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.

Here is this month’s collection of mangled medicalese, culled from charts I have read, patients I have treated, and colleagues and friends who have shared. 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.


Definition of the month:

Documentile dysfunction: when poor history takers get histories from poor historians.


Patient contributions:

"I don't want to be incubated again." From a patient with severe COPD who had been intubated and on a ventilator for 2 weeks during a prior hospital stay.

"I really liked the infectious waste doctor." From a patient who had been seen by the infectious disease consultant for help with a diarrheal illness.

"They tried artificial insemination for an hour before they gave up because his heart was too weak and wouldn't beat." (A patient describing an unsuccessful cardiac resuscitation attempt on her uncle.)


Physician contributions:

"No evidence of edema, ulcers, clubbing, cyanosis or extremities." From a physician dictation in an admission.

"The patient denies any recent rectal breeding." From a dictated review of systems.

"He will be admitted and be given a banana bath." A banana bag is a slang term for an IV solution with thiamine, folate, multivitamin and magnesium often given to alcoholics. The liquid is yellow - hence the name.


Staff and chart contributions: 

"The patient will be admitted and undergo repair of a biblical {umbilical} hernia."

"The patient reports that his head {headache} is now gone and he feels better." From nursing notes.

That’s all for this month. Contributions and comments welcome.


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