Plantar reflex

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(Redirected from Babinski reflex)

In medicine (neurology), the Babinski reflex or Babinski sign is a reflex that can identify disease of the spinal cord and brain. It is more properly called the plantar reflex, as Babinski's sign in reality only refers to the pathological form.

Contents

Methods

The lateral side of the sole of the foot is rubbed with a sharp or hard implement (usually the tip of a tendon hammer), running from the heel along a curve to the metatarsal pads. It is an unpleasant sensation for most. There are roughly three responses possible:

  • Flexor: the toes curve inwards and the foot pronates; this is the response seen in healthy adults.
  • Indifferent: there is no response (sometimes a feature of peripheral neuropathy).
  • Extensor: the pollux (large toe) extends upwards, and the other toes to a lesser extent; this response is Babinski's sign.

In decerebrate patients, a more complex reflex is observed, which includes the lifting of the whole leg. This is a primitive reflex, indicating that the brain has been damaged severely.

Interpretation

The extensor response can indicate damage of the spinal cord in the thoracal or lumbar region, or brain disease. Occasionally, a pathological plantar reflex is the first (and only) indication of a serious disease process, and a clearly abnormal plantar reflex often prompts detailed neurological investigations, including CT scanning of the brain or MRI of the spine, as well as lumbar puncture for the study of cerebrospinal fluid.

Young babies (less than a few months of age) will also show an extensor response. A baby's smaller toes will fan out, and their big toe will dorsiflex slowly. This happens because the corticospinal pathways (that run from the brain down the spinal cord) are not fully myelinated at this age, so the reflex is not inhibited by the cerebral cortex.

Eponym

The pathological reflex is named after Joseph Jules François Félix Babinski (1857-1932), a French neurologist of Polish descent.

See also

External links

  • Biography (http://www.whonamedit.com/doctor.cfm/370.html) of Joseph Babinski
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