As a nurse and nursing student, you will learn how to assess the deep tendon reflexes. In this article, I will discuss how to assess the triceps tendon reflex along with a video demonstration.
The deep tendon reflex examination is part of the neuro assessment. This assessment is usually conducted during the head-to-toe nursing assessment. Nurses do not routinely assess the deep tendon reflexes unless they work in settings such as labor and delivery or neurology or a patient’s condition warrants it (electrolyte imbalances etc.).
Why do nurses assess the deep tendon reflexes?
It helps evaluate the lower motor neurons/fibers at certain levels of the body. For example, the triceps reflex evaluates C7 to C8, and the brachioradialis reflex evaluate C5 to C6.
Grading Scale for Deep Tendon Reflexes
4+ Hyperactive (clonus)
3+ Brisker than normal (hyperreflexive)
1+ Diminished (hyporeflexive)
Demonstration on How to Assess Triceps Deep Tendon Reflex
How to Assess the Triceps Deep Tendon Reflex
- Find the triceps tendon
- Locate the tendon on the back of the upper arm (slightly above the elbow) TIP: Extend the arm out and this will make the triceps tendon more prominent
- Relax the patient’s arm by assisting the patient with dangling their arm in the air. TIP: Tell the patient to let their arm go limp
- Tap the tendon briskly with the reflex hammer TIP: don’t swing the hammer too slow or fast and don’t leave the hammer on the tendon after tapping the tendon
Expected Response of the Triceps Deep Tendon Reflex
You should see the forearm extend and triceps muscle contract