OHSU

Tests and Procedures for Diagnosis

At the OHSU Brain Institute, we use the most advanced tests and procedures to diagnose your condition. These tools tell your doctor if you have a brain or nervous system disorder and what it is. These tests and procedures can also tell your healthcare team how well your treatment is working.  

Your doctor will determine which tests or procedures you need. Some are done in the doctor's office and others are done at an imaging center or other clinic. Depending on the test or procedure you have, you might get results right away or wait a few days or hours for results to be processed.

Common Tests

Electromyography (EMG)

Electromyography (EMG) measures muscle response or electrical activity in response to a nerve’s stimulation of the muscle. The test is used to help detect neuromuscular abnormalities.
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Electroencephalogram (EEG)

An electroencephalogram (EEG) detects abnormalities in the brain waves or electrical activity of the brain.
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What are some other common screening tests?

You probably already know some of the tests used to diagnose brain and nervous system conditions. For example, blood tests (a technician takes a sample of your blood) can give your healthcare team important information. Blood tests can help find: 

  • Infection in the brain or spinal cord
  • Disease in the bone marrow (tissue inside the bones)
  • Bleeding disorders
  • Protein disorders
  • Damage to blood vessels
  • Toxic substances
  • Autoimmune disorders (your body's immune system attacks itself)

Blood tests can find protein disorders, some types of muscular dystrophy and other muscle disorders and diabetes. A blood test can also be used for genetic testing. This helps diagnose inherited disorders such as Huntington's disease.

Urine tests (a technician takes a sample of your urine) can help find:

  • Abnormal substances in the urine
  • Proteins that can cause disease
  • Absence of proteins needed for health

Blood and urine tests can also help your healthcare team check the levels of medication in your blood when you receive treatment. Results of these tests can tell your doctor if treatment is working or if you need different treatment.

If neurological (nervous system) disorders run in your family, you might have genetic testing or counseling. This can tell you if you have genes that cause the disorder. If you are pregnant, it can also tell you if your child could have the disorder. Knowing about the disorder early can help you make decisions about treatment.  

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What is a neurological examination?

If you have a brain or nervous system condition, your doctor will do a neurological (nervous system) examination. This tests your: 

  • Hearing
  • Vision
  • Balance and coordination
  • Ability to walk or move in other ways
  • Thinking ability and moods
  • Other abilities

Your doctor might use a tuning fork (small metal device that vibrates when touched), flashlight, small rubber hammer, ophthalmoscope (instrument for looking inside the eyes) and other equipment in a neurological examination. If a test is complicated, you might see a specialist who has advanced knowledge in this type of testing.