Reflex Test

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Definition
Reflex tests are simple physical tests of nervous system function. Purpose
A reflex is a simple nerve circuit. A stimulus, such as a light tap with a rubber hammer, causes sensory neurons (nerve cells) to send signals to the spinal cord. There, the signals are conveyed both to the brainand to nerves that control muscles affected by the stimulus. Without any brain intervention, these muscles may respond to an appropriate stimulus by contracting. Reflex tests measure the presence and strength of a number ofreflexes. In so doing, they help to assess the integrity of the nerve circuits involved. Reflex tests are performed as part of a neurological exam, either a "mini-exam" done to quickly confirm integrity of the spinal cord, or a more complete exam performed to diagnose the presence and location of a spinal cord injury or neuromuscular disease. Deep tendon reflexes are responses to muscle stretch. The familiar "knee-jerk" reflex is an example of a reflex. This tests the integrity of the spinal cord in the lower back region. The usual set of deep tendon reflexes tested, involving increasingly higher regions of the spinal cord, includes: * ankle

* knee
* abdomen
* forearm
* biceps
* triceps
* patellar
Another type of reflex test is called the Babinski test, which involves gently stroking the sole of the foot to assess proper development and function of the spine and cerebral cortex. Precautions

Reflex tests are entirely safe, and no special precautions are needed. Description
The examiner uses a reflex hammer or rubber mallet to strike different points on the examinee's body, and observes the response. The points chosen for eliciting reflexes are the tendons of specific muscles. Tapping specific sites is intended to provide a quick stretch to the muscle. Muscle spindles, or receptors, mediate the reflex lying within the muscleot the site of the hammer strike. The examiner may position, or hold, one of the limbs during testing, and may require exposure of the ankles, knees, abdomen, and arms. Reflexes can be difficult to elicit if the individual being examined is paying too much attention to the stimulus. To compensate for this, that person may be asked to perform some muscle contraction, such as clenching teeth or grasping and pulling the two hands apart. When performing the

A doctor tests a patient's reflex during a physical examination. (Photograph by Will & Deni McIntyre.Science Source/Photo Researchers. Reproduced by permission.) Babinski reflex test, the examiner will gently stroke the outer soles of the person's feet with the mallet while checking to see whether or not the big toe extends out as a result. Preparation

The examiner positions the person to be examined in a comfortable position, usually seated on the examination table with legs hanging free. There is no other preparation. Aftercare
A reflex examination is not invasive. No care after the examination is required. Complications
The pressure exerted by a reflex hammer is minimal and does not hurt the person being examined. A reflex Muscle stretch (deep tendon) reflexes|
Reflex| Stimulus| Response|
SOURCE: Rothstein, J.M., S.H. Roy, and S.L. Wolf. The Rehabilitation Specialist's Handbook, 2nd ed. Philadelphia: F.A. Davis Co., 1998.| Biceps| Tap biceps tendon| Contraction of biceps|
Brachioradialis (periosteradial)| Tap styoid process of radius (insertion of brachioradialis)| Flexion of elbow and pronation of forearm| Jaw (maxillary)| Tap mandible in half-open position| Closure of jaw| Patellar| Tap patellar tendon| Extension of leg at knee| Tendocalcaneus| Tap Achilles tendon| Plantar flexion at ankle| Triceps| Tap triceps tendon| Extension of elbow|

Wrist extension| Tap wrist extensor tendons| Extension of wrist| Wrist flexion| Tap wrist flexor tendon| Flexion of wrist| examination is not invasive. There are no complications from performing the examination. Results...
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