OMG! How to prevent confusing medical-ese from giving you a "brain attack"

OMG! How to prevent confusing medical-ese from giving you a "brain attack"

Summary: What's the craziest medical term you've ever heard?


Image courtesy of Flickr user ConstructionDealMktng

I was just enjoying fellow ZDNet blogger Zack Whittaker's article on how web-speak has taken over, as evidenced by the inclusion of acronyms such as OMG and LOL in the Oxford English Dictionary.

At first I was incredulous, but it appears to be true. Initialisms have officially arrived.

My first thought upon reading this is to wonder how many English professors are ready to throw in the towel at this point. After all, they've been fighting the good fight against students' use of these hated expressions for so many years.

Now they have to contend with some smartypants whippersnapper shoving the Oxford English Dictionary in their faces and saying,"OMG, Professor! IMHO this change has been too long in coming." How insufferable for the miserable teacher to have to face a classroom of smirking students texting each other and tweeting, "Aah, the lulz. Good times."

I must confess to feeling like the original LOL (little old lady), sitting here picturing classrooms full of fifth graders conjugating the verb "to google," and drawing tiny hearts in the spot where the verb should go in a sentence diagram. It has been over thirty years since I diagrammed a sentence. Do they even do that anymore? *Sigh.*

This started me thinking about how confusing medical-ese can be for the lay person, especially since the medical folks seem to like to change the acronyms and abbreviations for health conditions, treatments, and procedures just as soon as the general public starts to get used to them.

For example, a CAT scan is also called a CT scan. A heart attack is also known as an MI (myocardial infarction). A stroke can be referred to as a CVA (cerebrovascular accident), but there's an advocacy trend toward calling it a "brain attack". Why? Because a stroke is as serious as a heart attack.

For some reason, folks will let grandma walk around with the corner of her mouth drooping for three days before getting around to calling the doctor. If she had chest pains, they'd be dialing 9-1-1 stat.

Stroke symptoms

Speaking of acronyms, you can remember the symptoms of stroke by thinking "F-A-S-T".

F is for Face. If your friend's face looks droopy, or he tells you it's numb, it's time for fast action.

A is for Arm. If one arm seems noticeably weaker than the other, or your pal is unable to lift both arms evenly, it's time to really pay attention.

S is for Speech. If your speech is slurred, and it's not because you've been sippin' on gin and juice, or you can't repeat simple sentences or phrases, get thee to an emergency room.

T is for Time. Time is of the essence. Treatment needs to happen quickly to minimize the damage. Also keep Track of what Time the first symptoms appeared. And Test to see if more than one of these symptoms is present by doing the F-A-S-T test.

Dial 9-1-1, say you suspect a stroke, report your observations, and you may save a life.

Strokes don't just happen to seniors, they can strike at any age. So don't assume it's nothing or it'll pass. Read more about stroke at the web page for the American Stroke Association.

Please, keep an eye on your blood pressure. High blood pressure is a major risk factor for stroke. Lecture over.

Learning more about medical terminology is a great way to make the most of your limited time with your doctor, sound really smart, impress your friends and family, or simply enjoy the next episode of House a little more.

Next time you hear a confusing medical term or acronym, just google it (hey, apparently I don't need to put that in quotes or capitalize it anymore)! Or you could go to Acronym Finder, type it in, and hit the Science & Medicine Tab. But one of my favorite resources is MedicineNet's MedTerms Medical Dictionary A-Z List.

What's the craziest medical term you've ever heard? What's your favorite episode of House? Let us know in the TalkBacks below.

Topics: Security, CXO, Health, Legal, IT Employment


Denise Amrich is a Registered Nurse, the health care advisor for the U.S. Strategic Perspective Institute, and a mentor for the Virtual Campus at Florida's Brevard Community College.

Nothing in this article is meant to be a substitute for medical advice, and shouldn't be considered as such. If you are in need of medical help, please see your doctor.

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  • Been there, done that

    Welcome to ZDNet, Denise. I am loving your blog. I had a (fortunately) minor stroke a few years ago and your advice is right on. As a writer, a stroke is one of my most-feared events and immediate response is crucial, as you point out.

    Welcome again!
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  • RE: OMG! How to prevent confusing medical-ese from giving you a 'brain attack'

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