Pediatric Neurologist FAQs

Concerned parents understandably have a litany of questions regarding pediatric neurology, what pediatric neurologists do and how they are trained, and, most importantly, how to find the best care for their child in their hour of need.  

Let’s get into the most frequently asked questions (FAQs) regarding pediatric neurology.

What is a pediatric neurologist?

Neurology is the field of medicine that focuses on treating health conditions associated with the nervous system, which includes the brain, nerves, and spinal cord.

“Pediatric” means “of or pertaining to the medical care or diseases of children.”

Therefore, pediatric neurology refers to medicine focused on treating and optimizing children’s nervous system function.

What nervous system conditions do pediatric neurologists treat?

Children’s brains and nerves can be impacted by a wide array of health conditions, both acute and chronic. Accordingly, pediatric neurologists treat a broad range of conditions. Examples of common neurological issues that neurologists treat include:

  • epilepsy and other seizure disorders
  • movement disorders
  • infections of the brain
  • autism
  • cerebral palsy
  • multiple sclerosis
  •  traumatic brain injury
  • stroke
  • attention deficit disorders

Like other doctors, many pediatric neurologists specialize in the treatment of one particular neurological condition, or a small handful of tightly related conditions, such as cerebral palsy and related movement disorders.

What training do pediatric neurologists undergo?

In total, becoming a practicing, licensed child neurologist requires an average of 12-13 years of training.

The pediatric neurologist’s training follows this general trajectory:

  • 4 years of undergraduate work. Here, the college student studies physics, biology, anatomy, chemistry, and physiology, in addition to other, more general subjects.
  • 4 years of medical school. This typically includes two years of in-class instruction and two years of supervised clinical practice.
  • One-to-two-year internship in pediatrics. Following graduation from medical school, new graduates perform more rigorous hands-on practice in their chosen specialty with an internship.
  • Three-year residency in child neurology. After completing an internship, the next step is to enroll in a residency program in a clinic or hospital treating children with neurological issues. During residency, senior, seasoned child neurologists mentor their younger counterparts to instill a strong practical knowledge base to draw on in their future work.

Given the enormous stakes, requiring child neurologists to undergo such a rigorous training regimen to earn their positions is understandable and necessary to ensure optimal care for vulnerable patients in their greatest hour of need.

What are the licensing requirements for pediatric neurologists?

Before entering into clinical practice, pediatric neurologists must pass the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) license, a baseline requirement for all physicians who treat patients in the US.

In some states, neurologists may also need American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (ABPN) certification.

What clinical tests do pediatric neurologists perform?

Modern medicine provides multiple tools to accurately assess a patient’s neurological function. These include:

  • Blood tests. Blood samples can be used to detect important markers of nervous system health, such as inflammation levels, genetic conditions using DNA analysis, and infections from bacteria, viruses, or other pathogens.
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging). Powerful magnets and radio waves create high-resolution images of nervous system tissue.
  • CT (computerized tomography) scans. High-definition x-rays take multiple snapshots of the brain from different angles to produce a 3D profile.
  • EEG (electroencephalogram). In this noninvasive procedure, a series of sensors called electrodes are placed on the surface of the brain and brain stem to detect and record nervous system electrical activity.
  • Lumbar puncture (aka “spinal tap”). A small sample of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) is collected from the spine for analysis to diagnose meningitis, encephalitis, and other neurological conditions in children.
  • Positron emission tomography (PET) scans. Harmless radioactive isotopes called “tracers” are introduced to the bloodstream to produce an image that shows blood flow and neurological tissue metabolism, as well as detecting tumors.

For a more complete exploration of the technologies that neurologists rely on to make accurate diagnoses and monitor patients’ progress throughout treatment, please visit our authoritative blog post on that topic.

Where do pediatric neurologists work?

Pediatric neurologists operate in a variety of contexts and at various locations. The most common places where child neurologists work include:

  • children’s hospitals
  • clinics
  • public health foundations
  •  research institutes
  • university medical centers
  • community-based outpatient practices
  • private offices

Nervous system disorders in children are often complex, involving other systems and organs of the body like the heart, liver, kidneys, or lungs. Depending on the root cause of the symptoms, there might be additional complications of the condition.

To address such complex challenges, pediatric neurologists frequently collaborate with other specialists, drawing on their unique expertise to develop optimal healthcare solutions for patients. The types of doctors that might partner with pediatric neurologists on a case-by-case basis include:

  • Pediatric Endocrinologist (Gland/Hormone Doctor)
  • Developmental/Behavioral Pediatrician (Developmental/Behavioral Doctor)
  • Pediatric Radiologist
  • Pediatric Oncologist (Cancer Doctor)
  • Neonatologist (Preemie Doctor)
  • Pediatric Cardiologist (Heart Doctor)
  • Pediatric Otolaryngologist (Ear, Nose and Throat Doctor – ENT)

Pediatric neurologists’ role in public health policy

Most pediatric neurologists spend the majority of their careers treating patients. Others, however, either on a volunteer or paid basis, either full-time or part-time, also do important work in the public health policy field.

The objective of public health policy is to maximize the health benefits to the highest numbers of patients by organizing and developing resources within the health system in order to best serve the needs of the population at the administrative level.

Although public health policy, which focuses on the macro level, might seem abstract, it is actually critical to enhancing the patient experience at the micro level in clinical practice.

How much do pediatric neurologists earn?

Most pediatric neurologists earn, on average, $175,000-$350,000 per year.

Are there enough pediatric neurologists working in the US to meet patient needs?

The US needs more pediatric neurologists. According to the Child Neurology Foundation, there are 20% fewer pediatric neurologists currently working in clinics than required to meet the national need.

Are men or women more likely to become pediatric neurologists?

More women are pediatric neurologists than men. Broken down by gender, about 65% of pediatric neurologists are female and 35% are male.

What documents should parents bring to a pediatric neurology appointment?

Optimal treatment – getting an accurate diagnosis and developing an effective treatment plan — depends on gathering the most information possible. Accordingly, parents/guardians should bring all relevant documents, including previous test results, other doctors’ notes, and even report cards from school to the appointment.

In addition, for a streamlined administrative process, parents should also bring their child’s insurance card and a parent’s photo ID.

Where can the public go to learn more about pediatric neurologists?

If you have more questions regarding pediatric neurology, its practice, and the doctors who work in this field, consider utilizing the following authoritative resources:

Contact Child Neurology Center of Northwest Florida to learn more

For more answers to your most pressing questions concerning this field of medicine, don’t hesitate to contact Child Neurology Center of Northwest Florida.

What Are Neurological Conditions?

Neurological disease is unfortunately exceptionally widespread. The United Nations estimates that 1 in 6 people globally suffers from a neurological disorder. Across the globe, that adds up to literally billions of people.

The good news for Floridians and Americans more broadly is that we have some of the best tools of any nation to effectively treat many neurological conditions, both in children and adults. Some neurological conditions are entirely curable, while others can be managed with the right interventions.

Here, we’ll cover what exactly we mean when we talk about “neurological conditions” and what that means for the patients we treat.

A Brief Overview of the Nervous System

The nervous system is the primary control mechanism for bodily functions, the main regulatory system to maintain homeostasis (constant healthy conditions in the body), and the central communication system for receiving, distributing, and processing information.

Needless to say, given its vital roles, maintaining a healthy and functional nervous system is critical for good health.

The two primary components of the nervous system are:

  • Central nervous system. This includes the brain and spinal cord. The CNS is responsible for activities associated with thinking, emotions, sensory processing, and cognition. The term “central” refers to its position as the primary processing center for information collected from throughout the body.

Examples of neurological conditions impacting the CNS include multiple sclerosis, meningitis, epilepsy, and other seizure disorders, various cancers that cause tumor growth, strokes, cerebral palsy, and more.  

  • Peripheral nervous system. This includes the multitude of nerves that branch off of the spinal cord. Conditions potentially impacting the peripheral nervous system include diseases caused by viruses (like Guillain-Barre syndrome), nerve compression disorders (like carpal tunnel syndrome), autoimmune diseases (like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis), endocrine (hormone) system disorders like hypothyroidism and diabetes, and more.  

The basic unit of the nervous system is called a neuron (nerve cell). Neurons convey electrical impulses across synapses in a chain to coordinate muscle movement, communicate sensory information, and other functions.

Neurological conditions often target neurons and their function at the cellular level, such as, for example, motor neuron diseases (MNDs.

In addition to neurons, the nervous system is also comprised of non-neuron cells called glia. Unlike neurons, glia don’t ferry messages. Instead, they provide logistical support like waste and nutrient transport, neuron insulation, and other functions.

Dysfunctional glia contribute to the development of various neurological conditions like glioblastoma, autism, psychiatric disorders, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and multiple sclerosis.

What Is the Clinical Definition of a Neurological Condition?

Different medical organizations offer slightly different and nuanced definitions of what is meant by a “neurological condition.” Here is how the World Health Organization, viewed by many as the definitive global medical authority, defines the term:

“Diseases of the central and peripheral nervous system. In other words, the brain, spinal cord, cranial nerves, peripheral nerves, nerve roots, autonomic nervous system, neuromuscular junction, and muscles.”

Neurological conditions don’t affect the brain alone or even just the nervous system. Because the nervous system is closely involved in every major function of the body, the impacts of an untreated neurological condition can be devastating on multiple fronts. Even “mild” neurological disease can severely negatively impact quality of life (QOL).

The possible symptoms of neurological conditions, in both children and adults, are wide-ranging and can include but are by no means limited to:

  • muscle weakness
  • seizures
  • confusion
  • paralysis
  • pain
  • altered consciousness
  • poor coordination
  •  loss of sensation
  • depression
  • anxiety
  • mood disorders

The above symptoms range in severity from mild to potentially life-threatening. They can be either physical or mental in nature.

Examples of Neurological Conditions

There are literally thousands of diagnosable neurological conditions and their various sub-types. Here is a brief list of the more common neurological conditions* prevalent in the population today:

  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)
  • Ataxia
  • Bell’s Palsy
  • Brain Tumors
  • Epilepsy and Seizures
  •  Headache
  • Head Injury
  • Hydrocephalus
  • Meningitis
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Muscular Dystrophy
  • Stroke

*Again, this is by no means an exhaustive list of the many varieties and sub-varieties of neurological conditions.

How Are Neurological Conditions Treated?

The brain, along with the other components of the neurological system, is incredibly complex. As such,, conditions that affect it are often challenging to treat.

The treatment for any given neurological condition will depend on the diagnosis, the severity of the illness, how far the disease has progressed, the individual health status of the patient, and other unique factors.

Some neurological conditions can be cured while others, as of 2022, are as of yet incurable. Those can only be managed to slow the progression and mitigate symptoms.

However, given the increasingly rapid pace of technological innovation and a progressively improved understanding of the complex nervous system, there is cause for hope. We can expect major developments in treating, curing, and potentially reversing the damage caused by currently incurable neurological conditions in the years to come.

The main treatment and intervention strategies for neurological conditions include:

  • Neurorehabilitation
  • Physiotherapy to manage relevant symptoms
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Lifestyle changes
  • Therapeutics/medications
  • Pain management techniques
  • Surgery
  • Diet optimization
  • Sleep optimization

Neurologists treating neurological disease typically employ a combination of the above strategies to promote healing on multiple fronts. Typically, doctors move from least invasive treatment modalities to more invasive as necessary to limit undesirable side effects from treatment.

Researchers and clinicians regularly discover effective new breakthrough interventions to treat neurological disorders, which is why seeking care from an advanced, leading neurology clinic is so important to achieve the best possible outcomes based on the latest science.

Contact Child Neurology Center of Northwest Florida

Child Neurology Center of Northwest Florida devotes our state-of-the-art equipment and techniques, as well as our extensive clinical experience, to fully treating every child who enters our doors.

We’re proud to have served the Northwest Florida region since 2001, when founder and Pensacola native Dr. Ben Renfroe first opened our doors to treat patients with our unique and aggressive approach to medicine. We’re also a stone’s throw away from Mobile and surrounding areas.

You are always welcome to contact us to make an appointment at our expert-staffed, cutting-edge child neurology center at 400 Gulf Breeze Parkway, Suite 300 in Gulf Breeze.

What Common Clinical Tests Do Child Neurologists Rely On?

Child neurologists rely on clinical tests to accurately diagnose and treat their patients.

There are a number of reasons that a child neurologist might utilize a clinical test, including to make an initial diagnosis, for ongoing monitoring of the development of neurological conditions after a diagnosis, and to gauge the progress of treatments.

Here, we’ll get into the most common clinical tests that you might expect your child neurologist to order when you bring your son or daughter to the clinic.

Imaging Tests; MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) and CT Scans

Technology allows us to take a look inside of the brain, brain stem, and spine with a variety of tests. Tests that produce pictures of what’s going on in the brain are called imaging tests.

Imaging tests can identify a range of neurological conditions, such as:

  • brain tumor
  •  infection
  • inflammation
  •  traumatic brain injury (TBI)
  • genetic conditions
  • stroke
  • multiple sclerosis

MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) For Child Neurology

MRI combines the use of powerful (but safe) magnets and radio waves to generate highly detailed images of brain and nervous system tissue. They can also assess brain blood flow (important for optimal brain health) and detect mineral deposits in the brain.

There are two types of MRI:

  • With contrast. In this test, the clinician injects a dye (gadolinium-based) into the patient’s veins, which then travel throughout the body into the brain. MRI with contrast produces clearer, more detailed images than MRI without contrast.
    Patients with certain kidney conditions should not receive MRI with contrast. Rarely, the contrast dye may produce (usually mild) side effects like dizziness or shortness of breath. The body absorbs or eliminates the contrast dye shortly after the procedure.
  • Without contrast. MRI without contrast may be preferable in certain circumstances. Often, your doctor will determine that MRI without contrast is just as effective (in addition to being more affordable) and will therefore order this type of MRI.

Both MRI with and without contrast are effective imaging tests, but your provider may opt for one or the other based on certain factors like the reason for the test and the individual characteristics of the patient.

Computerized Tomography (CT Scans) For Child Neurology

A CT scan is a series of high-definition X-ray images taken from different angles. Taken together, these shots from different angles are combined into a three-dimensional profile of the brain.

CT scans in child neurology may be useful for:

  • Identifying tumor location
  • Finding a blood clot
  • Diagnosing seizure disorders
  • Assessing potential damage from traumatic brain injury (TBI) – for example, following a suspected concussion

CT scans are simple, quick, and usually do not require any sedation for your child. However, there is some concern among child neurologists regarding the risks of radiation exposure from CT scans:

“The rate of computed tomography (CT) scans in children has dropped in the last decade, with a move to radiation-free magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans and ultrasounds.”

EEG (Electroencephalogram)

Child neurologists use EEGs to measure electrical signaling in the brain. They are largely risk-free and painless. Timewise, the tests usually take between 45 minutes and 2 hours. In some cases, your child might need a “prolonged” EEG test that takes 24 hours.  

To perform EEG, the clinician places a series of small discs called electrodes over the brain and brain stem. The electrodes record the electrical activity and produce the results in graph form for interpretation by a trained expert.

Image source: Sebastian Nagel

EEG may be useful for diagnosing or assessing the extent of multiple neurological conditions in children, such as:

  • Epilepsy
  • Traumatic head injury
  • Brain inflammation (encephalitis)
  • Sleep disorders*
  • Brain tumor

*If your child is undergoing testing for a sleep disorder, the test may be done overnight.

Lumbar Puncture (Sometimes Called Spinal Tap)

In a lumbar puncture, the clinician takes a sample of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) from the spinal column (subarachnoid space) for lab analysis. The lab worker will analyze the CSF for:

  • Its makeup of proteins, sugars, and white and red blood cells
  • Its consistency and color
  • The presence of pathogens like bacteria or viruses

The conditions that lumbar puncture can diagnose include:

  • Bleeding in the subarachnoid space
  • Reye syndrome
  • Some types of cancers
  •  Encephalitis (brain swelling
  • Meningitis (inflammation in the membrane coating the brain and spinal cord)
  • Myelitis (spinal cord inflammation)
  • Guillain-Barre syndrome

Because the needle punctures the spinal column, there is some risk associated with a lumbar puncture. For example, CSF leak can cause a headache that usually resolves shortly afterward. Also, there is a small risk of bleeding in the spinal canal after the procedure. Your doctor will balance the importance of the test with any potential risk factors.

Blood Tests

Your child neurologist might order a small blood sample from your child for lab analysis, usually taken from the arm. Blood tests are useful for diagnosing neurological conditions, for assessing their severity, and for monitoring the therapeutic effects of medications.

Blood tests can identify:

  • Genetic conditions through DNA analysis
  •  Autoimmune conditions
  •  Bacterial or viral infections
  • Blood clotting disorders
  • Chronic inflammation

Positron Emission Tomography (PET)

PET scans assess metabolic function and the biochemical composition of brain tissue. The clinician injects radioactive isotopes called “tracers” which then produce 2D or 3D images for analysis. The type of tracer that your child neurologist uses will depend on the exact purpose of the test.

The PET scan procedure usually takes about 30 minutes to an hour.

PET scans perform multiple vital diagnostic functions:

  • Diagram blood flow
  • Detect tumors or diseased tissue
  • Gauge cellular/tissue metabolism

The PET scanner is a large, open-ended, oval-shaped unit, similar in appearance to an MRI or CT scanner. Critically, PET scans focus on function rather than structure like other imaging tests – how your child’s body responds to various stimuli. They highlight areas of high metabolic and/or biochemical activity.

For example, the tracer fluorine-18 isotope is similar in structure to glucose (blood sugar) and is therefore useful for assessing how the body responds metabolically to the introduction of sugar into the bloodstream.

Contact Child Neurology Center of Northwest Florida

Whether you are interested in scheduling an appointment for your child or want to learn more about the tests available at our state-of-the-art clinic, please don’t hesitate to contact us – our friendly, knowledgeable staff is always ready to talk to concerned parents. Your child’s optimal health is our mission. 

The Different Services That Child Neurologists Perform

Here, we’ll discuss the different services that child neurologists perform, the various tools and techniques they use to treat their child patients, their broader work in building effective public policy to protect children’s brain health, and when it’s important to consider visiting a child neurologist.

What Does a Pediatric Neurologist Do?

Simply put, Child neurologists diagnose, monitor, and treat neurological conditions – a constellation of health conditions that can affect the brain, spinal cord, and/or nerves – in minor patients. Child neurologists are also known as pediatric neurologists.

Child neurology patients range in age from newborns to adolescents. While general neurologists specialize in brain health at all stages of life, child neurologists have received highly specific training to treat children.

Many child neurologists further refine their expertise by focusing on particular conditions affecting children’s neurological health, including child epilepsy or cerebral palsy.

Child Neurologist

Medical Tests that Child Neurologists Perform

Testing is often necessary for diagnosing neurological conditions as well as monitoring their progression and the effectiveness of treatments on an ongoing basis. The results of medical tests, combined with physical examinations and an overview of a child’s medical history, are used to chart a treatment protocol moving forward and, when necessary, to make adjustments.

The type of medical test that your child’s doctor orders will depend on the symptoms presented and the suspected underlying issue. The most common medical tests in the field of child neurology include:

  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). MRI machines use magnetic waves to create highly detailed images of the brain. Child neurologists order MRIs to examine neurological tissue, measure blood flow, and to detect bleeding or swelling (inflammation) in the brain, among other purposes.
  • Computerized Tomography (CT Scan). CT scans take a series of x-rays of neurological tissues from different angles. These tests can identify blood clots, tumors, and brain trauma.
  • Lumbar puncture (aka “spinal tap). Lumbar punctures take a small sample of cerebrospinal fluid for lab analysis. It is most commonly ordered in suspected cases of meningitis, encephalitis, and myelitis (spinal cord inflammation.
  • Electroencephalogram (EEG). EEGs measure brainwave activity. They are useful for detecting the presence and severity of traumatic head injury, epilepsy, and brain tumors, among other neurological conditions.

The above is just a sample of the tests you might expect your child neurologist to order for your son or daughter. Often, the doctor may order a combination of tests to arrive at the most informed conclusion. Some conditions require testing on a routine basis.

Common Child Neurological Conditions That Child Neurologists Diagnose and Treat

As we mentioned previously, child neurologists are trained to diagnose and treat a broad spectrum of childhood illnesses impacting the brain and nervous system.

However, some conditions are more common than others. The most frequently diagnosed and treated conditions that child neurologists see in their patients on a routine basis include:

  1. Epilepsy
  2. Autism and Asperger’s
  3. Attention and behavioral challenges including ADHD
  4. Tourette Syndrome and similar motor/movement disorders
  5.  Genetic conditions
  6. Cerebral palsy and other neuromuscular disorders

Again, there are quite literally thousands of types and sub-types of child neurological conditions, which is another reason why having an expert on your side is critical to reaching the correct diagnosis and, ultimately, achieving full recovery.

Primary Care Pediatricians (Child Doctors) Refer Patients to Child Neurologists for Specialized Care

The most common route through which child patients end up in the care of specialized child neurologists is referral through pediatricians. These doctors are trained in all aspects of child healthcare – physical, mental, and emotional well-being — but often the conditions they see in their child patients require more specialized care. That’s where child neurologists come in.

In this way, the pediatrician acts as the frontline healthcare provider, connecting his or her patients to more extensive help as it becomes necessary.

In general, here is how the referral process works:

  • The pediatrician identifies a neurological condition in the patient such as child epilepsy or autism
  • The doctor orders a referral to a nearby expert who can better treat the condition with targeted, specialized care
  • The pediatrician’s office sends all relevant medical information such as previous imaging tests, blood work, and physical exam notes to the neurologist’s office for seamless care

Often, insurance complications arise during the referral process. Our staff at Child Neurology Center of Northwest Florida works with insurance providers on behalf of our patients so that you can focus on your child’s treatment and recovery.

Where Do Child Neurologists Work?

Because brain health is implicated in a number of health conditions and neurology has wide applications, child neurologists work in a diverse range of capacities.

Child neurologists most often work in:

  • children’s hospitals
  • university medical centers
  • community-based outpatient practices
  • private offices
  • clinics
  • research institutes
  • public health foundations
Child Neurology Foundation Logo

Child Neurologists Are Part of a Team of Child Healthcare Specialists

Just as the saying “it takes a village” to raise a child goes, so it is true with the medical profession. A child neurologist is one member of a larger network of child healthcare specialists that parents rely on to provide holistic care to their children.

Other members of your child’s medical team can include:

  • Neonatologist (Preemie Doctor)
  • Pediatric Cardiologist (Heart Doctor
  • Pediatric Endocrinologist (Gland/Hormone Doctor)
  • Developmental/Behavioral Pediatrician (Developmental/Behavioral Doctor)
  • Pediatric Otolaryngologist (Ear, Nose and Throat Doctor – ENT)
  • Pediatric Radiologist
  • Pediatric Oncologist (Cancer Doctor)

For example, when a child neurologist detects a brain tumor in a patient, he or she will refer the parents to a pediatric oncologist for joint treatment – the pediatric oncologist being responsible for treating the cancer directly and the child neurologist tasked with protecting and optimizing the child’s brain health during and after treatment.

Child Neurologists Make Public Health Policy

In addition to their more common roles providing direct-to-patient care in clinical settings, child neurologists also craft public health policy designed to safeguard and improve children’s brain health at the population level.

For example, child neurologists at the World Health Organization (WHO) contributed to the medical manual titled Neurological disorders: public health challenges that aims to merge public health expertise with clinical neurological expertise to create effective public policy:

“Public health specialists focus on health and disease of entire populations rather than on individual patients, whereas neurologists usually treat one patient at a time for a specific neurological condition. These two approaches could be seen as being almost at the opposite ends of the health-care spectrum. What this… aims to do is to help build bridges between these two approaches.”

Learn More About Child Neurologists and Their Work

Child Neurology Center of Northwest Florida is the leading provider of cutting-edge neurological care in the state. To learn more about our decades-long work and how we help children live their best lives, please feel free to contact us.

What Is a Child Neurologist?

A neurologist is a doctor who specializes in the treatment of disorders involving the brain and the rest of the nervous system, which includes the spinal cord and the peripheral nervous system (the nerves connected to the spinal cord.

Accordingly, a child neurologist is a sub-category of neurologist who specializes in treating children with various nervous system disorders. You may also hear child neurologists referred to as “pediatric neurologists.”

Here, we’ll explore the training and tools that child neurologists use and the conditions that they treat.

What Type of Training Do Child Neurologists Undertake?

As medical doctors, neurologists undergo all the routine training that any licensed physician must complete in order to gain their medical degree and medical license. This includes:

  • 4 years of undergraduate work
  • 4 years of medical school
  • 1-2 years in a pediatric residency program. After a medical doctor completes school, they enroll in an apprenticeship program for an additional period to gain real-world experience caring for patients in their chosen specialty.
  • 1-2 years of a fellowship. Following a successful residency, many child neurologists further refine their clinical skills through a fellowship program in which they hone in on an extremely narrow focus such as neuromuscular disease or childhood epilepsy.

Child neurologists, in addition to their extensive training, typically also have achieved certification from the American Board of Pediatrics and/or the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology.

What Conditions Do Child Neurologists Usually Treat?

Because of the vast array of neurological conditions that can impact children, child neurologists treat a similarly large variety of neurological conditions. These can include:

  • Seizures/epilepsy
  • Developmental disorders such as delayed speech, coordination challenges, cerebral palsy, and delayed motor milestones
  •  Intellectual disability
  • Autoimmune conditions that affect the brain/spinal cord (for example, multiple sclerosis)
  • Brain tumors
  • Muscle problems potentially leading to weakness (for example, muscular dystrophy and neuropathy)
  • Infections/inflammation of the brain (for example, meningitis and encephalitis)
  • Headaches, which can be caused by migraines and concussions
  •  Behavioral disorders, (for example, tics, Tourette Syndrome, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and sleep problems)
  • Autism
  • Congenital malformations (problems affecting brain formation and/or development)
  • Stroke
  • Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
  • Genetic conditions impacting the nervous system

Again, many neurologists, based on their specific training and clinical practice, specialize in treating one or more nervous system conditions. Parents of children with certain neurological conditions, especially particularly rare ones, should seek out care from a doctor with appropriate experience to achieve the optimal health outcome.

What Diagnostic Tools Do Child Neurologists Use?

When you visit a child neurologist, he or she will physically examine your child, inquire about any relevant symptoms, look at their medical history, and, if necessary, order appropriate diagnostic tests to arrive at the correct diagnosis.

Modern technology has provided many powerful, minimally invasive, affordable, and increasingly accurate diagnostic tools that child neurologists in advanced clinics can use to skillfully diagnose your child.

These tools include:

  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging). Using magnets, the MRI takes high-definition 3D images of your child’s brain, spinal cord, and nerves. MRI is one of the most commonly used diagnostic tools in neurology.
  • CT Scan. Via Mayo Clinic: “A computerized tomography (CT) scan combines a series of X-ray images taken from different angles around your body.”
  • Lumbar puncture (spinal tap). A trained physician carefully inserts a needle into the space between two lumbar bones (vertebrate) in order to remove a small sample of cerebrospinal fluid for lab analysis. Lumbar puncture is most commonly indicated in cases of suspected meningitis, although there are other applications in child neurology.
  • EEG (electroencephalogram). EEG measures brain wave activity to detect any potential anomalies that might inform a diagnosis in your child’s case. The clinician pastes small electrodes across the scalp which are transformed into measurable lines on a graph. In many cases, for example in epilepsy, the doctor is specifically looking out for responses to stimuli such as light. It’s also commonly used in cases of traumatic brain injury (TBI).
  • Blood tests. The blood can often tell a lot about any potential nervous system issues. Doctors order them to look for signs of inflammation, for changes to electrolyte levels, or for any genetic conditions that can potentially impact nervous system function.

What Other Doctors and Specialists Do Child Neurologists Work With?

Child neurologists typically practice in fully integrated clinics with a team of specialists behind them doing important supportive work. Examples of the types of specialists that doctors partner with to provide holistic care to their patients include:

  • Occupational therapists. Occupational therapists (OTs) help patients battling neurological conditions to achieve a more functional lifestyle. They help child patients adapt based on their unique health challenges to live the fullest life possible.
  • Speech therapists. Speech therapists have received highly specific training to help children with speech challenges (problems forming words in the correct syntax) to overcome their difficulties and effectively communicate. Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) also help with chewing and swallowing issues.
  • Physical therapists. PTs, which aren’t just for athletes recovering from injury, help their child patients with neurological conditions achieve greater physical functionality using numerous proven techniques. This work includes optimizing strength, flexibility, motion, and movement patterns.

Neurology Moving Forward

The field of neurology — as technological progress marches forward and a greater nuanced understanding of the human body and its various pathological processes advances — has become increasingly specialized over time. Child neurologists, in turn, are focused more and more on very specific childhood neurological conditions and their treatments.

Accordingly, it’s always a good idea to seek care from a child neurologist who is dedicated to treating the condition affecting your child. A specialist will likely be in the best position to deliver optimal outcomes.

Get in Touch With Child Neurology Center of Northwest Florida

We’ve served the Northwest Florida community for over two decades. In that time, we’ve built our reputation on providing consistently superior results to our child patients with a variety of unique challenges.

Our pledge to each family that visits us is to dedicate the full weight of our many resources to effectively treat your child. Please don’t hesitate to contact us to learn more about the important work that we do.

Our expert staff, headed by native Pensacolian Dr. Ben Renfroe, is comprised of award-winning physicians and other healthcare professionals with combined decades of experience treating childhood neurological conditions.

In addition to in-person visits, we also offer telemedicine services to patients for maximum convenience.