordings of electrical activity from the brain, spinal nerves, or sensory receptors in response to specific external stimulation. Evoked potentials are helpful in evaluating a number of different neurological problems, including spinal cord injuries, hearing loss, blurred vision and blind spots, acoustic neuroma, and optic neuritis. This test is commonly performed by the technologist during surgery on the spine to help the surgeon make sure nerves are not damaged during the operation. Evoked potentials also are performed in a clinical neurodiagnostic laboratory, using either earphones to stimulate the hearing pathway, a checkerboard pattern on a television screen to stimulate the visual pathway, or a small electrical current to stimulate a nerve in the arm or leg.
Nerve Conduction Studies [NCS] evaluate electrical potentials from peripheral nerves. Technologists stimulate the nerve with an electrical current and then record how long it takes the nerve impulse to reach the muscle. Patients referred for NCS tests suffer from nerve conditions which produce numbness, tingling, muscle pain, muscle weakness, muscle cramping, abnormal movements, pain or loss of sensation, or neurological diseases affecting primarily the feet, legs, hands, arms, back, and neck.
What Is the Career Outlook for Neurodiagnostic Technologists? Employment opportunities are abundant. Particularly strong growth areas are polysomnography and the specialty areas of long term monitoring for epilepsy and intraoperative monitoring. There is a continuous need for well-educated electroneurodiagnostic technologists, and the demand grows as new labs open and existing labs expand.
What are the skills I will need to be successful in this profession? The knowledge base and clinical proficiencies required for performing EEG, evoked potentials, nerve conduction studies, intraoperative neuromonitoring, long term monitoring and polysomnography have evolved tremendously. The level of independent judgment and personal responsibility involved in neurodiagnostic procedures mandate the need for individuals who possess a consistent knowledge and performance that is expected by patients, physicians and employers. Consequently, formal education with a minimum of an associate degree or higher, is critical for long-term success.
How do I prepare to enter the profession? High school students can prepare for the profession by taking math, science, computer and language courses. ASET then recommends attending a CAAHEP accredited END program that grants an associate degree or higher. Click HERE for a listing of schools.
What if I have a college degree and want to learn neurodiagnostic technology? There are accredited neurodiagnostic schools that offer neurodiagnostic certificate programs for individuals who have already obtained an associate or higher degree. This certificate program allows a person to complete an accredited neurodiagnostic program without requiring the student to obtain another full degree.
What if I am already working in health care or want to make a career change? Individuals interested in making career transition into the END profession should visit with a supervisor at a local hospital electroneurodiagnostic lab to consider job shadowing and acclimate yourself with the profession; contact an accredited school for advice; or consider enrolling in an on-line END program. In all cases, it’s important to verify that the school is a CAAHEP accredited institution.
Do I need a license to work as an END technologist? A license is a term relating to legislation that regulates the profession within a specific state. Just like a state driver’s licenses, a license is issued by a state regulatory body. Licensure is different than professional credentials/registration.
Currently, neurodiagnostic technologists performing EEGs, EPs, IONM and NCS procedures are not required to have a license. However, there are efforts taking place to require licensure in some states. Technologists performing polysomnography studies should be aware that many states do require a RPSGT credential in the performance of duties and may be licensed/controlled under the auspices of a respiratory board. Louisiana and New Jersey now require licensure for technologists performing polysomnography studies. Click HERE for more details. Visit the Governmental Advocacy section of this Website for regular updates.
For Further Information about the profession, please explore our website, where you will find information on minimum standards and competencies for practice, distance and on-line education and training opportunities, publications and instructional materials, and links to the credentialing bodies.