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The University of Chicago Medicine - Comer Children's Hospital

Diagnostic Testing for Pediatric Epilepsy

At the Pediatric Epilepsy Center, we use several testing methods to diagnose epilepsy in children, including:

  • Blood tests to look for signs of infections signs, genetic abnormalities, or other conditions that could cause seizures
  • Electroencephalography (EEG)
  • Video EEG (VEEG)
  • Wada testing
  • Neuroimaging studies (including CT, MRI, MRS and PET)
  • Neuropsychological tests to assess neurological function
  • Lumbar puncture (spinal tap), which may help doctors find the source of seizures

Neurophysiological Tests

Electroencephalography (EEG)

EEGs chart and record electrical activity in the brain. An EEG is safe and painless for your child. During the test, we attach electrodes to your child’s scalp (on the face and through the hair). These electrodes connect to an electrical box, which connects to the EEG machine.

The EEG machine records your child’s brain activity on a computer). It takes about an hour to complete a routine EEG study, and your child can go home afterward. We also perform longer, ambulatory outpatient EEGs that last from 24 to 48 hours.

Preparing for Your Child's EEG or VEEG

Video EEG (VEEG)

A VEEG is simply an EEG with video recording. The recording takes place over several days in the hospital, allowing your child’s physician to view the video and the EEG images on side-by-side monitors. This helps the doctor watch your child’s behavior during seizures to see how that behavior is related to the electrical activity in the brain. During VEEG testing, we will allow your child to have some seizures. Our specialists may even provoke the seizures, but this is always done under close supervision. VEEG helps us:

  • Determine whether your child’s seizures are actually epilepsy
  • Identify the type of seizure your child is having
  • Locate the region of the brain where the seizures originate (the focus or source)

Preparing for Your Child's EEG or VEEG

Wada testing

If we believe surgery is an option for your child, we may recommend a Wada test. A Wada test is performed by a neuroradiologist while a neuropsychologist and a neurologist are present. The Wada test helps doctors determine which side of the brain controls memory and language. This is important information for surgeons to know because it can help them minimize the risks of language and memory deficits after surgery. The neuropsychologist takes part in the testing process because he or she can help assess your child’s cognitive functions, mood and personality.

Neuroimaging Studies

Part of your child’s evaluation will likely include neuroimaging studies, which help us closely observe the structure and functions of your child's brain. The tests we use include:

  • Computed tomography (CT)
  • Functional MRI (fMRI)
  • High-resolution brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Intraoperative MRI
  • Magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS)
  • Positron emission tomography (PET)
  • Single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT)

Preparing for Your Child's CT Scan 
Preparing for Your Child's MRI Scan

Neuropsychological Testing

Many children who have epilepsy also have coexisting medical conditions, such as depression or anxiety. They may also have cognitive impairments, such as poor memory or difficulty concentrating. Part of our evaluation often includes partnering with a neuropsychologist to assess your child's cognitive functions, mood and personality.