What is a Pediatric Neurological Examination?
A pediatric neurological exam is very detailed and hands-on. It will include aspects of a general visit where your doctor will listen to your child’s heart and lungs and look at their skin. Your child’s doctor will also ask you questions about your child’s health history and what you are noticing about their symptoms and behavior. Then they will evaluate your child’s:
- Mental status to see how your child is thinking, feeling, interacting and speaking.
- Cranial nerves (which are pairs of nerves that come off the brainstem to different areas in the head) to see if these nerves are functioning properly.
- Sensory function to see how your child experiences sensations like pain, light touch, temperature, position or vibration.
- Motor function to test your child’s strength, muscle tone and how their movements look.
- Coordination to see if your child’s movements are coordinated like they should be.
- Station and gait to see how your child stands and walks.
- Reflexes to see how your child’s reflexes respond to being tapped by a mallet.
The pediatric neurological exam isn’t usually scary or painful. In fact, many children enjoy it because we ask them to do things like run down the hall, jump up and down, and make strange faces.
What are the benefits of a Pediatric Neurological Examination?
Many different issues can cause symptoms in the brain, spine, nerves and muscles. These can range from headaches to strokes to rare genetic disorders. Your doctor uses different portions of the pediatric neurological exam to figure out what is happening for your child, and what the next steps might be. Sometimes we can figure out what treatments or medicines might help your child based on this pediatric neuro exam. Other times we may order additional tests.
What to expect with a Pediatric Neurological Examination?
You can expect the pediatric neuro exam to be a very detailed, hands-on exam.
What to expect before a Pediatric Neurological Examination?
We will want to see what your child’s symptoms or episodes look like, and what may cause or trigger them.
We know that your child’s symptoms may not be present all the time. If your child’s symptoms tend to come and go, please try to bring a video of your child experiencing their symptoms to the appointment. Cell phone videos work just fine for this.
Please also be thinking about things that cause, or trigger, your child’s symptoms so you can tell us at the appointment.
What to expect during a Pediatric Neurological Examination?
Pediatric neuro exams can have a playful energy. Your child will be asked to do things they don’t often do at a doctor’s appointment – like hop around, balance on one leg, or move their eyebrows in funny ways. Some children are surprised that the doctor will want to touch their bare feet to test their sensation. In general, it’s not a painful or scary exam.
What to expect after a Pediatric Neurological Examination?
Depending on what was seen during the exam, your doctor may order follow-up tests to get more information. This could include:
- Blood tests to examine how certain organs are functioning, how the body is responding to treatments, or to look for genetic or metabolic abnormalities.
- Imaging studies such as CTs or MRIs to look at the growth and structure of the brain.
- Specialized tests such as EEGs to look at brain waves or EMG/nerve conduction studies to look at the health of the nerves and muscles, or many other specialized tests.
How do I prepare my child for a Pediatric Neurological Examination?
Let your child know about the different types of tests your doctor will perform.
It’s very important for your child to come as they are. We want to see how they are functioning on a typical day. They should wear the same type of clothes and shoes they typically wear, and they should take any medication they normally take.