Recording characteristics of the surface EMG electrodes

P E Barkhaus, S D Nandedkar
Muscle & Nerve 1994, 17 (11): 1317-23
Routine motor nerve conduction studies are conducted using surface EMG electrodes. Most techniques of estimating the number of motor units (MUs) are based on surface EMG recordings. Therefore, it is important to assess the uptake area of these electrodes. We recorded surface EMG motor unit action potentials (SMUAPs) from the biceps muscle of normal subjects. The SMUAP amplitude fell from 42 microV for the superficially located MUs (i.e., within 10 mm of skin surface) to 11 microV for the deep MUs (i.e., more than 20 mm from the skin surface). We infer that the pickup radius of the surface electrode is less than 20 mm. The implications of the limited uptake area of the surface electrodes to the analysis of compound muscle action potentials, estimation of the number of MUs, and the surface EMG recordings are discussed.

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