Navigate Up

Seniors Center - A-Z Index

#
Q
Y
Z

Print This Page

Electronystagmography

Electronystagmography is a test that looks at eye movements to see how well two nerves in the brain are working. These nerves are:

  • Vestibular nerve (8th cranial nerve), which runs from the brain to the ears
  • Occulomotor nerve, which runs from the brain to the eyes

Alternative Names

ENG

How the Test is Performed

Patches called electrodes, are placed above, below, and on each side of your eyes. They may be sticky patches or attached to a headband. Another patch is attached to the forehead.

The health care provider will spray cold water or air into each ear canal at separate times. The patches record eye movements that occur when the inner ear and nearby nerves are stimulated by the water or air. When cold water enters the ear, you should have rapid, side-to-side eye movements called nystagmus.

Next, warm water or air is placed into the ear. The eyes should now move rapidly toward the warm water then slowly away.

You may also be asked to use their eyes to track objects, such as flashing lights or moving lines.

The test takes about 90 minutes.

How to Prepare for the Test

Most of the time you do not need to take special steps before this test.

  • Your health care provider¬†will tell you if you need to stop taking any medicines before you have this test.
  • Do not stop or change your medications without talking to your doctor first.

How the Test will Feel

You may find cold water in the ear slightly uncomfortable. Brief dizziness (vertigo) may occur during the test.

Why the Test is Performed

The test is used to determine whether a balance or nerve disorder is the cause of dizziness or vertigo.

Your doctor may order this test if you have:

  • Dizziness or vertigo
  • Hearing loss
  • Possible damage to the inner ear from certain medicines

Normal Results

Certain eye movements should occur after the warm or cold water or air is placed into your ears.

Note: Normal value ranges may vary slightly among different laboratories. Talk to your doctor about the meaning of your specific test results.

What Abnormal Results Mean

Abnormal results may be a sign of damage to the nerve of the inner ear or other parts of the brain that control eye movements.

Any disease or injury that damages the acoustic nerve can cause vertigo. This may include:

  • Blood vessel disorders with bleeding (hemorrhage), clots, or atherosclerosis of the blood supply of the ear
  • Cholesteatoma and other ear tumors
  • Congenital disorders
  • Injury
  • Medications that are toxic to the ear nerves, including aminoglycoside antibiotics, some antimalarial drugs, loop diuretics, and salicylates
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Movement disorders such as progressive supranuclear palsy
  • Rubella
  • Some poisons

Additional conditions under which the test may be performed:

Risks

Rarely, too much water pressure inside the ear can injure your ear drum if there has been previous damage. The water part of this test should not be done if your eardrum has been perforated recently.

Considerations

Electronystagmography is very useful because it can record movements behind closed eyelids or with the head in many positions.

References

Griggs RC, Jozefowicz RF, Aminoff MJ. Approach to the patient with neurologic disease. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 403.

Kerber KA, Baloh RW. Neuro-otology: l diagnosis and management of neuro-otological disorders. In: Daroff RB, Fenichel GM, Jankovic J, Mazziotta JC, eds. Bradley's Neurology in Clinical Practice. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2012:chap 37.

Updated: 5/28/2013

Luc Jasmin, MD, PhD, FRCS (C), FACS, Department of Neurosurgery at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles CA; Department of Surgery at Los Robles Hospital, Thousand Oaks CA; Department of Surgery at Ashland Community Hospital, Ashland OR; Department of Surgery at Cheyenne Regional Medical Center, Cheyenne WY; Department of Anatomy at UCSF, San Francisco CA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.


©  UPMC | Affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences
Supplemental content provided by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions. All rights reserved.

For help in finding a doctor or health service that suits your needs, call the UPMC Referral Service at 412-647-UPMC (8762) or 1-800-533-UPMC (8762). Select option 1.

UPMC is an equal opportunity employer. UPMC policy prohibits discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, sex, genetics, sexual orientation, marital status, familial status, disability, veteran status, or any other legally protected group status. Further, UPMC will continue to support and promote equal employment opportunity, human dignity, and racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity. This policy applies to admissions, employment, and access to and treatment in UPMC programs and activities. This commitment is made by UPMC in accordance with federal, state, and/or local laws and regulations.

Medical information made available on UPMC.com is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely entirely on this information for your health care needs. Ask your own doctor or health care provider any specific medical questions that you have. Further, UPMC.com is not a tool to be used in the case of an emergency. If an emergency arises, you should seek appropriate emergency medical services.

For UPMC Mercy Patients: As a Catholic hospital, UPMC Mercy abides by the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, as determined by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. As such, UPMC Mercy neither endorses nor provides medical practices and/or procedures that contradict the moral teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.

© UPMC
Pittsburgh, PA, USA UPMC.com