Neurological Exam

Neurological Exam: Definition, Procedure, Types, Risks, and More

A neurological exam, also known as a neuro exam, is a physical assessment of the nervous system. This exam is typically performed by a neurologist and may help in diagnosing a variety of neurological conditions. It is a critical tool in evaluating neurological functions and diagnosing a variety of conditions including stroke, dementia, brain tumors, multiple sclerosis, nerve damage, and more.

Preparation For a Neurological Exam

Prior to the exam, a medical history will be taken and your doctor may ask about your lifestyle choices such as diet, exercise, and other activities. Be sure to be as honest and accurate as possible while you are answering the questions.

Your doctor may also inquire about any current medications and supplements you take. Some medications or supplements may affect the results of a neurological exam, so it is important for your doctor to have this information. Your doctor may recommend stopping certain medications or supplements prior to the exam, so be sure to take your doctor’s directions seriously.

Procedure Of Neurological Exam

The neurological exam usually includes an assessment of:

  • Mental status
  • Motor strength & tone
  • Sensation
  • Reflexes
  • Coordination
  • Gait & station

The neurological exam may also include things like pupil responses, cranial nerve testing, and speech/language testing. During the exam, your doctor may ask you to perform tasks such as walking heel to toe, counting backwards, or manual dexterity tests. Depending on your condition, your doctor may require you to do additional tests.

Types Of Neurological Exam

There are many different types of neurological exams that can be performed. These examinations may include:

  • Reflex Testing: This involves tapping various parts of the body to check for muscle reflexes. This test helps identify any damage to the nerves.
  • Sensory Testing: This test looks for any changes in sensation, such as numbness, tingling, or pain in certain areas of the body.
  • Cranial Nerve Testing: This test assesses the functioning of the 12 pairs of cranial nerves. These nerves are responsible for sensation and movement in parts of the head and neck.
  • Neuropsychological Testing: These tests assess things like memory, concentration, problem solving, and language skills.
  • Electroencephalogram (EEG): This test records electrical activity in the brain using small electrodes attached to the scalp.

Risks Of Neurological Exam

Neurological exams are generally safe and don't pose any significant risks or side effects. However, there are small risks in certain tests, such as EEG or imaging tests. The most common risk associated with neurological exams is discomfort upon insertion of an EEG electrode.

Why Is Neurological Exam Performed?

Neurological exams are performed for a variety of reasons. Some of the most common reasons they’re performed include:

  • Diagnosing a neurological condition
  • Monitoring a person's neurological condition
  • Monitoring the effects of medication or treatments
  • Analyzing a person's risk of developing certain neurological conditions

When Is Neurological Exam Performed

The timing of a neurological exam may vary depending on the patient's condition and individual circumstances. Generally speaking, neurological exams are performed:

  • At the initial diagnosis of a neurological condition
  • Before and after surgery or treatment of a neurological condition
  • Every few months for monitoring the progression or treatment of a neurological condition
  • Annually for assessing a person's risk of developing certain neurological conditions