Pediatric neurologists are doctors who specialize in problems of the brain and spinal cord as well as the nerves and muscles. They see children from birth (sometimes even before!) and throughout young-adulthood. Pediatric neurologists specialize in evaluating, diagnosing, and treating children with neurological problems and in partnering with their families to provide the best care possible. The first evaluation of most problems is done by the child’s pediatrician or primary care provider. If any issues need further evaluation by a specialist, then the child can be referred to a pediatric neurologist.
It is very stressful for most parents to think there might be something wrong with their child. Many children who are referred to pediatric neurology just have unusual symptoms without having an actual neurological problem. It can be a big relief to find that out! Many parents and children feel better after visiting with a specialist, just to put concerns to rest.
The most important part of the first pediatric neurology visit is for the doctor to hear about and understand any symptoms and to examine the child. Symptoms of neurological problems may include headaches, seizures, unusual movements like twitching or posturing, developmental delay, weakness, or severe behavioral abnormalities. If the child has unusual movements, video footage (for example videos taken on your smartphone) can really help the pediatric neurologist understand what is going on.
Brain injuries such as concussions, strokes, or infection can cause symptoms that a pediatric neurologist can evaluate and treat too. Pediatric neurologists also evaluate infants and children thought to have birth injuries, birth defects, or genetic syndromes.
Occasionally testing like brain imaging or lab tests or an EEG (electroencephalogram) provide additional helpful information leading to proper diagnoses.
Depending on the diagnosis, pediatric neurologists may prescribe medications, refer the child to other specialists, or sometimes recommend close monitoring. For ongoing treatment, the child might need to see a pediatric neurologist every few weeks or months in addition to visits with the primary care provider. Children with complex medical situations often have a team of providers, including a pediatric neurologist, who follow them closely throughout childhood and adolescence.
If there is a neurological problem, the pediatric neurologist treating the child can also be a strong resource for families. Understanding the situation and medical diagnosis, navigating the healthcare system, and working with teachers and schools are all things that a pediatric neurologist can help parents do for their children. If it turns out the child doesn’t have a neurological problem, then the child doesn’t necessarily need to see the pediatric neurologist again. For more information about pediatric neurology, or to determine if your child needs to see a pediatric neurologist, contact your child’s pediatrician.
Common Problems Seen by Pediatric Neurologists
- Birth defects
- Genetic syndromes
- Developmental delay
- Language disorder
- Tourette syndrome
Denise Morita, MD is a board certified neurologist specializing in pediatric neurology. She practices at Granger Medical Clinic in Draper and Riverton, Utah. Appointments can be scheduled by calling 801.432.3000.