By Kenneth W. Thomas, RN
In an article on March 13, 2012 by Melody Mendez, I read with amazement how technology claims to help diagnose serious mental illnesses such as Depression, ADHD and “other disorders”. In this article quoting information from the Neuro-Therapy Clinic in Greenwood Village, Colorado, the suffering person comes to them for an EEG, an electronic mapping of the surface of the head of the electrical activity coming from the brain, and allows them to see into the workings of the brain and define the diagnosis of depression or ADHD. This is completely a false assertion by the Neuro Therapy Clinic.
ADHD symptoms and feelings of depression, or just that, there is an abundance of evidence by the medical (non-psychiatric) community, that there are potential physical causes of these symptoms and many other symptoms that all-too-often are diagnosed as mental health disorders. There are no medical test to evidence a psychiatric disorder, only medical tests that help the non-psychiatric physician find the actual medical illness.
Furthermore, while EEG testing can be helpful in conditions, such as seizure activity and physical abnormalities such as brain injuries, the presence of an abnormal wave form cannot diagnose anything.
These wave patterns are indicators of altered or hyperactive electrical patterns and can only at best diagnose abnormality. Furthermore, knowing that there is an abnormal pattern coming from an area, does not tell one the causation of that activity. Even ingesting caffeine can cause increased activity not to mention many other causative agents in the environment and food.
The article continues describing the method of sending the tracings to a “peer online” viewing system whereby other physicians review the scan and compile “evidence” of similar patterns in EEGs for people who have later been or came into the database with the diagnosis of depression or ADHD.
Here we have the insertion of a subjective viewpoint on the interpretation of
the wave-forms. This is an inexact science at best. Even computers can take tracings and measure them against previous waveforms collected on that same patient (a baseline
reading) or against another person’s waveforms. We do this type of comparisons
in EKG readings as well. Our current EKG machines have thousands of read and interpreted EKGs in their database and recorded wave forms against a grid. Elevations in
certain segments of the waveform can tell of impending problems for the
patient. But in all cases of EKG, the presence of symptoms must be matched with
the wave forms for an indicator of trouble. And once more, lab tests and other
tests are used to confirm the indicator from the EKG. Unless the patient is
presenting with chest pain, diaphoresis, arm or jaw pain, and an altered EKG, a
diagnosis of a heart attack is mostly by direct observation and patient report.
In the scenario from the article, the patient is supposed to “not-know” what’s wrong with them. They come for an answer via an EEG to get a real diagnosis. This is startling, considering the EEG cannot diagnose anything. In this scenario, the subjective analysis is still being done by another human being, even if not present with the patient. If the peer group viewing the EEG sees evidence of Depression in the waveforms, they report back to the ordering physician the findings, and the physician then makes the case to the patient that these are the findings. Now with a defining diagnosis, the physician orders a psychotropic drug?
This article is misleading and presenting a false premise that suddenly science has now advanced into the ability of reading a patient’s brain and can “see” inside the brain at what is going on. This is not only absurd at best, but gives patients false hope that they can be helped with bettered science. It’s just not the case. In fact, to date not one scientific
proof of any mental illness can be found in blood tests, MRI’s, CAT Scans, or
EEGs. The evidence is theoretical and “sold” to the public as if it were true.
Patients who are suffering for any kind of help get duped into believing they
are wisely spending their money on a diagnostic test when in fact they are
being robbed. But then again, who really is paying for these tests?