A reflex hammer for nurses is an essential instrument during a neurological assessment. Reflex hammers come in a wide range of types that serve the same purpose but have different shapes. Deciding which one is the best for you is often a matter of preference, but if you find it overwhelming, check out our selection of the top reflex hammers for nurses below.
Our Top Choices – Reflex Hammers for Nurses
The MDF Babinski Reflex Hammer is a meticulously crafted instrument designed for superior performance. It is ideal for nurses in ER or neurologic wards and impresses with sleek lines and outstanding attention to detail.
The articulating chrome-plated brass disc head is covered in a silicone bumper to provide a pleasant sensation on the patient’s skin. Delicately weighted for precise striking, it is suitable to use to assess a range of myotatic reflexes.
A feature that makes the difference between this reflex hammer and all others is the robust, telescopic handle that can withstand the force of repeated striking. The handle also allows for flexible reach and makes the instrument easy to store in your pocket.
Another original thing is the built-in brush hidden at the base of the handle that helps you assess eliciting cutaneous and superficial responses too.
Lightweight, versatile, and elegant, this is no doubt the best reflex hammer for nurses you can find and will certainly make a perfect addition to any medical bag.
An equally reliable but more affordable option, the EMI Platinum Series Tromner Reflex Hammer is ideal for the nurses shopping on a budget. This medical instrument is perfectly balanced to help you accurately and effectively assess elicit reflexes and not only.
Its long handle will also make it easy to maneuver at all times; moreover, this Tromner is a versatile 4-in-1 dual mallet instrument you can use for both eliciting myotatic and cutaneous responses in both adult and pediatric patients.
At the base of the handle, the hammer features a Babinski tip and also a built-in hidden brush you can use to explore the superficial and cutaneous responses, as well as the plantar and abdominal reflex.
The hammer has a sleek appearance overall, although some of the components may seem a bit cheap. Given its price though, this is a good alternative to our top pick if you don’t want to break the bank.
If you like the Tromner design but aim for a higher end model, this reflex hammer from MDF could be the right one for you. Constructed in stylish and durable stainless steel, this instrument boasts flawless aesthetics and packs the functionality of three tools in one.
On one end you have the mallet-type reflex hammer, while a third testing device is located at the base of the handle.
The hammer is a nice treat to hold thanks to its perfect balance; we also like the soft silicone mallets designed to lower your effort and increase patient comfort.
As you could expect from such a quality tool, the handle is also optimized for comfort and engineered for precise movements. Like all MDF instruments, this reflex hammer comes with a lifetime warranty and contains no latex.
Another entry from MDF, this classic stainless steel Tromner Hammer is similar to the one above but hides four instruments in one. This unit blends cost and function into a formidable piece you’ll feel proud to have in your pocket.
The lightweight hammer features silicone mallet ends that feel soft on the skin and help you reduce the effort during practice.
Besides the mallet, the reflex hammer also incorporates a convenient Babinski kit in its handle. The elements include a pointed tip at the base of the handle, which is specifically designed for testing the superficial and cutaneous response, as well as the plantar and abdominal reflexes.
By unscrewing the base of the handle, you will also find a built-in brush designed to check the elicit cutaneous reflexes.
Backed by a lifetime warranty and completely free of latex, this is another excellent tool to include in your nursing kit.
If you’re not using a reflex hammer quite often but would still want to add one to your arsenal, check out this convenient Reflex Percussion Kit by ZetaLife. Built for students but also ideal for nurses who don’t use reflex instruments too often, this kit packs all the versatility you need.
This nursing kit comprises all the instruments required for physical assessments, and it’s great to use even after you’ve graduated.
Designed for neurological assessment, this set comes with a Taylor hammer, which is preferred by most practitioners in the US, two tuning forks, and a good nurse penlight. You’ll also get convenient bandage scissors that can come in handy on several occasions.
All instruments are made from quality stainless steel. The scissors can even be sterilized after use, and the only thing we like a little less is the plastic handle of the hammer. All in all, though, this is a high-value kit for any nurse who doesn’t have a high budget.
Reflex Hammer for Nurses Buying Guide
Getting the best reflex hammer for nurses should start with deciding which type of instrument you want. They all serve the same purpose, so the choice reduces to preference. Then, there are a few essential features to consider, and we’ll discuss them all in this guide.
Types of Reflex Hammers
The first reflex hammer has started to be developed in the late 19th century to replace the cumbersome hammers used for the percussion of the chest, which at the time were also employed for the assessment of the elicit reflexes.
The invention of the reflex hammer wasn’t an isolated occurrence, but rather a global movement which led to the invention of several types of instruments, all designed to serve the same function.
Some of the most common reflex hammers invented at the time and that are still in use today include:
- Taylor hammer: Also known as tomahawk due to its similarity to the Indian hawks, this hammer was designed by John Madison Taylor in 1888, hence its name. This style is the most popular in the USA and consists of a triangular headpiece made of rubber which is attached to a metallic handle. The main advantage of this model is the incredibly low weight compared to all models invented in Europe.
- Babinski hammer: Gets its name from its inventor, Joseph Babinski, who invented the model in 1912. The hammer consists of a 2-inch diameter metal disc head attached to a telescopic metal handle. The disc is often rimmed with a silicone bumper that increases the comfort of the patient while reducing practitioner fatigue. These instruments are lightweight and convenient to carry due to their rather reduced dimension when collapsed. The maximum reach goes up to approximately 16 inches. More often than not, the handle end of the hammer is sharp, allowing you to test the plantar reflexes.
- Tromner hammer: Follows the same line as the two hammers above and gets its name from its inventor, Ernst Tromner. The main difference between this hammer and the other two types is its peculiar shape that imitates a mallet. The larger end of the mallet is designed for testing elicit tendon stretch reflexes, while the other end serves for elicit percussion myotonia. The handle end of the hammer often incorporates Babinski elements, such as a sharp tip or built-in hidden brush.
Queen Square hammer: The only hammer on our list that doesn’t get its name from an inventor could have only come from the UK. This type of hammer is very similar to Babinski, but it has a non-retractable handle, originally made from wood but now commonly made of plastic. The Queen Square hammer was first used at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery in London, and it’s still the favorite reflex hammer for practitioners in the UK.
What Features to Look for Before Buying a Reflex Hammer
Reflex hammers come in variants for either medical students or practitioners, be it nurses or doctors. The former is more economical and comes with lower quality parts. However, you must pick a high-quality instrument for day-by-day practice. That’s why you should check the criteria below before buying.
- Materials: Reflex hammer are usually made from a variety of materials, but the best reflex hammer for nurses should be made of stainless steel and silicone. We recommend these materials because they are hypoallergenic and easy to sterilize after each use. Rubber is a good replacement for silicone, but it contains latex and may trigger allergic reactions in sensitive patients. Metals other than stainless steel are usually prone to rust, so we recommend to steer clear from them. Plastic handles are also accepted on some instruments, but they could have a negative impact on the hammer’s balance and maneuverability. The only exception is the Taylor hammer which is usually made from a rubber head and plastic or stainless steel handle.
- Weight: These neurological assessment instruments must be fairly lightweight and easy to maneuver. Their weight should be around 100 grams, but the real thing to assess is the balance. The hammer must be comfortable to hold and use without actually hitting your patient with it. Because it is hard to achieve gentle motions with a too heavy or improperly balanced unit, these are two important things to consider.
- Size: Professional reflex hammers are about 16 inches long, allowing you to perform various tests on your patient without struggling to reach the right area. Round head hammers must also have a diameter of the head of approximately 2 inches.
- Overall build quality: Another thing to check is the overall build quality of the instrument. It should feel well-built and must come with smooth finish lines. A cheap plastic handle not only jeopardizes the accuracy of your assessments, but it can even give you an unprofessional look.
Versatility: Most reflex hammers combine multiple tools in a compact solution that fits in your pocket. A few things you might need, besides the hammer, are a brush and needle or spike. Luckily, the best reflex hammer for nurses incorporates most of these tools so that you can perform neurological assessments in all peace of mind.
Common Reflex Tests
The Babinski reflex involves the foot, more specifically, the plantar surface of the foot. Briefly, you simply take the edge of your reflex hammer and slide the edge up the bottom of the foot from heel to toe. If the adult patient’s big toe points upwards and the little toes fan out, then there may be a neurological issue at play.
The patellar reflex is probably the reflex test that first comes to mind for most people. This reflex involves the patient sitting comfortably at the end of the bed with their legs hanging down in a relaxed position. As you strike the patellar tendon with the reflex hammer, the knee joint should extend as a normal reflex. The absence or decrease of this reflex is known as Westphal’s sign, and is an indication of an underlying neurological problem, likely associated with the femoral nerve (L3, L4).
The Achilles reflex is another common reflex test that can be done either with the patient in the same position as the patellar reflex (most doctors find this easier) or with the patient lying down in a supine position with one leg crossed over the other.
The Achilles tendon is really easy to identify, so it’s a fairly simple test to run. However, unlike the patellar reflex, you will want to support the patient’s foot with your hand so that their ankle is in a neutral 90 degree position. Then when you strike the Achilles tendon with the reflex hammer, this should cause a plantarflexion reflex, which you will see and feel by the patient pushing their foot down into your hand. If this reflex is absent, it could indicate an issue associated with the sciatic nerve (S1, S2).
Upper Limb Reflexes
The above-mentioned reflexes are some of the most popular to study and learn about reflexes in general. However, depending on the patient and their injury or condition, these may or may not be applicable at all. There is a huge amount of reflex testing that you could do with any one individual patient, so we won’t go into them all.
All of the reflex hammers and reflex testing we discussed above is just the tip of the iceberg. That being said, we hope this provides you with enough information about the differences between different types of reflex hammers, as well as how they can be used during neurological testing. This, combined with your curriculum teaching you how to perform and evaluate these tests, should allow you to become highly proficient with neurological testing. Good luck!