What is a Neurological Examination?

A neurological examination assesses motor and sensory skills, the functioning of one or more cranial nerves, hearing and speech, vision, coordination and balance, mental status, and changes in mood or behavior, among other abilities.

Items including a tuning fork, flashlight, reflex hammer, ophthalmoscope, and needles are used to help diagnose brain tumors, infections such as encephalitis and meningitis, and diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and epilepsy.  Some tests require the services of a specialist to perform and analyze results.

X-rays of the patient’s chest and skull are often taken as part of a neurological work-up.  X-rays can be used to view any part of the body, such as a joint or major organ system.  In a conventional x-ray, also called a radiograph, a technician passes a concentrated burst of low-dose ionized radiation through the body and onto a photographic plate.

Since calcium in bones absorbs x-rays more easily than soft tissue or muscle, the bony structure appears white on the film.  Any vertebral misalignment or fractures can be seen within minutes.  Tissue masses such as injured ligaments or a bulging disc are not visible on conventional x-rays.  This fast, noninvasive, painless procedure is usually performed in a doctor’s office or at a clinic.

Fluoroscopy is a type of x-ray that uses a continuous or pulsed beam of low-dose radiation to produce continuous images of a body part in motion.  The fluoroscope (x-ray tube) is focused on the area of interest and pictures are either videotaped or sent to a monitor for viewing.  A contrast medium may be used to highlight the images.  Fluoroscopy can be used to evaluate the flow of blood through arteries.

Source: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, 2010