Epilepsy Tests & Diagnosis

Diagnostic Services

  • Routine EEG (Electroencephalography) to measure the electrical activity of the brain. EEGs are performed to determine whether abnormal brainwaves are present, which can aid in the diagnosis of seizures as well as other neurologic disorders.
  • Ambulatory EEG to measure the electrical activity of the brain over a 48-hour period. The patient wears the EEG electrodes home for 2 days, which allows for the capture of the patient’s typical spells/seizures to aid in diagnosis.
  • Inpatient Video EEG to measure the electrical activity of the brain while patients are hospitalized for 2-5 days in Emory’s Epilepsy Monitoring Unit (EMU). During hospitalization on the EMU, EEG is recorded 24 hours a day, along with concurrent video. Antiseizure medications are lowered during hospitalization in an attempt to capture and characterize seizures and spells, for diagnostic purposes or for presurgical plannin
  • Structural neuroimaging, a major diagnostic service of the Emory Epilepsy Center and Emory Department of Radiology, to detect lesions and biochemical dysfunction that cause epilepsy.
  • Functional imaging, with positron emission tomography (PET) or single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) scans, as well as functional MRI (fMRI) scans, to map the patterns of blood flow, energy use, and membrane receptors in specific brain regions.
  • Neuropsychological testing to measure the severity of memory and other cognitive dysfunction that can occur in many individuals with epilepsy.
  • Genetic testing, blood chemistry, and other laboratory tests also can help identify the causes of epilepsy.

Diagnosis of Seizure Types


Some patients may not find relief from seizure medication because they have been misdiagnosed. In fact, they do not have seizures, but another medical or psychiatric issue.

  • Psychogenic non-epileptic spells can look like seizures, but no abnormal brainwaves are seen during the spells. These spells are caused by psychological factors, and are treated with therapy rather than antiseizure medications.
  • Parasomnias, or sleep disorders, can appear seizure-like and can be mistaken for epilepsy.
  • Syncope, or fainting, can result in shaking movements that appear seizure-like.

Improving Diagnostic Accuracy

In order to more accurately diagnose epilepsy and seizures, the Emory Epilepsy Center utilizes our Epilepsy Monitoring Unit (EMU), a 10-bed inpatient unit in the main hospital. Patients are admitted for continuous video-EEG monitoring; EEG data is recorded 24 hours a day, along with time-locked video. Antiseizure medications are reduced, allowing for the capture and characterization of the patient’s typical spells. Often times, patients have been misdiagnosed with seizures, and as a result of video EEG monitoring, antiseizure medications can be discontinued. Additionally, accurate diagnosis can lead to selection of the most effective medication for the captured seizure type.

Video EEG monitoring can also be performed as part of the presurgical workup in patients with epilepsy whose seizures do not respond to antiepileptic medication. With video EEG, epilepsy doctors aim to find the area of the brain where seizures are starting. This helps determine whether surgery is a treatment option.

How Can We Help You Today?

Need help? We will be delighted to assist you today, so please call us at 404-778-7777. We look forward to hearing from you.