What is this medical referral saying in english?
March 11, 2015 1:03 PM   Subscribe

The referral states: CT brain no contrast - pt with h/o head trauma 2nd to MVA 10 years ago. Huh??? Why don't they write this stuff in english? What the hell are all these anagrams?
posted by manderin to Health & Fitness (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Cat scan [of the] brain with no contrast - patient with history of head trauma secondary to motor vehicle accident 10 years ago.
posted by jaguar at 1:04 PM on March 11, 2015 [25 favorites]

CT/cat scans
posted by jaguar at 1:05 PM on March 11, 2015

jaguar has it.
posted by bilabial at 1:05 PM on March 11, 2015

And contrast is a dye that they put into you so they can see some structures differently than they appear without the dye.
posted by bilabial at 1:06 PM on March 11, 2015 [3 favorites]

And they don't write this stuff in English because it's largely meant to be read by other practitioners who understand the shorthand. And because the shorthand is faster to read and write.
posted by craven_morhead at 1:23 PM on March 11, 2015 [12 favorites]

manderin: "Why don't they write this stuff in english?"

There is a long history of abbreviations in medicine, which stretches back to the practice of using Latin in scientific fields. To this day you can see Latin abbreviations in medicine (BID means "twice a day" in prescriptions and comes from the Latin "bis in die"). There is also the desire to save time and space when writing instructions or taking notes - it's much easier to write (and read) WNL rather than Within Normal Limits. There is also the opportunity to make subtle jokes in a field known for its dark sense of humor. In veterinary medicine "BDLD" stands for "Big Dog Little Dog" which indicates that a patient was injured in a fight with another dog, and ADR is used to describe a patient that has vague and hard to quantify symptoms. It stands for Ain't Doin' Right.

That said, there is a push in most medical fields to limit or do away with unneccesary abbreviations and jargon -- it can lead to misunderstandings and errors -- but it is hard to change habits, especially ones that save time and effort.
posted by Rock Steady at 1:26 PM on March 11, 2015 [17 favorites]

The problem with writing things in English is that English words can have multiple meanings, while technical jargon has (ideally) only one precise meaning.

It also discourages patient tampering with prescriptions (although these are largely electronically transmitted now). It's less obvious (and probably harder) to change "BID" to "QID" than "2x a day" to "4x a day".

Also, as has been noted: people are lazy, and abbrvs save tm. L8R.
posted by IAmBroom at 1:53 PM on March 11, 2015 [7 favorites]

It's 'acronyms' rather than 'anagrams' fyi - an 'anagram is where you rearrange the letters to spell a different word.

When I started working in health someone handed me a list of three and four letter words and said 'yeah, health's an ARE'. I looked blank. 'Acronym-rich Environment', he explained.

On the plus side at least these days they're mainly typed rather than scribbled in incomprehensible ideographs.
posted by Sebmojo at 2:03 PM on March 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

There is also the opportunity to make subtle jokes in a field known for its dark sense of humor.

I shadowed a plastic surgeon briefly in high school. I said I was interested in pediatric plastic surgery. She chuckled and said, "oh, FLKs." When my response was just a confused look, she elaborated: "funny looking kids."

Sometimes you don't want to know.
posted by phunniemee at 2:08 PM on March 11, 2015

Mod note: Folks, straightforward asked-and-answered question should mean it's a thread with just a few answers, not that it's open season for chatter on the topic after the answer appears. I dig wanting to kibitz but that's not really what Ask Metafilter is for, so if you're not answering the concrete question maybe just give it a pass until the next time there's a meaty thread on the blue on the subject.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:14 PM on March 11, 2015 [3 favorites]

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