A Survey of Neurologists on Self-treatment and Treatment of Their Families


  • Randolph W. Evans MD,

  • Richard B. Lipton MD,

  • Kristin A. Ritz BS

  • From the Department of Neurology and Neuroscience, Weill Medical College of Cornell University, New York, NY, and the Department of Neurology, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX (Dr. Evans); Department of Neurology, Epidemiology, and Population Health, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, NY (Dr. Lipton); and Department of Statistics, Rice University, Houston, TX (Ms. Ritz).

Address all correspondence to Dr. Randolph Evans, 1200 Binz #1370, Houston, TX 77004.


Background.—Although neurologists commonly self-treat for migraine and other conditions, little is known about the patterns of self-treatment by physicians in the United States.

Objectives.—The aim was to obtain information about neurologist's self-treatment and treatment of family members and their attitudes about self-treatment by other physicians.

Methods.—A survey was performed among neurologists attending the Texas Neurological Society's Winter Conference using a questionnaire about self-treatment and treatment of family members during the prior 12 months and attitudes about self-treatment by other physicians.

Results.—Among 186 physicians invited to participate, the response rate was 48%. Although 76% reported having primary care physicians, neurologists reported the following behaviors: 38% self-diagnosed or self-treated medical conditions including migraine in 25%; 56% started themselves on prescription medications including 21% who used triptans and 15% who used migraine preventive medications; 33% ordered blood tests on themselves; and 20% ordered imaging studies on themselves. Sixty percent reported missing no work due to illness, 87% missed 2 days or less, and 99% reported missing 1 week or less. Eighty percent reported treating their family members for acute minor illnesses and 33% for chronic conditions. The following percentage of participants reported that they would be likely to self-diagnose and self-treat the following hypothetical illnesses: 70%, migraines which were not severe; 19%, new onset frequent headaches; and 48%, chronic daily headaches. The following percentage of participants agreed or strongly agreed that the following behaviors were acceptable for physicians: 94%, self-treat acute minor illnesses; 37%, self-treat chronic conditions; 42%, order blood test for diagnostic purposes; 40%, order imaging studies for diagnostic purposes; 87%, treat family members for acute minor conditions; and 36%, treat family members for chronic conditions.

Conclusions.—Neurologists commonly treat themselves and family members.