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Epilepsy Monitoring Units

Epilepsy Monitoring Units for adults and children monitor brain activity around the clock.

Epilepsy Monitoring Unit Overview

Thaddeus Nespeca, RN, explains how to prepare, what to bring and what to expect.

At Cleveland Clinic, we have two Epilepsy Monitoring Units (EMU) — one dedicated to adults and another in Cleveland Clinic Children’s reserved for our pediatric patients. These are unique areas designed for round-the-clock patient monitoring. Watch this video to learn what to do the evening prior to your visit to the EMU, the amenities at the EMU, what to bring, and instructions for the day of your procedure.

Our newly expanded 14-bed adult Monitoring Unit offers both EEG (electroencephalography) equipment to monitor brain activity and video cameras to record body movements during a seizure. This combined approach gives us a much greater understanding of seizures than would using either technique alone. The monitoring allows us not only to diagnose a seizure problem accurately, but also to design the best possible treatment plan.

Patients are monitored in the unit throughout the day and night. The length of time people spend in the unit varies but usually ranges from three to seven days. Although this leaves little private time, it is the most effective way to study seizures and record information that will help us treat our patients.

The admission process begins when your doctor decides that prolonged video-EEG monitoring would be useful in evaluating your seizures or epilepsy. Your name then will be placed on a waiting list for admission to the unit. As we anticipate discharges, we notify potential patients that space will be available. We try to give patients as much advance notice as possible.

Learn more about the Epilepsy Monitoring Unit:

Epilepsy Monitoring Unit Brochure

Located in Cleveland Clinic Children’s, our self-contained, eight-bed Pediatric Epilepsy Monitoring Unit operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and features state-of-the-art, all digital video-EEG equipment. Staffed by nurses and EEG technicians specializing in pediatric epilepsy, the unit is overseen by our team of pediatric epileptologists.

We try to be especially understanding of our young patients’ concerns and accommodate them in every possible way. Cleveland Clinic’s Pediatric Monitoring Unit is designed especially to meet the needs of children with seizures. Child Life workers are available to help prepare children emotionally for their hospital stay, for all procedures, and if necessary, for surgery.

Learn more about the Pediatric Monitoring Unit:

Epilepsy Monitoring Unit Brochure

Frequently Asked Questions

Below, find frequently asked questions about the Epilepsy Monitoring Unit.

Who are the staff members in the Epilepsy Monitoring Unit?

You will be cared for by a number of different staff members during your stay in the Monitoring Unit. Feel free to ask any of us questions.

Epileptologists: Board-certified neurologists with subspecialty training in epilepsy, known as epileptologists, are in charge of your medical care. They will order your medications and interpret the results of your video-EEG recordings. These staff physicians rotate coverage of the Epilepsy Monitoring Units for one or two-week periods, so the doctors you see may change during your admission.

Regardless, the doctor on duty always is in close contact with the physician in charge of your overall care. Physicians undergoing advanced training in neurology or epilepsy, known as residents or fellows, along with physician assistants and nurses, also will be part of the monitoring team.

Registered nurses: Our nurses specializing in epilepsy care have primary responsibility for the daily care of patients and for managing the units. They can answer questions not only about what to expect during your stay in the unit, but also about epilepsy in general.

EEG technologists: Our EEG technologists are responsible for obtaining accurate recordings and videos. The EEG technologists can answer technical questions about your recordings or direct your questions to the proper person.

What happens when I arrive for monitoring?

When you or your child arrives at Cleveland Clinic’s Epilepsy Monitoring Unit, a staff member will orient you to the area and a nurse will conduct an admission interview with you.

The nurse, a specialist in epilepsy care, will ask about your past and present medical history, as well as your daily routines and lifestyle. These questions may seem personal, but they will help us plan your care while you are in the unit. An EEG technologist will explain our recording procedures to you.

The technologist will connect the various electrodes used to monitor your brain waves. The electrodes will stay in place on your scalp during your entire stay in the unit. Once the electrodes are in place, they are connected to recording amplifiers, and the digital video camera is adjusted. All of these devices are connected to a computer that helps us collect, analyze, save and recall large amounts of data about each of our patients.

You will spend several days being monitored. EEG technologists and nurses staff the Monitoring Units to observe patients. Because they can see and hear you, these experts are available to respond when a seizure occurs. To ensure we record a seizure while you are in the Monitoring Unit, it is often necessary to lower the dosage or stop the anticonvulsant medication(s) you are taking.

Please be aware that when medications are reduced, you may experience different types of seizures, some of which your family may not have witnessed before. Most of the time you will stay in bed or in a reclining chair next to your bed. You will be disconnected from the equipment to get up and move about twice a day. You also will be disconnected to use the restroom and to shower.

Having a family member or staff person accompany you on all walks is required for your safety as your medication has been reduced or discontinued. For your safety, we also limit your walking within the unit itself.

When showering, a staff or family member needs to be seated in the hallway near the shower for your safety. Handheld shower attachments are provided to prevent the electrodes and head-wrap (dressing) from getting wet.

We recommend you wear comfortable street clothes such as button-down, loose-fitting or short-sleeve shirts, and shorts or sweatpants. You need not wear a hospital gown in the unit.

What is the room like where I will be staying?

All monitoring rooms are private, each with its own telephone and direct-dial number. Outgoing long-distance calls may be placed (as collect calls) by contacting the Clinic operator or by charging them to a telephone calling card. Each room has a television with regular and cable programming. VCRs and DVD players are available at no charge. Feel free to bring in movies of your choice.

What special considerations are there for children being monitored?

We try to be especially understanding of our young patients’ concerns and accommodate them in every possible way. Cleveland Clinic’s Pediatric Monitoring Unit is designed especially to meet the needs of children with seizures. Child Life workers are available to help prepare children emotionally for their hospital stay, for all procedures, and if necessary, for surgery.

Children are encouraged to bring along their favorite blankets, toys, books, pacifiers or other comfort items. Feel free to bring any photographs, pictures or small items that will make your child’s room seem more like home. Parents are encouraged to stay around-the-clock with their child, though only one person may stay overnight. After monitoring is completed, young patients are welcome to use the playroom and playdeck in the Cleveland Clinic Children’s, where the Pediatric Monitoring Unit is located.

What services are available for family members?

A lounge for parents is located on the third floor of Cleveland Clinic Children’s in Area M. Cleveland Clinic Children’s provides innovative care for children with serious and complex medical problems. More than 100 pediatric specialists and subspecialists provide state-of-the-art care.

Cleveland Clinic Children’s has medical, surgical, psychiatric and intensive care beds, and offers the latest technology, including the computerized Pediatric Epilepsy Monitoring Unit, a level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), a Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) and dedicated pediatric operating suites. The Pediatric and Congenital Heart Center comprises the departments of Pediatric Cardiology and Pediatric and Congenital Heart Surgery. The center offers multidisciplinary evaluation and treatment for infants and children, as well as adults. Pediatric psychologists provide consultation and intervention to address developmental, behavioral and emotional issues in children hospitalized for a wide range of acute and chronic illnesses.

For more information, please visit our website at clevelandclinic.org/pediatrics. Shower and laundry facilities are available. Family members and guests may order a guest tray at a fixed price to be delivered to their child’s room at the same time as their child’s meals. Ask your nurse for information on how to order. Visitors also may bring food from home, Cleveland Clinic cafeterias or local restaurants and enjoy meals together in the patient’s room.

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What happens when monitoring is complete?

When your monitoring is complete, the doctor will discuss the findings with you and your family, explaining whether further diagnostic tests are needed and what treatment is best for you. The nursing staff will work with you to ensure you understand your testing and treatment programs. Please be sure to ask any questions you have about any aspect of your diagnosis and treatment.

Most of our patients receive various medications to control their seizures. Therefore, after monitoring is completed, a few additional days of hospitalization may be needed during which medications are readjusted. This may take place in the Monitoring Unit or on one of the hospital’s regular neurology or pediatric nursing floors.

We encourage you to see your neurologist or epileptologist at Cleveland Clinic Epilepsy Center and/or your local doctor on a regular basis. Often the two will work together in caring for you.

Appointments

To make an appointment call us locally at 216.445.0601 or toll-free at 866.588.2264.

Need appointment or locations information for services in Cleveland and nearby suburbs?
Interested in epilepsy services in Florida?

Cleveland Clinic Florida’s adult epilepsy program is offered at the Weston campus, located just south of Fort Lauderdale.