Somatosensory evoked potentials assess the passage of nerves from the arms and legs and their travel through the spinal cord to the brain. This test is done to diagnose spinal cord disorders and neuromuscular diseases. About four hours before their somatosensory evoked potentials, patients shall refrain from drinking caffeinated beverages; no other preparations are necessary for this test.

Somatosensory evoked potentials take about three hours to perform. A technician places electrodes onto your scalp, neck and shoulders. Then, a small electrical current is applied to a nerve near your wrist or ankle; at this point, you may feel a pulsating sensation in your wrist or ankle. This may be slightly uncomfortable for some patients, but the test is otherwise painless. The process is repeated until the electrical current has been applied to each wrist and ankle. At the end of the somatosensory evoked potentials, the electrodes are removed from your scalp, neck and shoulders, and regular activities can be immediately resumed.

Results are usually available immediately after somatosensory evoked potentials. Electrical currents that required an extraordinary amount of time to reach the brain are indicative of spinal cord abnormalities. In such cases, your doctor will discuss these results further with you, and develop a customized treatment plan.



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