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University Hospitals Dorset NHS Foundation Trust


Depending on the nature of the child's difficulties, some medical investigations may be suggested or required. We would perform these to exclude or confirm serious conditions that may need specific treatment, or to try to better understand why a child may have the particular problems that they do. There are no 'routine' tests we perform in all children; by far the most information comes from the parents' knowledge of the child and our clinical assessment. Sometimes, though, we do consider specific tests. These may include:-

  • blood and urine tests
  • brain scans (ultrasound, CT or MRI)
  • EEG (brainwave tests)
  • Blood and Urine Tests

These can look for a number of conditions. Checking chromosomes is one of the common tests we request. Modern research is defining more disorders characterised by abnormal chromosomes. Other blood tests can check liver and kidney function, muscle enzymes, amino acid levels (urine testing here too) and look for anaemia.

Tests are usually performed on the Elmwood Ward and will be booked in advance. Local anaesthetic cream or "penguin spray" is used, and the procedure is not usually as unpleasant as might be feared. A number of different tests can be taken at the same time.

Brain Scans

These are useful if we suspect structural abnormalities, but are still not very good at looking at how the brain works. MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) gives the most detailed pictures, but often sedation or a general anaesthetic is needed. CT scans (computerised tomography) is quicker, but involves X-rays and does not give so much information. Ultrasound may be suggested in small babies. These tests would all need to be arranged in advance.


Otherwise known as electro-encephalography, looks at the pattern of brain waves and involves fixing temporary recording wires to the surface of the skull. It takes about 1½ hours or sometimes longer. Flashing lights and other stimuli maybe used to try and pick up any abnormality. The test is painless, and the department here is very used to assessing small children. Again, it needs to be booked in advance.

Other tests are generally only considered after discussion with specialist colleagues.

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