Questions to Ask Brain Specialists

By: Madeline Roberts Vann, MPH

People with a condition that affects the brain will most likely see a specialist called a neurologist. Neurologists work on all kinds of brain diseases. They usually work with a team of other specialists and health providers. The other specialist with considerable knowledge of this type of condition is the psychiatrist, a medical doctor who specializes in brain diseases and psychological conditions.

This can be a very worrisome time as you wait to learn more about your diagnosis and treatment options. One way to regain a sense of control is to collect all the information needed to keep up with your medical treatment.

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Make a record of your medical care to show your doctors. This record will also help you and your family members remember the details of your medical care history. Include:

  • Medications you are taking, the dose, and when you take them
  • Any supplements, herbal remedies (including herbal teas), vitamins or over-the-counter medications (cough medicine, sinus medicine, allergy medicine, heart burn medicine, pain relievers) that you take
  • Any allergies you have had to medications
  • Doctors you are seeing and their contact information
  • Health insurance information
  • Basic timeline; include dates of doctor visits and tests (a calendar format often works well for this)
  • Contact information for a friend or relative, in case of emergencies

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Questions to Ask About Your Diagnosis

When you visit a specialist for the first time, you will probably have a lot of questions. It helps to write them all down. Bring a pen and paper to take notes. You might also want to bring a tape recorder or a friend or relative to help you understand what your specialist tells you. Do not leave the doctor's office until you understand your situation! If the doctor seems rushed, ask if a nurse or nurse practitioner is available to help answer your questions.

Questions you should ask:

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  1. What is my diagnosis? ("Diagnosis" means the official name of the condition affecting your brain.)
  2. What is the prognosis? ("Prognosis" refers to the likely outcome of the disease and treatment.)
  3. What treatment do you recommend?
  4. What are other possible treatments, and why do you believe they are not right for me?
  5. What medications will I be taking?
  6. What are the side effects?
  7. Where will the procedures take place?
  8. How long do I have to decide what I would like to do?
  9. How long until we know if the treatment has been successful?
  10. What will happen if the treatment does not work?
  11. Who else will be a part of my treatment team?
  12. Will I need rehabilitation?
  13. Do you recommend any support groups or counselors for me or my family?
  14. Are you available to talk to my family about this diagnosis and treatment?
  15. Do you have any pamphlets or fact sheets about this diagnosis and treatment?
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Written by Madeline Roberts Vann, MPH

Reviewed by George T. Grossberg, MD

St. Louis University School of Medicine

Department of Psychiatry

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