Know Your Options


You’re 55 years old with a child in college. You exercise routinely and have never had any major medical problems. Then, all of a sudden, you develop severe stabbing pain in your face, jaw and teeth. It is making it hard to talk, eat or drink. Your husband can’t even kiss you on the cheek without causing severe pain. You go to the dentist who fixes some dental problems, but you just continue to get worse.

Ultimately, you visit a neurologist who tells you that you have trigeminal neuralgia and explains that you probably have a blood vessel or lesion pressing on a nerve in your brain. An MRI of your brain is performed and the doctor calls you at home to tell you that you have a brain tumor and need to see a neurosurgeon. Your mind starts to race. Brain tumors are rare, right? Will I live to see my child graduate college? Where do I find a brain surgeon who treats my problem?

Although this scenario may seem like fantasy, it is quite common. Knowing what questions to ask when meeting the neurosurgeon can make all the difference in the world with regards to how this affects you and your family’s future and survival. Below are a few questions that can help in making an educated decision about whose hands you should place the most valuable part of your body in.

Common Questions to Ask a Brain Surgeon:

What is my diagnosis and how often do you see it?
How rapidly does my problem usually progress?
What are all the treatment options available for this problem?
Which option do most patients choose and why?
What option do you feel is best for me and why?
How many years have you been treating this problem this way?
Can this be treated without surgery or just observed?
If I need surgery, is this emergent, urgent or elective at my convenience?
Might I need other treatments after surgery?
Do I need to see other specialists before or after treatment?
How long will I be in the hospital and how long before I can resume regular activity at home?
What are the common risks of the treatment options?
What should I expect in the recovery period?
How often will I see you after surgery? Who else from your team might be taking care of me as well?
Are there any newer techniques or technologies in the past five years that aide in the treatment of my problem and will they be used for me?

At the end of the day, the most important aspect of your relationship with your neurosurgeon is trust and whether you believe that you are in the best possible hands. If the neurosurgeon doesn’t want to answer your questions or if you are not sure the recommendations are in your best interest, then always consider a second opinion before making a forced decision that can have significant ramifications to you and your family’s future.


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Written by Bill Heneghan

Bill is an author, investor and serial entrepreneur.