What is a Pediatric Neurologist?

Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth

The word neurology comes from combining the Greek terms neuron, which means “nerve,” with logos, which means “study.” Neurology is the field of medicine that focuses on disorders of the nervous system and the brain. A neurologist may be a physician who specializes in neurology, devoting his or her time to researching or to diagnosing and treating neurological diseases. Alternatively, a neurologist may be a neurosurgeon, a specialist in operations on the nerves, brain, and spinal cord. The word pediatric comes from the Greek word for child, and a pediatric neurologist, also called a specialist in Child Neurology, has a practice that is focused on the treatment of infants and children.

Pediatric neurologists may use EEG or other neuroimaging tests to study a child's brain activity.
Pediatric neurologists may use EEG or other neuroimaging tests to study a child's brain activity.

The training for a pediatric neurologist who trains as a neurosurgeon — like the training for any neurosurgical specialty — is the longest of any specialty, at least in the United States. Pediatric neurosurgeons do repairs on malformations, congenital and otherwise, as well as remove pathological growths, treat injuries, and implant medical devices. During diagnosis as well as during surgery, a pediatric neurosurgeon may use a variety of different imaging techniques, including CT (Computed Tomography), MEG (Magnetoencephalography), MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging), and PET (Positron Emission Tomography).The pediatric neurologist may also be primarily involved in research. Neuroimaging techniques that are often used in research include EEG (Electroencephalography), as well as fMRI (Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging), NIRS (Near Infrared Spectroscopy), Single-Cell Recording, TDCS (Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation), and TMS (Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation).

A pediatric neurologist may provide prenatal counseling.
A pediatric neurologist may provide prenatal counseling.

Issues that are often treated by a pediatric neurosurgeon include tumors of the brain and spinal cord, which fall in the realm of pediatric neuro-oncology. Other diagnoses that are frequently handled include craniosynostosis, or early closing of the skull sutures; hydrocephalus, or build-up of fluid in the brain, intractable epilepsy; as well as spina bifida, the failure of the backbone and spinal cord to close before birth; syringomyelia, spinal cord damage caused by an area filled with fluid; and other deformities of the spine. Pediatric neurologists often team with other doctors, either when their patients’ diagnoses are at the juncture of two or more medical specialties or when there is a primary care physician — in the case of children, a pediatrician — who should have a role in treatment. A pediatric neurologist may also provide prenatal counseling.

A type of neurofeedback equipment used by pediatric neurologists, an electroencephalogram -- or EEG -- machine measures electrical impulse activity in the brain and can help give a diagnosis for conditions such as epilepsy.
A type of neurofeedback equipment used by pediatric neurologists, an electroencephalogram -- or EEG -- machine measures electrical impulse activity in the brain and can help give a diagnosis for conditions such as epilepsy.
Pediatric neurology is a medical specialty that focuses on conditions of the brain and other parts of a child's nervous system.
Pediatric neurology is a medical specialty that focuses on conditions of the brain and other parts of a child's nervous system.
A pediatric neurologist may treat children with chronic health issues or acute symptoms.
A pediatric neurologist may treat children with chronic health issues or acute symptoms.
A neurologist may be a neurosurgeon, a person who operates on the spinal cord, nerves and brain.
A neurologist may be a neurosurgeon, a person who operates on the spinal cord, nerves and brain.
Licensed neurologists have trained extensively and become board certified in their medical specialty.
Licensed neurologists have trained extensively and become board certified in their medical specialty.
Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth

Mary Elizabeth is passionate about reading, writing, and research, and has a penchant for correcting misinformation on the Internet. In addition to contributing articles to wiseGEEK about art, literature, and music, Mary Elizabeth is a teacher, composer, and author. She has a B.A. from the University of Chicago’s writing program and an M.A. from the University of Vermont, and she has written books, study guides, and teacher materials on language and literature, as well as music composition content for Sibelius Software.

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