Neurological Examination

A paediatric neurologist performs an array of simple tests to assess a child’s reflexes, balance and coordination, motor and sensory skills and mental health status.

A typical neurological examination has different areas to focus on – therefore, the doctor works on different aspects which may depend on the child’s health, age and symptoms. Paediatric neurologists are specialists who perform neurological tests during a routine physical examination – which could be right after the birth, during early infancy, early childhood or adolescence age. The main objective is to investigate, identify and detect any potential neurological disorders and to rule out something serious.

Why does a child need a neurological exam?

Improperly functioning nervous system can cause several issues in children. They may suffer delays in normal growth and development. Timely intervention and detection of the cause help in prompt intervention and treatment – which would reduce long-term adverse effects and complications.

What are the typical signs and symptoms of neurological disorders in babies?

  • Changes in behaviour, coordination and balance
  • Tremors
  • Weakness in arms and legs
  • Reduced movement of arms and legs
  • Difficulty in moving hands and legs
  • Walking difficulty
  • Weakness/fatigue
  • Constant headaches
  • Blurry vision
  • Unknown weight loss
  • Loss of muscles tone

The Risk Factors

The risk factors for neurological disorders in babies may include premature birth, congenital birth defects – defects in the head or spinal cord; side effects of drugs used to treat any other health issues; head injury; oxygen deficiency right after birth; certain congenital infections; bleeding inside the brain; head injury; viral or bacterial infections like meningitis or encephalitis and other immunological disorders.

How does a child neurologist perform a neurological exam?

First of all – the paediatric neurologist talks to both the parent and the child to gain insights about the symptoms, the child’s behaviour and to gain a clear idea regarding the areas to focus on. The doctor may ask a few questions, analyse symptoms and take down the child’s medical history. Next, the neurologist performs a series of tests to learn how the child’s nervous system is working.

To check the mental status of a child, the doctor asks a few questions or ask them to follow directions – if the child is older – and for younger children, they simply observe how a child is interacting with their parents.

Furthermore, the doctor will perform motor and sensory function, balance and coordination, sensory perception, reflexes test and cranial nerves functions tests. Paediatric neurologists also perform a series of reflexes tests on newborn babies and infants.

Immediately after the exam the paediatric neurologist will talk to you about the examination and provide details about your child’s condition – and suggests what next steps should be done to diagnose the cause – if certain neurological or neurodevelopment issue is suspected – the doctor may order the next test – which could be a blood test, a biochemical test, brain scan – MRI or nerve conduction studies.

Bottom Line

The symptoms of neurological disorders in babies could be due to a wide range of causes including encephalopathy, asphyxia after birth, hypotonia, metabolic disorders, congenital neurological defects, epilepsy, seizures and intracranial haemorrhage. If left untreated, neurological issues can cause mild to severe complications – which could lead to developmental issues and lifelong disabilities. Early diagnosis and effective treatment are the best way to minimize the effects or complications from these brain disorders.