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Coordination, Gait and Rhomberg Test

Coordination is evaluated by testing the patient's ability to perform rapidly alternating and point-to-point movements correctly.

Rapidly Alternating Movement Evaluation

Ask the patient to place their hands on their thighs and then rapidly turn their hands over and lift them off their thighs. Once the patient understands this movement, tell them to repeat it rapidly for 10 seconds. Normally this is possible without difficulty. This is considered a rapidly alternating movement.

Dysdiadochokinesis is the clinical term for an inability to perform rapidly alternating movements. Dysdiadochokinesia is usually caused by multiple sclerosis in adults and cerebellar tumors in children. Note that patients with other movement disorders (e.g. Parkinson's disease) may have abnormal rapid alternating movement testing secondary to akinesia or rigidity, thus creating a false impression of dysdiadochokinesia.

Point-to-Point Movement Evaluation

Next, ask the patient to extend their index finger and touch their nose, and then touch the examiner's outstretched finger with the same finger. Ask the patient to go back and forth between touching their nose and examiner's finger. Once this is done correctly a few times at a moderate cadence, ask the patient to continue with their eyes closed. Normally this movement remains accurate when the eyes are closed. Repeat and compare to the other hand.

Dysmetria is the clinical term for the inability to perform point-to-point movements due to over or under projecting ones fingers.

Next have the patient perform the heel to shin coordination test. With the patient lying supine, instruct him or her to place their right heel on their left shin just below the knee and then slide it down their shin to the top of their foot. Have them repeat this motion as quickly as possible without making mistakes. Have the patient repeat this movement with the other foot. An inability to perform this motion in a relatively rapid cadence is abnormal.

The heel to shin test is a measure of coordination and may be abnormal if there is loss of motor strength, proprioception or a cerebellar lesion. If motor and sensory systems are intact, an abnormal, asymmetric heel to shin test is highly suggestive of an ipsilateral cerebellar lesion.


Gait is evaluated by having the patient walk across the room under observation. Gross gait abnormalities should be noted. Next ask the patient to walk heel to toe across the room, then on their toes only, and finally on their heels only. Normally, these maneuvers possible without too much difficulty.
Be certain to note the amount of arm swinging because a slight decrease in arm swinging is a highly sensitive indicator of upper extremity weakness.
Also, hopping in place on each foot should be performed.

Walking on heels is the most sensitive way to test for foot dorsiflexion weakness, while walking on toes is the best way to test early foot plantar flexion weakness.

Abnormalities in heel to toe walking (tandem gait) may be due to ethanol intoxication, weakness, poor position sense, vertigo and leg tremors. These causes must be excluded before the unbalance can be attributed to a cerebellar lesion. Most elderly patients have difficulty with tandem gait purportedly due to general neuronal loss impairing a combination of position sense, strength and coordination. Heel to toe walking is highly useful in testing for ethanol inebriation and is often used by police officers in examining potential "drunk drivers".

Rhomberg Test

Next, perform the Romberg test by having the patient stand still with their heels together. Ask the patient to remain still and close their eyes. If the patient loses their balance, the test is positive.
To achieve balance, a person requires 2 out of the following 3 inputs to the cortex: 1. visual confirmation of position, 2. non-visual confirmation of position (including proprioceptive and vestibular input), and 3. a normally functioning cerebellum. Therefore, if a patient loses their balance after standing still with their eyes closed, and is able to maintain balance with their eyes open, then there is likely to be lesion in the cerebellum. This is a positive Rhomberg.

To conclude the gait exam, observe the patient rising from the sitting position. Note gross abnormalities.

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