Clinical Neurophysiologist: Your Expert in Nervous System Disorders
What is a neurophysiologist?
A clinical neurophysiologist is a neurologist who specializes in the diagnosis of nervous system disorders. Neurophysiologists perform EEG (electroencephalography), EMG (electromyography), and other procedures to evaluate the function of the brain and nervous system. They consult with the patient’s care team to guide treatment for such conditions as seizures, sleep problems, and Parkinson’s disease.
A clinical neurophysiologist typically:
Evaluates a patient’s symptoms and medical history
Performs a physical exam including evaluation of blood pressure and vital signs and the health of the brain and nervous system
Orders and interprets specialized tests of the nervous system as well as general health tests
Assists with specialized procedures on the nervous system, such as deep brain stimulation for Parkinson’s disease
Works closely with your primary care doctor and other specialists and members of your healthcare team to provide optimal care
Neurophysiology is a subspecialty of neurology. Clinical neurophysiologists may also be known by the following names: neurophysiologist, neurologist, brain doctor, brain specialist, and nerve doctor.
Who should see a clinical neurophysiologist?
Your primary care doctor can manage certain neurologic conditions, such as well-controlled migraines and minor sleep problems. Many people see a neurophysiologist when their primary care doctor finds or suspects a more complex disease or condition of the brain or nervous system, such as seizures or multiple sclerosis.
Seeing a neurophysiologist for early evaluation and diagnosis before more serious brain or nerve problems occur is the best way to reduce the risk of permanent damage, disability, and other complications. If you need an expert in brain and nervous system disorders, set up an appointment with an experienced neurophysiologist near you.
When should you see a clinical neurophysiologist?
Your doctor may recommend you see a neurophysiologist for specialized tests and procedures if you have any of the following symptoms or conditions:
Ongoing headaches, weakness, dizziness or vertigo that does not get better with treatments from your primary care doctor
Numbness, tingling, or trouble moving any part of the body
Problems with sleeping
You should also seek care from a neurophysiologist under the following situations:
You have symptoms your doctor believes to be caused by a brain or nervous system problem, such as problems with memory, speech, decision making, balance, coordination, or muscle control.
You have a brain or nervous system condition or disease that requires ongoing monitoring and specialized care, such as Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis.
What does a clinical neurophysiologist treat?
A neurophysiologist diagnoses and helps develop a treatment plan for conditions that involve the health of the brain and nervous system. Conditions include:
Difficulties with memory and attention including early dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and attention deficit brain disorder
Movement disorders including Parkinson’s disease, tremor, and dystonia
Neuromuscular conditions that affect the muscles and nerves including multiple sclerosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease), and muscular dystrophies
What does a clinical neurophysiologist test?
Neurophysiologists focus on performing and interpreting the following specialized tests:
Autonomic function testing to test such body functions as blood pressure, heart rate, bladder control, and sexual function
Nerve conduction studies to measure the electrical activity of muscles
Sleep studies to record brain wave activity during sleep and diagnose specific causes of sleep problems
What procedures and treatments does a clinical neurophysiologist do?
A neurophysiologist is a neurologist and does not perform surgery. However, neurophysiologists are involved with various procedures including:
Deep brain stimulation to help the brain control body movements in diseases such as Parkinson’s disease
Intraoperative monitoring including evoked potentials during brain surgery and other nervous system operations. A neurophysiologist will interpret evoked potentials to ensure that critical brain and nervous system functions are not damaged during surgery.
Neurophysiologist training and certification
If you need an expert in brain and nervous system disorders, look for a neurologist who is board certified in clinical neurophysiology or neurophysiology. Board certification verifies the doctor completed residency training in the specialty and has passed competency examinations.
The American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, the American Board of Clinical Neurophysiology, and the American Osteopathic Board of Neurology and Psychiatry certify eligible doctors in neurophysiology.
To maintain board certification, a doctor must participate in an ongoing certification program validated by one of the three boards.
Board-certified neurologists and neurosurgeons also treat people with neurologic conditions. To help you choose the right doctor, talk with your regular doctor—perhaps your primary care doctor—about the best type of specialist for your condition and ask for referrals to well-respected doctors. When considering a specialist, ask him or her to provide details about the training and experience they have.