Who are Pediatric Neurologists?
Before we know Pediatric Neurologists, we need to know who a Neurologist is. Neurologists are those specialist doctors who diagnose and treat nervous system-related diseases and conditions. The body organs that come under it are the brain, spine, nerves, and muscles of the body. The diseases and conditions that come under neurology are headaches, seizures, multiple sclerosis, development delays, etc.
Now coming to the main question, the neurologists who treat these kinds of diseases and conditions in children are called child neurologists or Pediatric Neurologists. They have chosen to take care of children as a core of their medical practice. Their education, special training, and practical experience make them capable of fulfilling children’s unique requirements.
Pediatric Neurologists study for four years in a medical school with 1 to 2 years of general pediatric internships and residencies. Some child neurologists pursue 1 to 2 years of fellowships, where they learn about a specific neurological condition such as epilepsy, neuromuscular diseases, or genetics. This training at various levels is done under the guidance of more experienced neurologists. In addition, most Pediatric Neurologists are given certification from the national neurology board.
What do they do?
Pediatric Neurologists treat the diseases and conditions related to the nervous system of children and young kids whose ages range from their birth to 18 or 19 years old. They can identify a child’s unique requirements. They treat patients who suffer diseases or conditions like migraines, epilepsy, cerebral palsy, and rare conditions like traumatic brain injury, degenerative neurological conditions, and metabolic disorders. Some Pediatric Neurologists treat very complex diseases and conditions like epilepsy, cerebral palsy, stroke, and brain tumors.
A pediatric neurologist treats any condition related to the brain or nervous system of a child. The types of conditions that they treat broadly include muscular diseases, Tourette’s syndrome, and developmental conditions. Some neurologists focus on specific types like autism, complex metabolic disorders, muscular and nerve diseases, genetic conditions, and malformations, not on general child neurological disorders.
Pediatric Neurologists generally diagnose and treat the following conditions that are experienced by children:
- Seizures and epilepsy
- Muscular disorders such as muscular dystrophy or neuropathy
- Headaches, Migraines, and concussions
- Behavioral disorders such as lack of attention, hyperactivity, tics, Tourette’s syndrome, and sleep disorders
- Developmental disorders such as cerebral palsy, delayed speech, delayed motor milestone, and coordination problems
- Intellectual inabilities
- Congenital malformation in the brain
- Stokes and traumatic brain injury
- Genetic conditions in the nervous system
- Autoimmune disorders in the brain and spine such as multiple sclerosis
- Infection or inflammation in the brain such as meningitis or encephalitis
- Brain tumors
What tests do they perform?
Pediatric Neurologists generally diagnose after identifying a child’s symptoms, medical history, and physical tests or questionnaires. Sometimes, even more, special tests may be required. Generally, Pediatric Neurologists perform the following tests,
- EEG (Electroencephalogram) looks for problems using electrical activities in a child’s brain. By this test, a neurologist can look for seizures and observes whether the electrical activities in a child’s brain are normal at its age.
- MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) or CITI scan is used to take images of the brain and spine. These images can show the signs of brain tumor, stroke, infection, multiple sclerosis, certain genetic conditions, etc.
- Lumbar puncture (spinal tap) test is performed to take a sample of spinal fluid from the lower back using a small needle. This fluid is found surrounding the brain and spinal cord. This test helps to look for signs of infection or inflammation.
- Blood tests of the child may be required for diagnosis. It can include basic lab tests for electrolyte changes, signs of infection, or more complex tests like genetic tests for specific conditions.
Why do we need them?
You need to consult a pediatric neurologist when your family doctor or pediatrician refers you to them when they see the following symptoms in your child,
- Severe, frequent, or continuous headaches
- Lack of physical balance
- Loss of consciousness and poor coordination
- Memory loss and development delays
- Lack of sensitivity, numbness, or tingling
- Problems in moving around or walking
- Tremors, unintended jerks, or tics
If your child seems to have a neurological disorder, you need to consult a pediatric neurologist for treatment. When you visit a pediatric neurologist for your child, it will be assessed using various techniques such as a reflex hammer on knees and elbows or lights to check the nervous system. They may also ask your child to walk or run, sit down and stand up, repeat words and phrases, or answer a few questions. Pediatric Neurologists have learned to work with children and patients who lack verbal skills. They may also ask questions to you or the child’s caregivers to better assess it.