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Testing somatosensation
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Tests and measures of somatosensation
The general examination principles for somatosensation examination listed below should be applied to all tests and measures covered in this module, as applicable.
  • The principle goals of somatosensation examination are to accurately identify or map a region of altered sensation (i.e., dermatome, peripheral nerve, and/or central nervous system involvement).
  • Testing is performed systematically and consistently on the right and left sides of the body, as appropriate, based on diagnosis, signs, and symptoms.
  • Tests for somatosensation are typically performed with the patient’s eyes closed.  However, the clinician must demonstrate the procedure with the patient’s eyes open until the patient understands the procedure to be performed.
  • When applicable, tests are demonstrated on a non-involved body region.
  • Tests are repeated throughout suspected areas of sensory loss in order to accurately and completely identify dermatome, peripheral nerve, and/or central nervous system involvement.
  • Tests can be repeated up to three non-consecutive times in the same region, as inconsistencies in response may indicate deficits.
  • If the patient is unable to respond verbally, the clinician must utilize another communication strategy, such as raising a finger.
  • Equipment used for somatosensation examination must be discarded (i.e., cotton ball) or properly cleaned after use each use (i.e., pinwheel).
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Section: Exteroception
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