Thursday, April 17, 2014

How do you clean a patient’s head after removing EEG electrodes?

Whether using paste or collodion, unless we spend some time removing dried paste or bits of collodion and gauze, the patient will leave the lab with a scalp and hair that really needs some rigorous cleaning.  We all have our own techniques for accomplishing this task.  But I feel that we owe it to the patient to do the best we can.  In the most recent ASET webinar, Adele Wirch was the presenter and she addressed the importance of patient satisfaction in health care reform, now even linked to reimbursement.  She pointed out the impact that staff can make on a patient’s impression of hospital services.  A patient who has to pick glue or paste out of her hair for days cannot think too kindly of the experience.
I recently received an e-mail from a patient who had completed a "48 hour" EEG recording.  She did not specify whether this was an ambulatory EEG or an in-patient study.  She searched the internet until she found ASET because she wanted to share her experience with removal of the glue from her hair after the test.  In her message she mentioned that the tech told her "it would take three days to get the glue out of her hair".  What surprised me was that the tech did not apparently attempt to remove some of the residual collodion.  He told her to buy nail polish remover and a fine tooth comb.  In any lab I have worked in, the techs do try to clean up the patient's head.  I also always advise using the official "collodion remover" product.  I have heard from some techs that they are under a mandate to cut cost on supplies so I wonder if this issue was behind the lack of attention to this detail when the patient was dismissed.  However, I think the patient's helpful tip is worth sharing:
Easy way to remove EEG glue
You will need:
3 ounces or more of Clear hair hydrating conditioner;
A towel large enough to go around your head;
A heat source for the towel such as a blow dryer or a microwave;
Your usual comb and brush;
Saturate the glued areas of the hair with the Clear conditioner. Wet the towel with hot water and wrap it around your head. Warm it with the blow dryer or in the microwave as needed. After about 30 minutes get in the shower and rinse your head with very hot water. Do not shampoo the conditioner out of your, hair rinse it out. Finger comb your hair while rinsing the conditioner out. This should remove all but maybe a tiny bit of the glue from your hair.
“I had three tiny pieces of glue left in my hair and I used my fingers to slide it down off my hair with no problem at all.”
I have thanked the patient who took the time to find me and share her tip.  Hope you all find this helpful.


  1. My 3 year old granddaughter had a 48hr eeg at home and they left the electrodes on her scalp. How do we get them off without tearing her skin! The tape is stuck really well and it is very painful for her.

  2. The electrodes should be removed by the personnel who applied the electrodes, as part of the service. I suggest that you call the provider first, since different adhesives may require different removal techniques. You can ask if the leads were applied with collodion. If so, a non-acetone nail polish remover works well. If applied with a medical tape, there are medical adhesive removers on the market. The key is that it will take some time to saturate the tape or gauze sufficiently to loosen the adhesive, and to take great care to keep the product away from her eyes. If she has sensitive skin you may want to check with the pediatrician before using a product. Putting a very small amount of the product on her skin where a skin reaction would be clearly visible is also a good idea before saturating her scalp.

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