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Epilepsy Monitoring Unit (EMU)

EMU clinic image.jpg

The Epilepsy Monitoring Unit (EMU) provides safe evaluation and treatment of episodes, seizures, or epilepsy. The goal of admission to the EMU is to record your seizures to help us better understand your seizure disorder.

Being admitted to the EMU gives our team a closer look at what you are experiencing. This includes what happens before, during, after, and between your seizures.

Our staff are trained to care for people with epilepsy, including monitoring seizures using video-EGG technology throughout a patient’s stay in the EMU.

The EMU is a mixed-gender unit on the Neurology floor at the Halifax Infirmary. The unit has 4 beds separated by curtains. Most of the time the curtains between beds are kept open to view patients in case of a seizure.  There is a closet and storage area for your personal items. There is also a bedside table, an over-bed table, and a chair beside the bed. There are 2 patient washrooms in the EMU. Each washroom is shared by 2 patients.

How do I get an appointment at the EMU?

Your epileptologist will decide if being admitted to the EMU is right for you. If so, they will send a referral to the epilepsy program nurse and your name will be added to the waitlist. How soon you are admitted depends on many things, including:

  • Your health
  • Whether you are available for treatment
  • If there is a bed available for you to be admitted
  • Your anticipated length of stay
  • Beds often become available on very short notice (1 to 2 days). When a bed is available, the epilepsy program nurse will call and offer you a date for admission.
  • In order to be admitted to the EMU, you must sign a consent form to allow us to record you. This consent form will also allow you to specify if your recorded image can be used for medical education or research purposes.
  • Anti-seizure medications may be lowered during your stay in the EMU to help increase your chance of having seizures. Any medication changes will be decided by the epileptologist (neurology doctor with special education in epilepsy) and done as safely as possible. Do not lower your anti-seizure medication on your own before your admission unless told to do so by your epilepsy specialist.

How do I prepare for my visit?

We advise you bring the following with you:

  • Provincial health card
  • All of your medications in their original, labelled containers.
    This includes prescription, over-the-counter, and herbal medications, vitamins, and supplements.
  • Personal care items (like soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, disposable and/or electric razor, make-up)
  • Glasses, contact lens case and solution, if needed
  • Hearing aid, if needed


  • Wash your hair the day before or morning of your admission. Do not use any gel, mousse, oil, creams, or hairspray.
  • Do not braid your hair. This will help us to connect the EEG electrodes.

Your epilepsy health care team will work together to keep you safe while you are in the EMU. During your stay, you will see a epileptologist, EEG technologist, and nurse every day. Please ask them for help. We understand that the monitoring system limits what you can do for yourself.

What will happen at my visit?

Seizure assessment

  • Any time you have a seizure in the EMU, an assessment (test) will be done by your nurse or EEG technologist. These assessments help us better understand how your seizures affect you. They also help us know where in your brain the seizures are coming from.
  • When you press the seizure event button or look like you might be having a seizure, the nurse or EEG technologist will come to your bed right away to check you and ask questions. During the seizure, they will also ask you to do and remember things. This information helps us better understand your condition. It is important that you take part in this assessment as best you can.

What should I expect?

  • When the epilepsy program nurse calls to arrange your admission, they will tell you how to be admitted and where to go when you arrive.
  • You will be admitted to the hospital for video-EEG monitoring 24 hours a day until we have collected the information we need. This may take several days to several weeks. The average length of stay is 2 weeks, but it may be longer or shorter.
  • You must stay in the EMU during your admission. You may only leave for a test requested by the epileptologist. It is important to bring things with you to help pass the time. See the list of suggested items.
  • When you arrive at the EMU, staff will help you get settled. An EEG technologist will connect your EEG electrodes and explain the EEG equipment. The nurse and EEG technologist will ask about your seizures, medications, and other health information, and explain how the monitoring system in the room works.
  • The EEG electrodes may make your scalp itchy. Tell your nurse and/or the EEG technologist if your scalp gets itchy or if you have tender (sore) areas anywhere on your head.
  • If you are in the hospital for more than 1 week, your electrodes may be taken off on Friday and not reconnected until Monday. This will give you time to shower and wash your hair. You must tell the nurse if you are going to have a shower. For safety reasons, tub baths are not allowed.
  • If your electrodes are removed, you may be given a weekend pass to go home. This depends on many things. EMU staff will decide if a weekend pass is right for you.
  • How often you have seizures may change during your stay in the EMU. Do not worry — this is normal.

Other considerations:

  • You will not be able to shower until the EEG electrodes are removed, but you will be able to wash at the washroom sink each day.
  • Most days will be spent sitting in bed or near your bed. Bring items to help pass the time, such as books, magazines, puzzles, crafts, or any other items you wish.
  • You are welcome to bring a laptop, tablet, or cell phone. Be sure to also bring headphones and chargers. Do not hold or use a device that is plugged in to charge, as this affects the EEG recording.
  • It is important to bring comfortable clothes and shoes that you can put on and take off when the electrodes are attached, such as:
    • Tops that button or zip down the front or back. You will not be able to take clothing off over your head once the electrodes are in place. We have hospital gowns that tie in the back, if needed
    • …Comfortable bottoms like shorts, sweats, or leggings
    • Sleepwear that is comfortable and covers you well
    • Slippers (with non-slip soles) and a bathrobe
    • An extra sweater in case you are cold
    • Mobility (movement) aid (like a cane or walker)
    • You may also wish to bring your own pillow and blanket
  • Hospital meals are provided, but you can also bring snacks and non-alcoholic drinks with you, if you wish.
  • The EMU may be brighter and noisier than sleeping at home. We have earplugs available, but you are welcome to bring your own. You may also wish to bring an eyemask.
  • Chewing gum is not allowed in the EMU. It is a safety risk and can affect the EEG recording

What is available on the EMU?

  • The EMU has:
  • A small fridge
  • A microwave
  • A kettle
  • A Keurig® coffee machine
  • A TV with a DVD player and a selection of free movies
  • Free Wi-Fi access
  • An iPad® for each patient to use during their stay

What can I do to help myself?

There are many things you can do that can help make your admission a success:

1 -  Tell us if you are going to have or have had a seizure.

Tell us if you feel like:

  • you are having a warning of a possible seizure.
  • you are having one of your usual episodes.
  • you are having a definite seizure.
  •  you may have just had a seizure. 

Call the nurse and EEG technologist, and press the seizure event button. This button sounds an alarm and also places an electronic mark on your EEG recording. This tells the epileptologist where to look on the recording to see what was happening when you had symptoms. EMU staff will show you how to use the seizure alarm.

2. Make sure the camera is set up where it can record you . The camera cannot follow you when you move. It is usually set up to observe you while you are in bed or in a chair by the side of the bed. If you are going to move to another part of the room, ask the nurse or EEG technologist to move the camera to make sure you are being recorded.

3. Do not share private information you may hear about other patients. You will be sharing a room with 3 other patients and may see or hear private information about them. You are responsible for respecting the privacy and confidentiality of other patients, families, visitors, and staff. We also ask that you and your visitors be respectful to the other patients and keep your noise level low.

Going Home and follow-up

When enough information has been collected, we will make plans to discharge you from the EMU.

  • We will review your medications and plans for next steps with you before
    discharge. Follow-up appointments will be arranged, as needed.
  • Please call the epilepsy program nurse if you have any questions or issues after you are discharged at 902-473-2136

Accessing this Clinic, Program or Service

The EMU is accessible by referral from an epileptologist.

Epilepsy program nurse
Phone: 902-473-2136

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