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Analysis of amplitude and area of concentric needle EMG motor unit action potentials

S D Nandedkar, P E Barkhaus, D B Sanders, E V Stålberg
Electroencephalography and Clinical Neurophysiology 1988, 69 (6): 561-7
Computer simulations indicate that measurements of the area of motor unit action potentials (MUAPs) recorded with a concentric needle electrode could be useful in differentiating between neuropathy and myopathy. However, MUAP area varies markedly when the position of the recording electrode is changed only slightly within the motor unit territory, mainly because of the changes in the MUAP amplitude produced by only slight electrode movements. The ratio of MUAP area to amplitude is much less affected by changes in electrode position and measures the 'thickness' of the MUAP wave form. We found that the MUAP area:amplitude ratio was reduced in myopathy even when the MUAP amplitude was normal or increased. In patients with neuropathy, the MUAP amplitude and area both tend to be increased while their ratio is normal or increased. The diagnostic yield obtained from MUAP area, amplitude and their ratio in combination was similar to that obtained using measurements of MUAP duration. Unlike the MUAP duration, the MUAP area, amplitude and area:amplitude ratio are robust features of the MUAP in that they are less sensitive to the signal-to-noise ratio and inter-operator differences in signal selection.

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