A neurology consultation is a visit with a highly-trained specialist in the function and malfunction of the brain, nervous system and muscles. In most cases, the visit was arranged by your doctor to answer specific questions your doctor has about your neurological health.
1) Know why your doctor sent you.
Like the tests your doctor orders for you, a neurology consultation is arranged to answer specific questions about your health. Like those tests, a neurology consultation involves time and expense. Would you have a test your doctor ordered without knowing why? Probably not. For the same reasons, you should discuss with your doctor the reasons that he or she is sending you to a neurologist for a consultation. This knowledge will help you prepare for your visit with the neurologist.
2) Be able to describe your problem.
The neurologist will ask you to describe your problem. Because diagnosis in neurology relies so much on your personal experience of your problem, the questions that the neurologist will ask may be far more detailed than questions any other doctor asks. Common questions include: When did the problem start? What happened around the time that the problem started that might be related to the problem (injury, illness, medication)? What part of the body of body function was affected. (Answers might be something like “the inside of my right leg,” or “the outer half of the vision in my left eye,” or “numbness in my right thumb.”) What did the problem feel like or look like? What seemed to make the problem worse, or better, or go away? You may want to write down your answers ahead of time. If someone else saw the problem or could describe it better than you, bring that person to your appointment, or have them write down what they saw or know.
3) Being prepared for your visit is your responsibility.
If you have had tests (like blood tests, X-rays, CT scans, MRI scans, EEGs, or EMGs) or visits with other doctors about your problem, you should bring those records with you to your neurology consultation. Even better, ask the neurologist’s office staff if the neurologist would like to review the records before your appointment. If you make a list of the tests you have had, and sign a release form, in many cases the neurologist’s staff can get copies of the test results at no cost to you. Having all of your records eliminates unneeded follow up visits and repeat testing, saving you time and money (… and blood).
4) Let the neurologist’s staff know if you require special accommodations.
Special accommodations might include a foreign-language interpreter, a sign-language interpreter, a room big enough for a scooter, a room with a lift, or if you have a service animal that will accompany you to the appointment.
5) Leave children in the care of friends, family, or a sitter.
To communicate well with the neurologist, you will need undivided attention. A neurology consultation may last 60 minutes or longer, much longer than the attention span of most children. Neurologists’ offices are usually not equipped to provide childcare services, and examination rooms are filled with sharp corners and instruments, electrical equipment and other potential hazards. Communication can also be difficult because you may feel reluctant to discuss important personal health information of a sensitive or adult nature.
6) Arrive to your appointment early and allow extra time for your appointment.
Everyone knows that no patient likes to wait for their doctor. Arriving early to your appointment may make your wait longer, but it allows you find a good parking spot, use the restroom, fill out your registration forms, and collect your wits before you see the doctor. It also allows your doctor’s staff the time to complete their work, and make sure your files are in order before the neurologist sees you. Allowing extra time for your appointment allows you, the doctor, and the doctor’s staff to make sure your care is complete. For example, after seeing the doctor you may be asked to give blood, to receive an injection, or to complete paperwork required by your insurance company. If you can’t complete those tasks on the day of your visit, your care can be delayed.
7) Bring a short list of your most important questions.
A short list might include your top 3 to 5 questions. If you can’t avoid a longer list, the neurologist may decline to address some questions, or may defer some questions for future visits.
8) Expect specific instructions and information.
At the end of your neurology consultation, expect specific spoken and written information and instructions. Many neurological diagnoses are complicated, and your neurologist will usually only have enough time to talk about the basics. He or she will often give you written information that is very important to understand for your own awareness and often for your safety. Many neurological conditions require lifestyle changes. Many neurological medications are started or changed gradually according to instructions that are too long to fit on a pill bottle. Let your neurologist know if you have any barriers to understanding the information you are given. In many cases the neurologist has a nurse or other staff member who can spend more time with you.
9) Expect to go back to your regular doctor to discuss the neurology consultation.
After the neurology consultation the neurologist will prepare a report for your regular doctor (or the doctor who referred you to the neurologist). There may be a list of recommendations for your doctor to consider. The recommendations are not binding. Your doctor may want to discuss those recommendations with you or to add his or her input.