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What is Pediatric Neurology?

The nervous system is made up of the brain, spinal column, nerves, and muscles. It is what allows our brain and body to communicate with each other. Disorders of the nervous system are treated by a neurologist. When these disorders affect children or teens, they are treated by a pediatric or child neurologist.

Child neurologists have a special understanding of how the nervous system functions in a child’s growing body. Some neurological illnesses are rarely seen in adults, and others have symptoms that are different in children than in adults. Children’s developing brains and bodies can change quickly, and a pediatric neurologist is trained to quickly evaluate and manage symptoms before they cause future problems.

There is a very wide variety of disorders in pediatric neurology. Some issues, like seizures, are quite common, while others are very rare. A few examples of the problems treated by a child neurologist include:
  • Seizures and epilepsy
  • Migraines and other headaches
  • Neurological disorders that cause physical disabilities, including cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, and muscular dystrophy
  • Developmental movement disorders, such as motor delays or low coordination
  • Hydrocephalus, or fluid in the brain
  • Brain tumors
  • Social and behavioral disorders that originate in the brain, such as ADHD and autism (many, but not all pediatric neurologists offer this service)

To figure out what is happening in a patient’s nervous system, pediatric neurologists make frequent use of brain scans. These may be CT scans (computed tomography, which uses x-rays), MRIs (magnetic resonance imaging, done with radio waves and magnets), or PET scans (positron emission tomography, which uses small amounts of radioactive material). In addition, child neurologists may use:
  • Blood tests
  • Ultrasounds
  • Chromosomal testing
  • EEG (electroencephalogram, a test to measure electrical activity in the brain)
  • EMG (electromyography, tests to measure how well nerves and muscles work)
  • Developmental screening tests
  • Hearing and vision tests

It can be incredibly difficult for parents when their child is hurting or isn’t able to do things that other kids their age can do. A pediatric neurologist is a great resource to help kids with neurological disorders reach their full potential.