Pediatric neurologists use a variety of tests to detect, manage and treat neurological disease. Due to their usefulness, blood tests are a typical component at all stages of a child’s treatment. Doctors are able to gain insights into both what may cause or contribute to a problem, as well as monitor the effectiveness treatments.

What Are Blood Tests?

A blood test is a laboratory analysis performed on a sample of the child’s blood. These tests are typically used to determine the biochemical and physiological state of the child, which is why they are useful at all stages of diagnosis and treatment. Blood samples are typically taken from a vein in the arm or through a finger prick by a nurse or technician.

Multiple tests for specific blood components are often combined into what is called a blood panel or blood work. Blood panels are taken as a way to gauge a patient’s overall health and can be used to determine if a particular medication will be appropriate.

Perhaps the most common blood panel is the complete blood count (CBC). This group of blood tests evaluates the three types of cells that make up blood: white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets. A CBC test will also measure the amount of hemoglobin present in the blood sample.

Sometimes a blood smear test is also performed alongside a CBC. This test refers to the smearing of blood on a slide with special dye to allow cells to be examined under a microscope.

Other common blood tests neurologists may use when investigating a problem with a child’s brain and nervous system include:

  • Creatinine levels
  • Thyroid and liver functioning
  • Anti-MAG antibodies
  • Glucose levels

The specific blood tests performed by the pediatric neurology team will depend on type of signs and symptoms the child is experiencing, or to monitor the effects of medication.

How Do Blood Tests Help?

Because the blood is used by the body to both carry nutrients to organs as well as carry waste to the excretory organs, its composition is often affected by many medical conditions. There are a number of ways that blood can be tested to detect abnormalities that may indicate a neurological condition. Blood tests are also a good way to measure the overall health of a child.

Because the blood can contain such useful information about the state of a child’s health, the specific tests ordered by pediatric neurologists will depend on the information they are looking for. Blood tests can be used to test DNA for genetic conditions as well as chemical imbalances, organ problems and disease.

Who Benefits from Receiving Blood Tests?

Children with a variety of neurological conditions all benefit from having blood tests performed. While these tests are very common in diagnosis, they may not be used routinely or over extended visits if the child responds positively to treatment. In cases where that is not the case, such as the persistence of seizures while taking anticonvulsant medication, then blood tests are a common tool used to help determine why the child isn’t responding to medication.