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Electromyography (EMG) is a technique for evaluating and recording physiologic properties of muscles at rest and while contracting. EMG is performed using an instrument called an electromyograph, to produce a record called an electromyogram. An electromyograph detects the electrical potential generated by muscle cells when these cells contract, and also when the cells are at rest.
The electrical source is the muscle membrane potential of about -70mV. Due to the applied method, the resulting measured potentials range between less than 50 μV and 20 to 30 mV.
Typical repetition rate of muscle unit firing is about 7–20 Hz, depending on the size of the muscle (eye muscles versus seat (gluteal) muscles), previous axonal damage and other factors. Damage to motor units can be expected at ranges between 450 and 780 mV.
To perform intramuscular EMG, a needle electrode is inserted through the skin into the muscle tissue. A trained medical professional (most often a physiatrist, neurologist, or physical therapist) observes the electrical activity while inserting the electrode. The insertional activity provides valuable information about the state of the muscle and its innervating nerve. Normal muscles at rest make certain, normal electrical sounds when the needle is inserted into them. Then the electrical activity when the muscle is at rest is studied. Abnormal spontaneous activity might indicate some nerve and/or muscle damage. Then the patient is asked to contract the muscle smoothly. The shape, size and frequency of the resulting motor unit potentials is judged. Then the electrode is retracted a few millimeters, and again the activity is analyzed until at least 10-20 units have been collected. Each electrode track gives only a very local picture of the activity of the whole muscle. Because skeletal muscles differ in the inner structure, the electrode has to be placed at various locations to obtain an accurate study.
Intramuscular EMG may be considered too invasive or too specific in some cases. A surface electrode may be used to monitor the general picture of muscle activation, as opposed to the activity of only a few fibres as observed using a needle. This technique is used in a number of settings; for example, in the physiotherapy clinic, muscle activation is monitored using surface EMG and patients have an auditory or visual stimulus to help them know when they are activating the muscle (biofeedback).
Nerve conduction testing is also often done at the same time as an EMG in order to diagnose neurological diseases.
Patients can occasionally find the procedure somewhat painful while others experience only a small amount of discomfort when the needle is inserted. The muscle or muscles being tested may be slightly sore for a day or two after the procedure.
Muscle tissue at rest is normally electrically inactive. After the electrical activity caused by the irritation of needle insertion subsides, the electromyograph should detect no abnormal spontaneous activity (i.e. a muscle at rest should be electrically silent, with the exception of the area of the neuromuscular junction, which is normally electrically very spontaneously active). When the muscle is voluntarily contracted, action potentials begin to appear. As the strength of the muscle contraction is increased, more and more muscle fibers produce action potentials. When the muscle is fully contracted, there should appear a disorderly group of action potentials of varying rates and amplitudes (a complete recruitment and interference pattern).
Neuropathic disease has the following defining EMG characteristics:
Myopathic disease has these defining EMG characteristics:
Because of the individuality of each patient and disease, some of these characteristics may not appear in every case.
EMG Signal Decomposition
EMG signals are essentially made up of superimposed motor unit action potentials (MUAPs) from several motor units. For a thorough analysis, the measured EMG signals can be decomposed into their constituent MUAPs. MUAPs from different motor units tend to have different characteristic shapes, while MUAPs recorded by the same electrode from the same motor unit are typically similar. Notably MUAP size and shape depend on where the electrode is located with respect to the fibers and so can appear to be different if the electrode moves position. EMG decomposition is non-trivial, although many methods have been proposed.
|This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Electromyography". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.|