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Posted on 3. November 2011

Medical Short Hand

By Kris McFalls

Text messaging and Twitter have dramatically changed the way we spell, write and talk. Teenagers and the 20-something-year-olds would like to take credit for our LOL (laughing out loud) at our BFF (best friend forever) DYK (Don't ya know)! Okay, I made that last one up. Regardless, I would submit that doctors started this shorthand mania much earlier than today's youth. Doctors often use acronyms to define chronic illnesses and symptoms that although logical in the medical world, challenge the rest of us to a tongue twisting, saliva-spouting, mind-boggling competition of epic proportions that even Webster's Dictionary may struggle to define.
Using acronyms can really come in handy when trying to fit all of your health profile into the one or two lines you are given on a health history form. However, like different language dialects, what you say, how you say it and who you say it to may not convey the message you intend to give.

For instance, a boy with a primary immune deficiency disease (PIDD) seeking a sports physical may not want to declare the acronym some PIDD patients use: PID. Doing so may bring on an examination he most certainly was not expecting given that most of the medical world considers a PID to be a pelvic inflammatory disease. That is why my boys were taught to say CVID! Which, of course, still elicits a blank stare of bewilderment from the medical assistant, but at least it doesn't bring out medical appliances that surely would cause confusion for all.

Patients also need to clearly enunciate when using an acronym. Imagine the confusion for a person with inclusion body myositis who finds themselves getting directions to the bathroom instead of getting to see the doctor after declaring I have IBM.

Sometimes patients with certain diseases might prefer to spell out the entire name of their disease, simply because the acronym may cause a stigma they would rather not face. One such patient might be a guy named Sam who has multifocal acquired demyelinating sensory and motor neuropathy. The acronym for his disease is, you guessed it, MADSAM.

Of course, naming the drugs to treat these diseases takes a medical degree just to understand what they really are. Doctors like to sound really smart by combining all ingredients into one name so long it won't fit in a crossword puzzle, let alone a Scrabble board. Our favorite is the one that brings us all together: immunogammaglobulin. Imagine if we tried to use that in our title instead of IG Living!

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Categories: Life With IG

Comments (1) -

Leta Smith
11:57 AM on Friday, November 04, 2011

I am somewhat reluctant to tell people the acrynom of my disease for two reasons.
1. I always get a blank stare when I tell a nurse, medical assistant or just a friend and, most frustrating, sometimes doctors!

2. It sounds like I have multiple sclorosis, which is another disease entirely.
I have Lambert-Eaton Myasthenic Syndrome or LEMS.  When people hear the MS on the end, they automatically jump to the conclusion that's what I have because I am in a wheelchair.
Most people have never heard of this before.  I am always exuberiant when I find a dr that is familiar with it and even actualy knows something about it.  My cardiologist is one of those.  He actually worked at Mayo Clinic and had contact with several Lems patients there.
To contrast that, I was referred to an Orthopedic surgeon about my shoulder once and he knew NOTHING about it.  I couldn't imagine that he wouldn't since Lems is a neuromuscular disease.  Muscles attach to bones, right? That is VERY frustrating.

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