Monthly Mangled Medicalese (MMM)

The language of medicine is highly evolved and complex and allows clear, detailed, specific and unambiguous descriptions. Except when it’s not.

Confused and confusing medicalese comes from patients and physicians, nurses and administrators, individuals and institutions, and comes in spoken and written form. 

Here is this month’s collection of mangled medicalese, culled from charts I have read, patients I have treated, colleagues and friends. I will continue to post a selection monthly until my supply runs out. If you have a contribution to make, you can add it in comments below (login required) or send it to me for a future installment. I will explain only those where explanation seems necessary to understand either the phrase or the humor. The rest will stand - or fall - on their own. If you have questions or alternative interpretations, please don’t hesitate to use the comments.

Patients

  • “I can't take Lipitor because it gave me Rambomyolysis.” (Rhabdomyolysis is a serious and potentially fatal muscle inflammation that can occur rarely with the statins, almost always when used in high risk settings.) 
  • “I needed antibiotics for the vegetarians eating my heart valve.” (Vegetations, the technical term for bacterial growth on the heart valves in bacterial endocarditis.)
  • “I have that Canada again.” (Candida is the technical name for yeast.)

Providers (as transcribed)

  • “Sorry asses on his knees and elbows.” (Psoriasis, a chronic skin condition.)
  • “GERD extinguished with protonix. (Protonix is a proton pump inhibitor that prevent thcells lining the stomach from secreting acid, and is used for ulcers, gastritis, and heartburn.)

Nurses

  • “cc: vomiting red eyes” on the top of a nursing admission evaluation. (’cc’ refers to ‘chief complaint’ describing briefly the reason the patient is there. In this setting the patient had vomited so hard he had broken some blood vessels on his eyes, a scary looking but harmless condition.)
  • Do you want report or do you want to know what's really going on with her? (’Report’ is the term for the process where providers and nurses tell the next shift about their patients. It is often done in supremely telegraphic style.)

Slang

  • Documentile dysfunction, used variously to refer to providers who do not complete their paperwork in a timely manner, to patients who bring in long and complex lists of symptoms, and to the pathologic proliferation of puerile paperwork by paternalistic and pedantic payors.
  • LOL: leaky on Lasix (Lasix or furosemide is a commonly used diuretic, used to increase urine output.)
  • NDWL: not doing well lately

 

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