A few weeks ago I called a neurosurgeon to discuss a patient’s recent headaches. My patient had been seen in the emergency room several days prior with the worst headache of his life. A complete work-up had not revealed a cause for the headache. Although he was found to have a small aneurysm on CT angiogram, there was no evidence of bleeding by lumbar puncture. The story, however, was slightly more complex than this. There had been several other findings that remained unexplained. One of the findings led me to discuss the patient’s case with a cardiologist. My patient had also undergone cervical spine decompression surgery several months prior to treat cervical myelopathy. I wanted to engage the neurosurgeon and get his professional opinion about my patient’s headache, which had now recurred several days after his ER visit.
The surgeon was cordial, but about 5 seconds into my story he seemed inpatient and interrupted me. “I heard about this guy,” he said, “What he needs is to be seen by one of our neurovascular specialists.” I had more I wanted to say, but the doctor did not seem to want to listen. I raised my voice slightly, interrupted him before he had a chance to end the conversation, and bulldozed through, telling the rest of the story in about two minutes. “Now we’re talking,” he said, as I explained further about a family history of clotting and my concern about a dural thrombus as a potential etiology. Together we formulated a plan that I was satisfied with–though the interaction left me with a feeling of unease.