Everything You Need to Know About EMG Units
The field of Neurology has seen the development of technology that has assisted medical professionals in training, performance, and life-altering decisions. Moreover, research breakthroughs in biomedical engineering have given way to devices like the EMG unit.
Electromyography is an assessment that measures the electrical activity in response to a nerve's stimulation of the muscle. This allows the doctor to understand whether the issue is about the muscle in question or the nerve that controls the muscle.
The test is usually conducted by a neurologist to diagnose neurological disorders that are associated with the connection between skeletal muscles and the nervous system. Furthermore, these devices have been used in the field of kinesiology, rehabilitation, and applied research.
In this article, we will cover all the information you need to know about these devices, their history, mechanism of action, indications, and market-leading companies.
History of EMG Units
The first digital EMG unit was released into the market in the 1970s to record and analyze different movements of the body. Since 1994, personal computer technology has relied on standard software and hardware components used in the day-to-day analysis.
The transition to digital development improved the general quality of analysis and furthered the understanding of pathological conditions regarding nerve physiology. The development of advanced EMG systems has relied on the technology that is widely available to the market during that particular point in time.
People that show signs or symptoms that include numbness, muscle weakness/pain, or tingling may benefit from a test to rule out several conditions.
How do EMG Units work?
The technology used to detect motor unit functionality is associated with the bioelectric signal that has a vast range of applications. Generally speaking, there are two ways to acquire the signal from a patient:
- Intramuscular Electromyography
- Surface Electromyography (sEMG)
The first method uses a needle or wire to detect signals associated with the motor unit activity, specifically the discharge times of individual motor units.
On the other hand, sEMG does not require any needles and instead uses electrodes that are placed on the skin to detect the electrical activity of the muscle.
The majority of units are used to diagnose disorders of peripheral nerves (nerves outside the spinal cord) such as carpal tunnel syndrome or peripheral neuropathies. Other conditions in which this medical instrument is used for are diseases such as Myasthenia Gravis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and polymyositis.
Overall, this device is crucial for the prompt diagnosis of conditions dealing with the connection between nerve and muscle fibers.
An in Depth Look between Nerve and Muscle Function
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, is a condition in which nerve cells degrade in quality, eventually affecting the control of voluntary muscles.
According to the ALS Association, around 5,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with one of the two types. Unfortunately, this is a progressive disease that healthcare professionals are unable to cure. However, there are currently four drugs approved by the FDA to treat the condition.
There are two types:
- Familial (FALS)
Sporadic is by far the most prevalent type found in approximately 95% of cases in the U.S., and it has the potential to affect anyone from any background.
Familial, on the other hand, is genetically inherited by offspring and generally affects 5 to 10% of the population.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is a common condition that affects the main nerve extending from the arm to the base of the hand. Symptoms linked to carpal tunnel syndrome include numbness, burning, and pain; however, severe cases may develop permanent nerve damage if left untreated.
The following are a few factors to consider when evaluating the underlying cause for carpal tunnel syndrome:
- Repetitive movements such as typing or playing piano
- Underlying health issues
Myasthenia gravis is an autoimmune disease in which the body develops antibodies that prevent neurotransmitters from signaling to the muscle. As a result of the disrupted communication, the signal to stimulate the movement of muscles weakens overtime.
Patients with myasthenia gravis may experience symptoms daily or in intervals that occur throughout the day. Symptoms may include the following:
- Troubled breathing
- Difficulty breathing/hoarse voice
- Difficulty breaking down food
- Drooping of the eyelids
- Facial paralysis
- Muscle weakness
The doctor will perform a series of tests that examine the neurotransmitter in connection to muscle performance. An EMG provides the electrical response needed to assist physicians in diagnosing patients with this condition.
Risks and contraindications
The use of an EMG unit is relatively safe and is known as a low-risk procedure with minor complications.
Although the procedure itself is considered safe, there is a slight risk of infection and nerve damage in the area where the electrode needle penetrates the skin. Moreover, patients that have edema may experience leakage that can result in cellulitis.
Furthermore, if the area of study is conducted in the muscles of the chest, there is a possibility of air entering the space between the chest wall and lungs, which may lead to a pneumothorax (lung collapse).
It is essential that patients let their doctor know in advance of any underlying health issues that may result in further complications.
According to a market research study, the expected growth rate from 2020-2022 for this equipment is estimated to grow by 7.12%.
Physicians and health economy experts attribute these changes due to the increasing number of patients that experience neuromuscular disorders as well as growing awareness about possible treatment options.
At the moment, North America is the leading country in the global market share, followed by Europe, Asia, and South America. Reports have indicated that the U.S. will continue to dominate the market due to government regulations as well as incentives related to R&D activities to further the treatment of related neurological disorders.
When it comes to these devices, each country has significant players that control the market of that region. The following is a comprehensive overview of the biggest medical manufacturers that produce the EMG unit:
- Biometrics Ltd (United Kingdom)
- Cadwell Laboratories (U.S.)
- Compumedics (Australia)
- Covidien (Ireland)
- Electrical Geodesics (U.S.)
- Medtronic (Ireland)
- Natus Medical (U.S.)
- Nihon Kohden (Japan)
- NeuroWave Systems (U.S.)
- Noraxon (U.S.)
Key Market Trends
There has been an increase in demand for the portable EMG unit because it offers physicians the ability to monitor symptoms remotely. In addition, paramedics rely on portable devices to oversee the electrical activity of the brain when transporting a patient to the hospital.
Moreover, market players are differentiating their products based on attributes such as weight, portability, and data acquisition.
One thing to note is that key players in the industry are incorporating strategies related to product development, mergers, joint ventures, and international expansion for market development.
General Specifications of EMG Units
Due to the diversity of producing companies, each brand may have different specs that meet their target patient group. There are two dependent factors that will determine the technical specifications, which we discussed earlier, surface, and inserted electrodes.
Here are some general specifications published by the World Health Organization (note that this device can perform other measurements such as EEG, ECG, and EMG):
- Approximate dimensions (mm): 350 x 50 x 390
- Approximate weight: 8 kg
- Consumables: Batteries, electrodes/sensors, conductive gel
- Price range (USD): 1,750 - 113,000
- Typical product lifetime (years): 8-10
- Shelf life (consumables): NA
Additionally, the EMG unit is designed to provide other conductive tests such as electromyography (EEG) and electrocardiography (ECG). This device is intended for hospital use, neurologists, neurosurgeons, technicians specializing in neurological disorders, nurses, and anesthesiologists.
An EMG is an essential piece of medical equipment that facilitates the diagnosis of several conditions with subtle signs and symptoms. They were initially developed to observe different movements of the body and gain a deeper understanding of the electrical movement required to initiate muscle activity.
The diagnosis of neurological disorders has increased in the past few years because of the prevalence of diseases such as ALS, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, epilepsy/seizures, peripheral neuropathy, polymyositis, and sciatica.
The industry poses low barriers to entry; however, the shortage of skilled professionals and government funding may apply certain restrictions on the market. In addition, Asia is an up and coming region that is expected to have exponential growth due to the high demand for electromyography devices, higher disposable income, and well as the increasing number of clinics and hospitals available.
Overall, the growth of the EMG unit market offers a vast array of opportunities to prospective companies looking to tap into the market.