Neurological disorders in childhood

Neurological disorders are disorders that involve the brain, spinal cord or nerve and muscle. Children with neurological disorders may have disorders such as epilepsy, developmental delay, cerebral palsy, meningitis, genetic/metabolic diseases or diseases of muscle or nerve such as muscular dystrophy or peripheral neuropathy. These illnesses are frequently severe and potentially have long lasting consequences for the affected children (and their families).

The assessment and management of children with neurological disorders is frequently complex and requires considerable training for the clinicians involved. Reaching a diagnosis may involve a range of investigations such as brain scans (MRI, CT scans), tests of brain function such as the EEG (electroencephalogram) or sampling tissues from part of the body (for example a muscle biopsy). The treatment of children with neurological disorders often requires a range of different clinicians such as paediatric neurologists, paediatricians, general practitioners, nursing staff, speech pathologists, occupational therapists, psychologists and physiotherapists. As such, children with complex and chronic neurological diseases are increasingly cared for by teams composed of clinicians from many different disciplines.

The impact of neurological disorders in childhood

Children with severe neurological disorders often require very high levels of care. Severe neurological disease is often complicated by problems with other body systems such as the lungs, sleep and the gastro-intestinal system. Children with severe neurological disorders often have a significant disability and as such their needs for care are very high.

This burden of care has a major impact on the parents/carers and the families who look after these children. The families of children with severe neurological disability often suffer significant financial and social disadvantage as a result of the need to care for their children. One of the prime roles of the ANZCNS is to provide advocacy for better care for children with neurological disease and to address the needs of their families.

Who are paediatric neurologists?

Paediatric neurologists are doctors who are specifically trained in the care of children with neurological diseases. Most Australian and New Zealand paediatric neurologists are doctors who have trained in paediatrics and passed their examination in paediatrics before undertaking further specialised training in child neurology. Australian and New Zealand training in paediatric neurology is supervised by the Royal Australian College of Physicians and the Specialist Advisory Committee of the Australian and New Zealand Association of Neurologists (ANZAN). Paediatric neurologists trained in Australia and New Zealand are qualified doctors who have undertaken at least three years training in paediatrics before training for at least a further three years in paediatric neurology in a specialised child neurology centre.