Pediatric Neurology – Overview
Everything in the human body is controlled by the brain and the nervous system, right from breathing and keeping the heart beating to driving a car or doing some task.
In case the nervous system does not work properly, its effects can be seen all through the body.
Neurologists are medical professionals who specialize in treating the conditions that affect the brain and nervous system. This includes the brain, nerves and spine.
Problems in these areas tend to cause severe conditions, such as constant headaches, seizures, multiple sclerosis or developmental delays.
Pediatric neurology is the field of medicine that deals with the problems that affect the brain and nervous system of children.
What Does a Pediatric Neurologist Do?
A pediatric neurologist diagnosis treats and prevents most conditions related to the nervous system in children and young adults.
Pediatrics, usually treat children from birth to 18 or 19 years of age. These professionals are trained to treat child-specific brain and nervous system problems.
A pediatric neurologist can treat several types of patients. They can treat common neurological conditions, such as epilepsy, migraines and cerebral palsy and also treat complex conditions like metabolic disorders, traumatic brain injury and degenerative neurological problems.
As this is a significantly vast field of study, some neurologists choose to specialize in treating certain conditions, especially rare or very complex conditions.
Some examples of pediatric neurology specialties include cerebral palsy, stroke and brain tumors.
What are the Education and Training needed to be a Pediatric Neurologist?
Pediatric neurology is a specialty, which means that these professionals undergo a rigorous medical education program that gives additional in-depth training in their field of specialty.
This training program usually includes:
- A 4-year undergraduate program that is generally science or pre-med based
- Average 4 years of medical school
- Training for child neurology, either after 4th year of medical school or after completing pediatric residency or any time during the first 3 years of medical school
- 1 year in internal medicine
- 1 year of fundamental neuroscience
What conditions do Pediatric Neurologists treat?
A pediatric neurologist treats any condition related to the brain or nervous system in children. Some of these conditions may be congenital or genetic. In some cases, these conditions may be caused by trauma.
A pediatric neurologist can treat an extensive range of brain and nervous system problems, including muscular dystrophy, Tourette’s syndrome, epilepsy and other developmental conditions.
Some pediatric neurologists also prefer to specialize in certain areas, instead of general pediatric neurology.
These professionals can specialize in complex metabolic disorders, autism, genetic conditions, muscle and nerve diseases and malformations.
When do you need to see a Pediatric Neurologist?
Your child may be referred to a pediatric neurologist by your child’s pediatrician or your family doctor if they notice:
- Memory loss
- Poor balance
- Frequent, severe or constant headaches
- Numbness or tingling
- Problems with mobility
- Walking problems
- Developmental delays
- Coordination or motor function problems
- Tic or unintentional jerks
In case your child is diagnosed with a neurological condition, they will need to see a pediatric neurologist or monitoring or treatment.
These professionals can also recommend several diagnostic tests and examinations to identify pediatric neurological conditions, such as:
ECG – An electroencephalogram is a test that checks for problems with the electrical activity in the brain. This test can diagnose seizures and ensures that the child’s brain’s electrical activity is on par with the norm for their age.
MRI – A magnetic resonance imaging test or a CT scan may be ordered by the pediatric neurologist to capture images of the child’s spine or brain. These imaging tests are excellent at catching signs of stroke, brain tumor, multiple sclerosis, infection, genetic conditions and more.
Lumbar puncture – It is also called a spinal tap and involves the doctor inserting a small needle in the lower back to take a sample of the spinal fluid, which covers the brain and spinal cord. This test helps to identify signs of inflammation or infection.
Blood tests – Some blood tests may also be ordered by the pediatric neurologist to check for electrolyte changes or signs of infection. It can also detect more complicated genetic disorders too.
A pediatric neurologist is a doctor specially trained to diagnose, treat and prevent disorders in children that affect their brain or nervous system.
These are highly-trained and certified professionals who often specialize in treating specific neurological conditions and disorders.
It is recommended to visit a pediatric neurologist if your family doctor or pediatrician recommends it.