A neurological exam evaluates brain and nervous system functioning. It’s a series of tests that assesses mental status, reflexes, movements and more. You may benefit from this test if you show signs of a neurological disorder.
A neurological (neuro) exam consists of a physical examination to identify signs of disorders affecting your brain, spinal cord and nerves (nervous system). Neurological examination is the best way for healthcare providers to check the function of your brain and nervous system. It helps them determine which tests to run. Every neurological exam is different depending on your symptoms. Sometimes, it can take time to complete the physical examination and the interview, as your nervous system is very complex.
If you already live with a nervous system disorder, a neurological exam helps healthcare providers track treatment response.
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It includes a series of physical examination steps that assess nervous system functioning. These may include evaluation of your:
You may benefit from a neurological exam if you have symptoms of neurological dysfunction such as:
Neurological exams help determine whether symptoms are due to a nervous system disorder or another medical issue. A neurological examination provides the basis for further testing.
Nervous system disorders detected by a neuro exam may include:
A neurologist or a specially trained physician extender, like a certified nurse practitioner or physician assistant, conducts the exam. This specialist diagnoses and treats brain, nerve and spinal cord disorders. Some neurologists specialize in areas such as movement disorders, epilepsy or pediatric neurology.
There isn’t much preparation necessary. You may want to wear loose clothing. It may be helpful to write down information about your symptoms and health history, too. This can prevent you from forgetting important details that may help guide the exam.
The evaluation starts with an interview about your symptoms, including how long you’ve had them and how they affect everyday life. Your neurologist will want to know about other medical issues you have. Following this, your neurologist will perform a physical examination.
As part of your neuro exam, your healthcare provider will conduct a physical examination to test one or more aspects of your nervous system functioning. These include:
Testing cognition provides helpful information about thinking, memory and your emotional state. You may be asked to:
Your cranial nerves enable your brain to communicate with your upper body. This assessment helps pinpoint disorders affecting specific areas of your brain. It may involve:
These tests assess your brain’s communication with muscles that help you move, stay on your feet and perform simple tasks. They may involve:
Your neurologist tests your automatic response to specific triggers. These tests show how well nerves between your brain and body communicate. This may involve:
This part of the test evaluates your ability to perceive pain, temperature and other sensations. It may involve:
If you’re not fully conscious, this type of testing assesses brain activity. It rates your ability to complete basic commands (Glasgow Coma Scale), such as:
Your autonomic nervous system controls vital functions like breathing and blood pressure. This part of the exam may involve:
Your neurologist will explain the results as soon as the exam is complete.
If results aren’t within normal range, your neurologist may order extra tests to learn more. These may include:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Neurological exams evaluate one or more aspects of nervous system functioning. They help confirm or rule out disorders affecting your brain, nerves and spinal cord. You may need additional testing to confirm a diagnosis. These exams also help neurologists track progress with neurological disorder treatments.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 04/01/2022.
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