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J Res Med Sci 2022,  27:25

Back to basics when referring for an electrodiagnostic test

1 Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Mubarak Al-Kabeer Hospital, Jabriya, Kuwait
2 Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Hospital, Andalous, Kuwait
3 Department of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine, Hacettepe University Medical School, Ankara, Turkey

Date of Submission23-Dec-2020
Date of Acceptance06-Oct-2021
Date of Web Publication17-Mar-2022

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Ahmad Jasem Abdulsalam
Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Hospital, Andalous
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/jrms.jrms_1382_20

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How to cite this article:
Shehab DK, Abdulsalam AJ, Ízšakar L. Back to basics when referring for an electrodiagnostic test. J Res Med Sci 2022;27:25

How to cite this URL:
Shehab DK, Abdulsalam AJ, Ízšakar L. Back to basics when referring for an electrodiagnostic test. J Res Med Sci [serial online] 2022 [cited 2023 Apr 2];27:25. Available from: https://www.jmsjournal.net/text.asp?2022/27/1/25/339776

Dear Editor,

When the physician needs to tackle with nonspecific symptoms such as pain, weakness, and numbness. In this sense, electrodiagnostic studies are often requested to assess several neurological or musculoskeletal pathologies.[1] Indeed, they provide prompt functional evaluation as regards nerves and muscles innervated by them - eventually making the physicians arrive at particular diagnoses.[1] As such, electrodiagnostic tests are undoubtedly valuable as the extension of clinical/neurological examination.

Herein, apart from the patient's clinical data, these referrals need to highlight a neurological diagnostic question formulated along with clinically relevant and specific history along with focused examination to guide for a better differential diagnosis. In addition, such guidance also helps the physician to perform the correct tests while avoiding unnecessary others.

Interestingly, we have observed in the literature (as well as in our clinical practice) that physicians from many specialties are not fully acquainted to utilize these tests.[2],[3] Yet, the major delinquency experienced in daily electrodiagnostic laboratories is poor referrals.[2],[3]

For better understanding this phenomenon, we have summarized/clustered poor referrals into two different groups. The first includes those which lack precise diagnostic suspicion where the referring letter is thus vague. These types of referrals usually lack not only enough clinical data but particular diagnostic suspicion either, for example, arm pain [Figure 1]a and [Figure 1]b. The second group comprises irrelevant referrals whereby electrodiagnostic tests would naturally be noncontributory, for example, rotator cuff pathology misinterpreted as radiculopathy [Figure 1]c and [Figure 1]d.
Figure 1: (a and b) Examples of inappropriate referrals which lack a history, clinical examination, and diagnostic question whereby electrodiagnostic tests were unremarkable, (c and d) Examples of inappropriate referrals (i.e., arthritis and trigger finger) whereby electrodiagnostic testing was unremarkable

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To this end, we propose electrodiagnostic examination mainly for patients with unequivocal clinical signs of a peripheral nervous system lesion and/or to rule out specific pathologies in the differential diagnosis. For sure, “thinking twice” before referring for electrodiagnostic tests is important in terms of cost (for the patient and physician) and time (for the physician). Of additional note, avoiding unnecessary discomfort to the patient would also be as at least important as the former two issues. Similar to a foreign language, writing a referral for an electrodiagnostic test needs a dialogue that should be practiced more carefully and perhaps more often as well. Hence, concerning the first group, we find it best for physicians to go back and perform a focused history and neurological examination to substantiate a probable diagnostic question. For the latter, we recommend physicians to opt back to their basic anatomy to better understand the scope of this test. Last but not least, whenever needed, we also highlight the importance of repeat medical history taking and physical examination by the physician who will eventually perform the electrodiagnostic tests.

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Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

Meekins GD, So Y, Quan D. American Association of Neuromuscular & Electrodiagnostic Medicine evidenced-based review: Use of surface electromyography in the diagnosis and study of neuromuscular disorders. Muscle Nerve 2008;38:1219-24.  Back to cited text no. 1
Mondelli M, Giacchi M, Federico A. Requests for electromyography from general practitioners and specialists: Critical evaluation. Ital J Neurol Sci 1998;19:195-203.  Back to cited text no. 2
Podnar S. Critical reappraisal of referrals to electromyography and nerve conduction studies. Eur J Neurol 2005;12:150-5.  Back to cited text no. 3


  [Figure 1]


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