What is a neurological exam?

A neurological exam, also called a neuro exam, is an evaluation of your child’s nervous system that can be done in the healthcare provider’s office. It may be done with instruments, such as lights and reflex hammers. It usually does not cause any pain to the child.

The nervous system consists of the brain, the spinal cord, and the nerves from these areas, as well as the muscles (the neuromuscular system). There are many aspects of this exam, including an assessment of motor and sensory skills, balance and coordination, mental status (the child’s level of awareness and interaction with the environment), reflexes, and functioning of the nerves. The extent of the exam depends on many factors, including the initial problem that the child is experiencing, the age of the child, and the condition of the child.

Why is a neurological exam done?

A complete and thorough evaluation of your child’s nervous system is important if there is any reason to think there may be an underlying problem, or during a complete physical.

Damage to the nervous system can cause delays in the child’s normal development and functioning and early identification may help find the cause and decrease long-term complications. A complete neurological exam may be done:

  • During a routine physical
  • During a newborn physical
  • To follow the progression of a disease
  • Following any type of birth defect to the head or spine
  • If the child has any of the following complaints:
    • Headaches
    • Blurry vision
    • Change in behavior
    • Fatigue
    • Change in balance or coordination
    • Numbness or tingling in the arms or legs
    • Decrease in movement of the arms or legs
    • Injury to the head, neck, or back
    • Temperature of unknown source
    • Seizures
    • Slurred speech
    • Weakness
    • Tremor

What is done during a neurological exam?

During a neurological exam, your child’s healthcare provider will test the functioning of the nervous system. The nervous system is very complex and controls many parts of the body. The nervous system consists of the brain, spinal cord, 12 nerves that come from the brain, and the nerves that come from the spinal cord. The nervous system regulates the muscles. The circulation to the brain, arising from the arteries in the neck, is also frequently examined. In infants and younger children, a neurological exam includes the measurement of the head circumference. The following is an overview of some of the areas that may be tested and evaluated during a neurological exam: Mental status, Motor function and balance, and Sensory exam,