Thursday, July 21, 2016

Winning bid

Dr. Grumpy: "How's the diet going?"

Mrs. Atkins: "It's on hold. I ordered that diet book you suggested, but the person I bought it from on eBay screwed up."

Dr. Grumpy: "What happened?"

Mrs. Atkins: "They sent me this instead. I'm actually going to the post office to mail it back later."

She reached into her bag, took out a book, and held it up. It was called "Working with a Transsexual: A Guide for Coworkers."

Dr. Grumpy: "That's definitely not the diet book I recommended."

Mrs. Atkins: "No. And you just know someone out there was hoping to get this book to help them at work, and is instead staring at my diet book."

Monday, July 18, 2016

Sunday night check-out

Dr. Grumpy: "In room 734 is a guy with arm weakness since a shoulder injury. I've ordered an MRI of his brachial plexus."

Dr. Nerve: "Where do you think the problem is?"

Dr. Grumpy: "Uh, in the brachial plexus."

Dr. Nerve: "You should have made that clear."

Friday, July 15, 2016

When dogs fly

Me: "What kind of dog is she?"

Mrs. Owner: "She's a Morkie. It's a cross between a Yorkie and a, um, Maltese Falcon."

Wednesday, July 13, 2016


I saw a guy for headaches recently. Nothing unusual in his story, but, since he'd never had them before, I ordered a brain MRI. I figured, like most of them do, it would come back normal.

I wasn't even close. It came back, not just abnormal, but weird. All kinds of odd changes. Nothing easy to point a finger at, like a stroke or brain tumor. But definitely not normal.

Like I always do in these cases, I called the neuroradiologist who read it, and discussed the case. He was pretty certain of the strange findings. We reviewed all the different causes, and none of them fit with his history.

Because of the unusual nature of the findings, I got a copy of the MRI and took it to another neuroradiologist for a 2nd opinion. She absolutely agreed with the first guy.

So, I was stuck with something weird, not easily explainable for his case. After hospital rounds the next night I went to the hospital library, and spent some time looking up the findings, what can cause them, how you work them up, etc. I had Mary bring him in, working him in over lunch to give me extra time to discuss the news with him and answer his questions.

He came in, and I took some time. I explained the findings, and what they might mean. I went over the steps to work them up further, including a spinal tap and labs. He and his wife sat in silence as I went over everything. Finally, I opened up the floor for questions.

Mr. Sternberg: "These abnormal findings, could they be caused by lymphoma?"

Dr. Grumpy: "You have lymphoma?"

Mr. Sternberg: "Had. About 10 years ago."

Dr. Grumpy: "How did they treat it?"

Mr. Sternberg: "I had chemotherapy, and they did radiation treatment on my whole body and head."

(Pause. I pick up the phone and call the neuroradiologist, who says that, yes, absolutely, the changes are typical for someone who's had radiation).

Dr. Grumpy: "Yes, they're likely from radiation. Why didn't you tell me you had lymphoma?"

Mr. Sternberg: "I didn't think it was important. By the way, my headaches are gone."

Today's lesson people: When the neurologist asks about your past medical history, lymphoma and brain radiation are things you want to mention.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Seen in a chart

Nothing can make a doctor look stupider than an EHR (computerized charting) system.

Smoking is, to me, a good example. We all ask "Do you smoke?" There are 3 basic answers: "Yes," "No," and "I used to."

That isn't so hard. I mean, yeah, occasionally you'll get someone who uses snuff or has some other answer, but in 98% of cases the answer is one of those three. My somewhat primitive human brain can handle them pretty well.

Of course, when you turn this simple question over to an EHR, you get crap like this:

What the HELL does that bizarre combination of phrases mean? In a few lines the patient has gone from being a smoker, to a chain smoker, to a non-smoker, and back to a smoker. And what's an "aggressive non-smoker" anyway? Someone who whips out a fire extinguisher and sprays people who light up?

They tell us these kinds of programs make medicine easier and safer for all involved. I think they're smoking something.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Vacation time!

Heading out for a bit. Be excellent to each other!

Friday, June 24, 2016

Seen in a chart

I'm so behind on the new drugs.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016


Mary: "Dr. Grumpy's office, this is Mary."

Mrs. Analog: "Yes, I faxed you a copy of my records last week, and Dr. Grumpy decided not to take my case. So I'd like them back."

Mary: "He deleted them already, I'm sorry. If we're not going to be seeing you, we don't keep a copy."

Mrs. Analog: "WHAT? You should have just mailed them back!"

Mary: "Ma'am, you sent them to our digital fax number, so all documents faxed go directly to the e-mail. There were never any paper records here."

Mrs. Analog: "But you still could have mailed them back. I mean, how much effort would it have been to pull them out of the e-mail, put them in an envelope, and mailed them back to me? I'd have paid you for the postage."

Mary: "You... can't do that. It's a digital file."

Mrs. Analog: "Nonsense. And they were my only copy!"

Mary: "But... you said you faxed them. Isn't there a copy of them on your fax machine?"

Mrs. Analog: "Is there supposed to be? When I fax stuff the feeder just spits out paper on the bottom."

Mary: "Those are the things you just faxed."

Mrs. Analog: "Does that mean the paper is digital now? Can't you fax the email to me at least?"

Monday, June 20, 2016


Annie: "Dr. Gumpy's office, this is Annie."

Ms. Panic: "I need refills on all my meds! I just realized I'm out!"

Annie: "Okay... hang on... Looks like we have you on 3 of them. You need all 3?"

Ms. Panic: "YES! I'm all out!"

Annie: "Our schedule shows you have an appointment tomorrow?"

Ms. Panic: "I know! I'll be there! But please call these in now, I'M ALL OUT!!!"

Annie: "Okay, will do."

The next day...

Dr. Grumpy: "How you doing?"

Ms. Panic: "A lot better since I was last here! Thank you."

Dr. Grumpy: "Annie called in your refills yesterday. I guess you were out?"

Ms. Panic: "Yeah, I ran out a week or two ago."

Dr. Grumpy: "A week or two ago? Did you get them yesterday?"

Ms. Panic: "No, I decided not to. I don't think I really need them anymore."

Friday, June 17, 2016

Beam me up

Dr. Grumpy: "Is that Cochran with or without an E on the end?"

Mr. Trek: "No E."

Dr. Grumpy: "Okay."

Mr. Trek: "Zefram Cochrane has an E at the end."

Dr. Grumpy: "Who's that?"

Mr. Trek: "Sheesh. He invented the warp drive in 2063."

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Uh..., yes?

Last night I was doing an online survey about the treatment of epilepsy, and this question came up:

Monday, June 13, 2016


Years ago my father-in-law hit me up for Viagra samples. I was happy to give him some, but Viagra reps generally don't call on neurologists.

But, because I like the guy, and Christmas was around the corner, I asked my drug rep about it. She was able to have some shipped to me (probably thought they were for me). So I packed them up and mailed them to his house.

About 2 weeks went by, and I didn't hear from him. I began wondering if they were lost in the mail, so I called him. Turned out, due to heavy snow fall and being retired, they hadn't been down to their mailbox for 1-2 weeks. He thanked me for having sent them, and put his wife on the line to chat.

While she and I were talking I heard some crashing noises in the background, followed by a loud mechanical roar.

Dr. Grumpy: "What's all that noise?"

Mother-in-law: "No idea what he's doing. He tore up the garage looking for something, and then just ran out in the driveway with the snowblower. I wonder what he's up to?"

I told her I had to take a call from the hospital, and got off the phone.

Note: This post is just for the humor. For those who want to write in about the medical-legal aspects of this... It happened early in my career, when I was young and naive. Time and experience have taught me not to do things like this.

Friday, June 10, 2016


Lady comes in.

Mary: "Hi, can I help you?"

Lady: "I have an appointment with Dr. Grumpy at 10:45."

Mary: "Oh, okay, you're a bit early. Have a seat and he'll take you back when he's done with the current one."

Lady: "Okay."

She walked over to the center table and combed through the 20 or so magazines on it, scanning the covers, then setting them down. Then she did the same with the handful of magazines and patient pamphlets piled on the 2 corner tables. Failing to find anything of interest, she walked over to the wall rack and carefully picked through the dozen or so magazines there before finding one she liked.

Then she sat down and, until called back for her appointment 20 minutes later, used it only to fan herself.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016


I never know what to do with these.

MRI's and MRA's and all our toys are good. They can see stuff we never could, even 5-10 years ago. So, as they get better, they find more.

But that's not always good

I have a lady in her mid-70's. A few years ago her internist did a brain scan on her and found a small aneurysm.  It wasn't related to her symptoms, but since he didn't know what to do with it, he sent her to me.

I reassured her that it wasn't anything. But, since some small aneurysms will grow into large ones, I'm stuck following it. Otherwise, if she drops dead of a ruptured aneurysm at some point, her family can sue me because I didn't look to see if it was getting bigger. CYA. This is defensive medicine at its finest, and, once you've been sued, you'll practice it, too.

Of course, she could refuse the test, but most people don't. As long as it's covered by their insurance, why the hell not?

So every few years I order a repeat study, though at this point it's starting to get silly. I mean, even if it were growing, surgery at this point would pose a bigger danger to her than the aneurysm. But she wants the test, her daughters want the test, and my personal feelings take a back seat to covering myself.

The repeat study this year was, of course, unchanged. Fine. I sent her a letter saying we'd repeat it in 3 years.

I got a call a few days later... from the hospital, asking me to come see her.

Leaving the MRI place she'd fallen while getting in her car, breaking her hip. Which needed surgery. So now she's in the hospital, post-op, and completely whacked out from unfamiliar surroundings and pain meds. So they needed a neurologist to come see her.

Am I medically or legally, at fault for this? Not really. But I still feel guilty about it. I mean, she could also have fallen at the grocery store or walking to her bathroom, with the same outcome. But, instead, she fell while having a test that I wasn't even sure was needed, but was somewhat obligated to order. Yes, she and her daughters insisted on having the scan, so it's their decision, too.

But I still feel bad. Because of guidelines and defensive medicine a nice older lady had a scan she didn't necessarily need, and in an odd way suffered a complication of it.

Will this change how I practice? Probably not. The culture of defensive medicine is so ingrained into American physicians that it's hard to do otherwise. But stories like this make me wonder what the real cost of it can be.
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