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What to expect from a neurological exam

feeling anxiousIf you‘re feeling anxious about an upcoming neurological exam, “take a deep breath, and try not to be scared,” said Larry Chin, MD. Realize that a referral to a neurologist or neurosurgeon simply means that your doctor is seeking advice.

Chin directs Upstate Medical University's Department of Neurosurgery and also oversees the Gamma Knife Center and the Neuro-Oncology Program at Upstate University Hospital.

Before your appointment, write down your symptoms, any relevant problems that exist in your family and any recent illnesses you have had. Also, prepare a list of medications you take.

Depending on what the doctor finds, you may be asked to give a blood sample, or go for an imaging study. You may also be recommended for additional tests that stimulate the nerves and muscles of your body.

Chin said, “It‘s all designed for the neurologist or neurosurgeon to help your doctor figure out if there is something that needs further treatment.”

At your exam, the doctor is likely to:

  • assess your mental status, test your memory and/or your ability to speak and understand;

  • assess your cranial nerve function by testing your eyesight and hearing and examining how you move your face;

  • conduct a motor exam to check the strength of your arms and legs;

  • conduct a sensory exam that may involve touching your skin or pressing it with a safety pin;

  • test your reflexes using a small rubber hammer tapped on your joints; and

  • assess your walking ability and coordination.

This article appears in the spring 2015 issue of Upstate Health magazine.