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Neurological Assessment NEUROLOGICAL ASSESSMENT. Chapter 20. Rachel Palmer and Jessica Knight. Please note: this presentation is also suitable for use with Foundation Studies for Caring Chapter 30: Emergency Care and Interventions. Introduction.

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neurological assessment neurological assessment


Chapter 20

Rachel Palmer and Jessica Knight

Please note: this presentation is also suitable for use with Foundation Studies for Caring Chapter 30: Emergency Care and Interventions

  • This presentation examines the notion of consciousness and walks you through a neurological assessment.
  • Part 1 – Level of Consciousness and Neurological Status
  • Part 2 – Neurological Assessment and the GCS
  • Part 3 – Pain & Noxious Stimuli
  • Part 4 – Pupil Documentation & Assessment
  • Part 5 – Limb Power & Sensation
  • Consciousness is the most sensitive indicator of neurological change and is usually the first to be noted in neurological signs
  • A state of general awareness of oneself & the environment, including the ability to orientate towards new stimuli (Hickey, 2003)
  • Dynamic state, subject to change (Hickey, 2003)
  • Results from integrated activities of numerous neural structures, including the reticular formation and interaction with the cerebral cortex (Marieb & Hoehn 2007)
level of consciousness
Level of Consciousness
  • There are three properties of consciousness which can be individually affected by the disease process (Jennett 1992). These are:
    • Arousal or wakefulness (i.e. eyes open to command)
    • Alertness and awareness (i.e. orientation and communication)
    • Appropriate voluntary motor activity (i.e. obeying commands)
emergency care
Emergency Care
  • A = Airway
  • B = Breathing and ventilation
  • C = Circulation
  • D = Disability: Neurological status
  • E = Exposure
  • (American College of Surgeons Committee 2004)
  • Please see the printed chapter for information on A,B,C….E
assessment of level of consciousness
Assessment of Level of Consciousness
  • Common methods of assessing conscious level are:
    • AVPU
    • Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS)
  • Both are potential tools for assessing the conscious level, and either can be used in the Early Warning Score (EWS) system used in many hospitals.

This is an example of a neurological assessment chartWhen documenting observations on the neurological assessment chart, it is important to:1. Complete all sections.2. Use dots not ticks! The chart demonstrates the patients graphical trends over time.

glasgow coma scale g c s
Glasgow Coma Scale (G.C.S.)
  • The GCS:
  • Is a simple & standardised system to detect changes in level of consciousness
  • Should be quick, easy, objective & accurate if people have been trained to use it correctly
  • Is used internationally
  • Is designed to reduce observer variability and has a high degree of inter-rater reliability
  • Rowley & Fielding 1991, Harrahill 1996, Fairley & Cosgrove 1999, Heron et al 2001, Teasdale 2004
The GCS tool provides a common language for communication between multi-disciplinary groups.
  • (Hickey 2003)
  • It is an important assessment tool. Care should be taken when delegating this assessment to ensure individual competency to perform the procedure
  • GCS is applicable for paediatrics as well as adults, and has been adapted for use in in this area
glasgow coma scale g c s1
Glasgow Coma Scale (G.C.S.)
  • Patients in any clinical setting may require assessment of conscious level for a number of reasons:
    • Hypoxia
    • Metabolic imbalance such as hypoglycaemia
    • Falls and trauma to the head
    • Unresponsiveness
    • Neurological disease processes e.g. stroke, brain tumours, epilepsy
    • Post-anaesthesia
    • New admissions to form a baseline assessment
pain noxious stimuli
Central stimuli:

Trapezium squeeze

- advocated best practice

Supraorbital pressure

Jaw margin pressure

Sternal rub

- not advocated

Peripheral Stimuli:

Finger pressure

Pain/Noxious Stimuli
2 peripheral pain stimuli
2. Peripheral Pain Stimuli
  • Apply pressure to the edge of the finger, just below the interpharngeal joint. Do not apply pressure directly over the nail bed.



extension decerebrate

In extension the body can become rigid, with the arms externally rotated and toes pointing down

abnormal flexion decorticate
Abnormal Flexion (decorticate)

In abnormal flexion the arms are flexed at the elbow and wrists rotate outwards.

vital signs
Vital Signs
  • Centres for vital signs are located in the brain stem.
  • Complex networks of neurones, the brainstem and reticular formation participate in regulation of cardiovascular, respiratory and other visceral functions.
  • Pupils should generally be equal in size, and in the majority of people they are round in shape.
  • Pupils should react briskly to direct light.
    • Oculomotor nerve (III) - the motor nerve that controls pupillary motor response.
pupil documentation
Pupil Documentation
  • Pupil size should be recorded before proceeding to test pupil response to direct light.
    • + is used to indicate a brisk response
    • - is used to indicate no response
    • SL is used to indicate a ‘sluggish’ response
    • C is used to indicate closed eyes due to perirobital oedema.
pupil assessment
Pupil Assessment
  • Torch position for testing light reflex
    • Approach from the side. Do not move in from directly in front.
limb power
Limb Power
  • In this section you are assessing all limbs as opposed to the best response in a limb, as in the GCS section.
  • It is a combination of active and active resisted movements (Hickey 2003).
sensation dermatones
Sensation (dermatones))
  • Sensation is not routinely checked unless patient diagnosis, signs and symptoms or interventions (e.g. epidural), indicate a potential for sensory loss or disturbance.
  • There are various sensation charts based upon dermatone body maps.