How to Perform Neurovascular Checks

Written by kimberly cummings
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How to Perform Neurovascular Checks
Neurovascular checks are used to determine proper blood flow and nerve function (hands image by david harding from

Neurovascular checks are performed on a patient in order to assess if the patient has adequate blood circulation and nerve function to all parts of his body. If a patient has a traumatic injury to his spine, a neurovascular check would ensure he had not suffered any nerve damage impinging his ability to move. A neurovascular check consists of five different checkpoints and normally is performed each time a person is evaluated after an injury, in the same way that vital signs are taken upon an office visit.

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  1. 1

    Ask the patient if he has any pain anywhere and have him grade the pain on a scale of one to 10. One being minimal pain with 10 being unbearable pain.

  2. 2

    Look for signs of capillary refill in extremities by pressing on nail beds to insure proper blood perfusion. Check coloring in fingers and toes; they should be pink in color. White coloring means inadequate arterial blood perfusion and a bluish color indicates inadequate venous blood return.

  3. 3

    Check with the patient and ask him if he is able to feel your touch or if he is experiencing any tingling or burning sensations anywhere.

  4. 4

    Start the upper extremities neurovascular checks by holding each of the patient's hands with your hands and asking the patient to squeeze your hands. These neurovascular checks assess sensory and motor function in the upper extremities. If the patient is able to equally squeeze your hands, look for inconsistent pressure in one hand versus the other. Ask the patient to wiggle his fingers on each hand.

  5. 5

    Move the neurovascular checks to the lower extremities by placing your hands against the ends of the patient's feet. Ask the patient to push his foot down against your hand, much like that of a gas pedal. These neurovascular checks are assessing the motor and sensory function in the lower extremities. Ask the patient to wiggle his toes on each foot.

  6. 6

    Look for any signs of edema or unusual warmth in any of the extremities. Compare any unusual warmth with above and below any injury site. If an extremity is pale in color or cool to the touch it indicates inadequate blood flow to that extremity.

  7. 7

    Check for pulses in the feet and wrists, compare if they are symmetrical on both sides or if they are weak or strong. Weak or absence pulses are a sign of inadequate blood perfusion.

Tips and warnings

  • If you notice any irregularities in an extremity compared to the other extremity, this can help distinguish and diagnose a problem early.
  • If you notice any significant problems report them immediately to a physician for further evaluation and treatment.

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