EEG Essentials

Continuum (Minneap Minn). 2022 Apr 1;28(2):261-305. doi: 10.1212/CON.0000000000001129.


Purpose of review: EEG is the best study for evaluating the electrophysiologic function of the brain. The relevance of EEG is based on an accurate interpretation of the recording. Understanding the neuroscientific basis for EEG is essential. The basis for recording and interpreting EEG is both brain site-specific and technique-dependent to detect and represent a complex series of waveforms. Separating normal from abnormal EEG lies at the foundation of essential interpretative skills.

Recent findings: Seizures and epilepsy are the primary targets for clinical use of EEG in diagnosis, seizure classification, and management. Interictal epileptiform discharges on EEG support a clinical diagnosis of seizures, but only when an electrographic seizure is recorded is the diagnosis confirmed. New variations of normal waveforms, benign variants, and artifacts can mimic epileptiform patterns and are potential pitfalls for misinterpretation for inexperienced interpreters. A plethora of medical conditions involve nonepileptiform and epileptiform abnormalities on EEG along the continuum of people who appear healthy to those who are critically ill. Emerging trends in long-term EEG monitoring to diagnose, classify, quantify, and characterize patients with seizures have unveiled epilepsy syndromes in patients and expanded medical and surgical options for treatment. Advances in terminology and application of continuous EEG help unify neurologists in the diagnosis of nonconvulsive seizures and status epilepticus in patients with encephalopathy and prognosticate recovery from serious neurologic injury involving the brain.

Summary: After 100 years, EEG has retained a key role in the neurologist's toolkit as a safe, widely available, versatile, portable test of neurophysiology, and it is likely to remain at the forefront for patients with neurologic diseases. Interpreting EEG is based on qualitative review, and therefore, the accuracy of reporting is based on the interpreter's training, experience, and exposure to many new and older waveforms.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain
  • Electroencephalography
  • Epilepsy* / diagnosis
  • Humans
  • Seizures / diagnosis
  • Status Epilepticus* / diagnosis
  • Status Epilepticus* / therapy