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What to Expect in the EMU


EMU Patient Information: Johns Hopkins' Epilepsy Monitoring Unit

Mackenzie Cervenka and Sarah Kelley, co-directors of the Johns Hopkins Epilepsy Monitoring Unit, share details about the unit and its purpose, why patients are referred, and what happens after discharge.


  1. In the EMU, seizures are recorded and studied so that proper diagnosis can be made and treatment can be optimized.
  2. Patients who take medication to control seizures may have their dosage adjusted or discontinued to increase the probability of seizure activity, providing the opportunity for them to be recorded and analyzed. This will be discussed with each patient before any changes are made. Your doctor and nurse will be available for any questions you may have about this prior to and during your visit.
  3. Each patient will have a private room with a private bathroom.
  4. Patients will be connected to video and computerized EEG monitoring equipment continuously (24 hours a day). Although this lack of privacy is bothersome to some patients, continuous monitoring is necessary to help safeguard patients and gather the needed information. Patients who wish to use a sleep mask should bring one which ties at the back of the head. Patients who use a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine or other home medical equipment should inform the EMU staff before arriving and plan to bring these devices to the EMU admission if needed.
  5. Because the EEG wires are connected to recording equipment, mobility is restricted and patients should expect to spend most of their time sitting in bed or in a nearby chair. Because the electrodes will remain on the patient's head, patients will not be able to wash their hair or shower until the monitoring is completed. Patients may wash at the sink or use wash basins that are provided.
  6. Patients who experience an aura, a warning which sometimes occurs prior to a seizure, should report this to an EMU staff member. Patients or their visitors should also notify staff of each seizure  they suspect as it occurs. This can be done by pressing the "seizure button" and describing out loud what is occurring as it occurs as there are microphones in each room for this purpose. This information is recorded because it is important for the analysis of the event. The "button" at the bedside signals the EMU staff and the monitoring computers that a seizure is occurring and should be pressed as soon as a seizure begins.
  7. The anticipated length of stay in the EMU varies with each patient, depending upon the tests and monitoring required and the number of seizures each patient experiences. Typically, patients stay between 3-7 days. After discharge from the EMU, some patients may need to remain in the hospital for a day or two to have medications regulated or readjusted.

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For more information, request an appointment at the Epilepsy Center.

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Thank you for considering the Epilepsy Center at Johns Hopkins.
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Adult Neurology: 410-955-9441
Pediatric Neurology: 410-955-4259
Adult Neurosurgery: 410-955-6406
Pediatric Neurosurgery: 410-955-7337


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