December 1st 2004
ABSTRACT: When you approach a patient with a neurologic complaint, look for abnormal postures and bodily asymmetries. Careful history taking puts the patient's complaint in context and gives direction to the clinical investigation. Remember that a change in the character of an existing condition requires assessment as a new complaint. The mental status evaluation, at a minimum, considers the patient's level of alertness and orientation, including speech and comprehension. Distinguish among delirium, dementia, and psychosis, and avoid making a psychiatric diagnosis until organic causes have been excluded. Cranial nerves II to VIII are the most pertinent to the neurologic screening examination. The evaluation of cranial nerves II, III, IV, and VI is particularly important in patients with headache or visual disturbances and suspected intracranial lesions.