Always consult with a qualified doctor for the right path: Dr Pradeep Balaji

Last Updated on January 18, 2024 by Shabnam Sengupta

Dr Pradeep Balaji, MBBS, MS (General Surgery), MCH (Neurosurgery) is a highly qualified medical professional. With over a decade of experience, Dr Balaji has served as a Consultant Neurosurgeon. Currently, he works at Apollo Hospital, Chennai. His primary focus within Neurosurgery revolves around Neuro-oncology, Neurotrauma, and the application of minimally invasive techniques in both brain and spine surgery.

When a patient explains to you about their health problems, what are the most common mistakes they make in their communication?

The majority of patients visiting a Neurosurgeon typically arrive with prior diagnoses provided by other healthcare professionals. Consequently, when discussing their condition, they often begin by stating a specific diagnosis, such as having a brain tumour, rather than elaborating on their symptoms as a patient. However, this tendency is not an issue, as it is common for individuals to present their conditions in this manner. Through the use of targeted and guiding questions, patients can be redirected to provide a more comprehensive and accurate account of their symptoms during the consultation.

What does health literacy mean to you, and why is it important in patient care?

To me, health literacy implies the ability to understand the information provided and make informed decisions, particularly when it comes to deciding on procedures like brain or spine surgery. Surprisingly, I’ve encountered individuals with high levels of general literacy who possess minimal health literacy. Despite their educational background, they often hold misconceptions about health and, frustratingly, may be resistant to grasping the information conveyed by a surgeon.

If a patient is knowledgeable about the basics of their health condition, how helpful is it for the overall treatment procedure?

As a Neurosurgeon, it is of paramount importance that the patient must be aware of the spectrum of outcomes that are possible after surgery. If they understand their problem, able to comprehend the risks and benefits of surgery, it makes the job easier for us.

How much can medical misinformation impact treatment procedures?

In the field of Neurosurgery, the concept “Time is brain” holds significance. The longer the delay, the greater the impact on neurons in the brain or spine. Misinformation about this can potentially hinder the prompt initiation of necessary surgical interventions.

What are the most common myths or misinformation you see your patients falling prey to? 

Numerous myths are there among the public. Some of them are:

  1. “Brain tumours are always cancerous.” The fact is that not all brain tumours are cancerous; some are benign. However, even benign tumours can cause serious health issues due to their location and impact on surrounding brain tissue.
  2. “Brain tumours only affect older adults.” In reality, brain tumours can occur at any age, including in children. Certain types are more common in specific age groups, but they can affect individuals of all ages.
  3. “Headaches always indicate a brain tumour.” While headaches can be a symptom, they are usually not the sole indicator of a brain tumour. Many other conditions can cause headaches, and most headaches are not related to tumours.
  4. “Brain tumours are always fatal.” A big NO! Not all brain tumours are fatal. Advances in medical and surgical technology and treatment options have improved survival rates significantly.
  5. “Cell phones cause brain tumours.” Current scientific evidence does not support a direct link between cell phone use and the development of brain tumours. 
  6. “Removing a brain tumour will always result in paralysis, behavioural changes and even coma. In short, brain surgery always negatively impacts the quality of life.” In reality, with current surgical advances like intraoperative neuromonitoring, MicroNeurosurgery, Neuro navigation, awake craniotomy etc., most tumours can be safely removed without affecting quality of life. While there can be some issues, they are not universal, and rehabilitation can help manage any potential effects.

It’s essential to consult healthcare professionals for accurate information tailored to specific cases.

What is your most common advice to patients to stay away from health misinformation online?

My primary counsel to patients is consistently to seek consultation from a qualified modern medicine doctor. I’ve observed cases of individuals with spine tumours investing valuable time and resources in alternative treatments like Ayurveda or Siddha. Unfortunately, these patients often present to a Neurosurgeon at an advanced stage, transforming a potentially reversible issue into irreversible paralysis.

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