Have you ever found yourself at the hospital and heard doctors and nurses speak in a language alien to you? Medical language is hard to understand for the layperson as it is, but what happens when you add medical slang into the mix? Well, needless to say, you have lots of confused patients who have no clue as to what is going on? Medical slang is a type of slang used exclusively by doctors, nurses, and other medical health professionals. It typically consists of words that are shortened to a brief form, with abbreviations or acronyms, and fancy-sounding words. You've got to be impressed hearing it all. It is quite an art form one may argue. Why medical slang you may ask? Well, think of it as a kind of shorthand for medical professionals. It is convenient and saves a bit of time for them. You may have heard such medical slangs in hospital shows on TV like Scrubs, ER, House MD, and the like. Even though such medical slangs abound in a hospital situation (verbally), it does not mostly become part of your medical record. The reason of course is that such medical slangs are considered non-words and are not considered appropriate to appear in a professional medical document such as the medical record. So, what are these medical slangs that I speak of?
What follows is a list of some common medical slangs and what the doctor or nurse intend to convey when they use it. This should come in handy the next time you visit your doctor. You'd be in the know of some of the medical speak they use.
List of Medical Slang Words Heard in Hospitals - Medical Slangs Explained
|Medical Slangs||Meaning||Explanation in Layman Terms|
Abnormal heart rhythm
An enzyme - you'd find this in your blood test report. They order it as part of a blood test.
The antibiotic used to treat bacterial infections
angiography or angiogram
Medical imaging study to look inside blood vessels
Usually means the procedure "appendectomy." Can also refer to the appendix or the condition appendicitis.
A component of blood like sodium, potassium, etc. Usually to check levels, tests are ordered as part of your blood test
A bile pigment - tests of which are ordered as part of a blood test.
Slow heartbeat - usually a rate below 50 beats per minute
C. diff or C. difficile
A bacterial species found in human and animal feces. Tests are ordered to check for its presence.
Sounds like "cabbage"
Refers to the abbreviation "CABG"
Stands for "coronary artery bypass graft," also commonly known as "bypass surgery."
catheter or catheterization
Refers to either the medical instrument (catheter) or the procedure (catheterization) - as in heart catheterization.
The act of putting a catheter.
complete blood count
Not strictly a slang, but a medical abbreviation. Found commonly in medical reports under the lab section that lists all lab tests.
circumflex artery or circumcision or circulation
Can mean either depending on the context in which it is used.
Are a group of tests like prothrombin time (PT), partial thromboplastin time (PTT), and international normalized ratio (INR) - used to determine how fast your blood clots.
You would find this as part of your blood test - usually grouped along with hemoglobin.
The neck section of your spine.
Procedure by which the bladder is viewed by a physician using a cystoscope - a tubular endoscope.
dc'd or d ceed or d seed
either discontinued or discharged
If relates to a medication - means "discontinued." An example would be, "aspirin was dc'd (discontinued)." When relates to discharge from hospital, etc., means "discharged." An example would be "patient was dc'd (discharged) to nursing home."
The removal of toxic substances from the body.
A steroid medication used to treat various conditions.
digoxin or Digitalis (medication)
Medication used to treat certain medical conditions - usually heart related.
Do Not Resuscitate
A legal order expressing the desire to not undergo CPR or resuscitative measures or life support - either requested by patient or health care power of attorney.
Usually refers to an endoscopic procedure - viewing of the interior of a canal like an EGD - endoscopic exam of the esophagus, stomach and duodenum.
A type of white blood cell - usually found in lab test reports.
A medication used to treat a number of medical conditions - also as an anesthetic.
A type of bypass in the knee region - used to bypass diseased blood vessels of the knee.
Similar to a colonoscopy, but unlike a colonoscopy only examines the area up to the sigmoid - the distal most part of the colon.
An antibiotic used to treat certain types of bacterial infections.
heme/onc or Hem-Onc
Refers to the twin medical specialties of Hematology and Oncology
hep A, hep B, hep C
Hepatitis A, B, and C
intravenous drug abuse
Surgery to remove a part of the vertebral bone of the spine.
Surgical incision into the abdominal wall to view abdominal organs.
Surgical removal of the gallbladder through laparoscopic or keyhole surgery.
The area of the spine that is your back as opposed to C-spine, which is the cervical or neck area of the spine.
Common electrolytes are sodium, potassium, chloride, bicarbonate, etc. Form part of a blood test and are ordered to help diagnose certain conditions.
The medical specialty!!
met or mets
metastasis or metastases (plural)
The spread of disease from one part of the body to another - usually refers to the spread of cancer from one part to the other!!
myocardial infarction or heart attack
Not a slang but a medical abbreviation commonly used by doctors and nurses.
mics or what sounds like "mikes"
micrograms or mcg
Unit of measure (one-millionth of a gram)
motor vehicle accident
Medical speak for motor vehicle accident
Commonly used by asthma patients - the inhaled form of a medication.
neurologic or neurologist or neurology
The medication used to treat chest pain in people who have heart disease.
OD'd or O deed
Usually on drugs or medications.
The medical condition that causes the thinning or loss of bone tissue/density.
Procedure to measure the level of oxygen in blood.
ped or peds
The medical specialty dealing with the health of children.
The commonly known group of antibiotics.
A cataract procedure where the cloudy lens is broken up and suctioned out.
For example, "prepped for surgery."
Backward flow of blood or food.
Reticulocyte is a young red blood cell. Retic counts are ordered as part of some blood tests.
shortness of breath
Can be misunderstood so easily by the layman :)
sat or sats
saturation or saturations
Usually refers to oxygen saturation or O2 saturation - a common test ordered by doctors and forms a part of the patient's vital signs.
In reference to the above!
Slang for doctor's prescription.
A lab test - usually ordered to know the rate at which blood cells sediment in an hour.
at once or immediately.
For example, "stat. blood test" would mean the doc wants the blood tests done at once!
The twin bones of the leg - the tibia and the fibula.
Usually refers to the maximum temperature recorded during a fever episode.
Testing a patient for drugs in the blood.
A procedure where an opening is made into the trachea or windpipe.
The part of the spine between the neck and the abdomen.
Abnormal heart rhythm - potentially life-threatening.
Rapid heartbeat originating in the ventricles.
An antibiotic medication.
Well, these are just some of the medical slangs you may hear in a hospital. Needless to say, there may be countless more that doctors may have come up with. Rarely would one find so many slangs, abbreviations, jargon as you would find in the medical field. It isn't fun though when you, as the patient, are out of the loop and have no clue to what is being talked about.
Well, perhaps now, you'd be a bit wiser on some of the medical jargon spoken about by doctors and nurses. So, the next time you visit a hospital, you can perhaps test out your knowledge of medical slangs and be in on the medical speak and not be a baffled spectator to the goings-on!!
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is only for educational purposes and should not be construed as medical advice. There may be multiple meanings attributable to a given medical slang and the meanings may vary across medical facilities or individual physicians. This list reflects only the common meanings attributable to these slangs in America in general.
d.william from Somewhere in the south on February 26, 2012:
Interesting concept for a hub. As an old retired R.N. it made me chuckle as well. When we speak (spoke) amongst ourselves in the hospital setting using some of these 'slang' words, i never really gave it a second thought. Sometimes these shortened versions of words were used deliberately so as not to frighten the patient.
Shil1978 (author) on February 24, 2012:
Thank you, thelyricwriter, for stopping by and commenting. Thanks for the good stuff - am glad this would help you understand hospital jargon.
I sure hope you don't have to visit the hospital, or very often! About their writing, well, the less said the better :) Take care you too, esp since you seem to be accident prone!!
Richard Ricky Hale from West Virginia on February 23, 2012:
Voted up, useful, awesome, and interesting. What a great idea for an article Shil. As I seem to be accident-prone, I find myself at the hospital more then I like to be. Now I will know what they are saying. Wonder if anyone can crack their writing? Very informative and useful article. Take care and see you around.
Shil1978 (author) on January 03, 2012:
Sush, thanks for stopping by and commenting. Glad you found this hub useful :)
Sushmita from Kolkata, India on January 02, 2012:
Shil1978, this is so wonderful. I had not read it earlier. I could tally a few to instances in my memory. This hub is useful.
Shil1978 (author) on October 24, 2011:
Am so glad your wife found this useful, RG. I hope it helps her with her medical coding course! Thanks for letting me know - its always a nice feeling knowing a hub written by me has helped someone :)
RGNestle from Seattle on October 24, 2011:
My wife loves this. She's now taking medical coding and asked me to print this out since it's such a nice "cheat sheet". Thanks!
Shil1978 (author) on October 23, 2011:
Thank you, drbj, for stopping by and commenting. Glad you found this hub useful! You are welcome - it was fun compiling this list :)
drbj and sherry from south Florida on October 23, 2011:
This is a very useful list of common and uncommon medical terms, Shil. Thanks for taking the time to compile and publish it.