* * Anonymous Doc: When An Arm Is Not An Arm

Friday, August 23, 2013

When An Arm Is Not An Arm

"Sorry to call you so late -- my arm is numb."

"Are your fingers blue?"

"No, they're normal."

"Is there any pain?"


"What do you mean by numb?"

"Well, I don't know.  It just feels funny.  It's my left arm.  Is it my heart?"

"Can you move your arm?"


"Where does the numb feeling start?"

"My fingers."

"From your fingers up?"

"No, from my fingers down."

"So it's not your arm, it's just your fingers?"

"Yes, but my fingers are attached to my arm."

"Yes, I know that.  But there's a difference between your arm and your fingers.  Did you do anything funny with your fingers recently?"


"Did you sleep funny?"


"Were you playing with a phone or a tablet?"


"With those fingers?"

"Yes, just before they got numb."

"How's the numbness now?"

"It's a little better.  It feels like it's going away.  Am I having a heart attack?"

"I don't think you are."

"Should I go to the ER?"

"If the numbness is going away, and it's just in your fingers, and you were just playing with your phone before they went numb, then, no, I don't think you need to go to the ER."

"What if I just want to make sure?"

"I'm not stopping you from going to the ER.  You know your own body."

"Okay, I'm going to go to the ER."

"Okay.  Thanks for calling."


  1. I'm gonna go out on a limb and presume you aren't popular with the ER staff.

    Yeah, I can't believe this level of mindlessness exists.

  2. Good grief. Now this could go two different ways in the ER and it depends on how that patient presents the chief complaint. One would be 'resolved finger numbness' and a fast track work up ultimately referring the patient back to you. The second would be if the patient says 'arm numbness' which might be worked up as a stroke protocol meaning numerous expensive tests, a hospital admission with TIA as the diagnosis and then referred back to you.
    Either way, what a waste.

  3. my cousin's bf is very healthy, but he went to see doc a lot becuase he always worrying he is sick or he will have a cancer something, he is only 31...haha
    happy long weekend, Dr. Anon, hope you get some good during the weekend... :)