Mastering medical English is an indispensable skill for medical professionals, regardless of their native tongue, in the globalized world of medicine. The ability to communicate effectively in English has become a prerequisite for medical professionals to navigate the rapidly evolving landscape of healthcare.
In this article, we explore the vital role that medical English plays in the practice of medicine. At Break Into English, our mission is to help professionals master English in their highly specialized fields. To do so, here are 50 common and important medical English terms with definitions and examples:
50 essential terms to master medical English
- Anemia: a condition where the body lacks sufficient red blood cells. Example: The patient was diagnosed with anemia and prescribed iron supplements.
- Anesthesia: medication that is prescribed to a patient to block pain and induce a state of unconsciousness during surgery. Ex: The woman was given anesthesia before their surgery.
- Angiogram: a medical test that uses dye and X-rays to visualize blood vessels. Ex: The patient underwent an angiogram to check for blockages in her heart.
- Antibiotics: medications that are used to treat bacterial infections. Ex: The patient was prescribed antibiotics to treat their pneumonia.
- Anticoagulants: medications that are used to prevent blood clots. Ex: The patient was prescribed anticoagulants after their surgery to prevent blood clots.
- Appendicitis: inflammation of the appendix that can cause severe abdominal pain. Ex: The patient was admitted to the hospital with symptoms of appendicitis.
- Arthritis: inflammation of the joints that can cause pain and stiffness. Ex: The patient was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and prescribed medication to manage their symptoms.
- Asthma: a condition where the airways become inflamed and narrow, making it difficult to breathe. Ex: The patient was prescribed an inhaler to manage their asthma symptoms.
- Biopsy: a medical procedure that involves removing a small sample of tissue for examination. Ex: The elderly woman had a biopsy of her breast tissue to check for cancer.
- Bronchitis: an inflammation of the bronchial tubes that causes coughing and difficulty breathing. Ex: The patient was treated for bronchitis with antibiotics and inhalers.
- Cancer: a group of diseases characterized by abnormal cell growth. Ex: The patient was diagnosed with lung cancer and started chemotherapy treatment in hopes of surviving.
- Catheterization: a medical procedure that involves inserting a thin tube into the body to drain fluids or administer medication. Ex: The patient had a urinary catheter inserted to monitor their urine output.
- Chemotherapy: a treatment for cancer that uses powerful drugs to kill cancer cells. Ex: The man received chemotherapy to treat their leukemia.
- Corticosteroids : a group of hormones which may be used to suppress the body’s immune response or to reduce inflammation. Ex: The man received an injection of corticosteroids for his swollen ankle.
- CPR: Cardiopulmonary resuscitation, a technique used to revive a person who has stopped breathing or whose heart has stopped beating. Ex: The medical team performed CPR on the elderly man who had a heart attack.
- CT scan: stands for Computed Tomography scan, a medical imaging technique that uses X-rays and computer processing to create detailed images of the inside of the body. Ex: The patient had a CT scan to diagnose their lung cancer.
- Diabetes: a condition where the body is unable to properly process glucose. Ex: The child was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and prescribed insulin.
- EKG/ECG: Electrocardiogram, a test that measures the electrical activity of the heart. Ex: The young man had an EKG to monitor their heart function.
- Electrocardiogram: a test that measures the electrical activity of the heart. Ex: The dog had an electrocardiogram to diagnose an irregular heartbeat.
- EMT: Emergency Medical Technician, a medical professional who provides emergency medical care in the field. Ex: The EMTs arrived at the scene of the accident and provided first aid to the injured passengers of the car.
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- Endoscopy: a medical procedure that involves inserting a thin, flexible tube with a camera into the body to visualize internal organs. Ex: The patient underwent an endoscopy to examine their digestive system.
- Glucose: a type of sugar that is the main source of energy for the body. Ex: The patient’s glucose levels were high, indicating diabetes.
- Hemoglobin: a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen. Ex: The patient’s hemoglobin level was low, indicating anemia.
- Hemorrhage: excessive bleeding that can be life-threatening. Ex: The patient suffered a hemorrhage after their car accident and required a blood transfusion.
- Hypertension: high blood pressure that can lead to cardiovascular disease. Ex: The patient’s hypertension was managed with medication and lifestyle changes.
- ICU: Intensive Care Unit, a specialized unit in a hospital that provides care for critically ill patients. Ex: The patient was transferred to the ICU after their surgery due to complications.
- Immunizations: vaccinations that are given to prevent infectious diseases. Ex: The patient received immunizations for the flu and measles.
- Infection: a condition caused by the invasion of microorganisms into the body. Ex: The patient developed an infection after their surgery and was given antibiotics.
- Intramuscular injection: a method of administering medication into a muscle. Ex: The patient received an intramuscular injection of pain medication.
- Intravenous catheter: a thin, flexible tube that is inserted into a vein to deliver fluids, medication, or nutrition directly into the bloodstream. Ex: The nurse inserted an intravenous catheter into the patient’s arm to administer antibiotics.
- Intubation: a medical procedure that involves inserting a tube into the airway to help a patient breathe. Example: The patient required intubation during their surgery due to complications.
- IV: Intravenous, a method of administering medication or fluids directly into the bloodstream. Example: The patient was given fluids through an IV to prevent dehydration.
- Meningitis: inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord. Example: The patient was diagnosed with meningitis and admitted to the intensive care unit.
- MRI: Magnetic Resonance Imaging, a medical imaging technique that uses a strong magnetic field and radio waves to create detailed images of the inside of the body. Example: The patient had an MRI to diagnose a brain tumor.
35. Myocardial infarction: a heart attack caused by a blockage in the coronary arteries. Example: The patient was diagnosed with a myocardial infarction and rushed to the hospital.
36. Oxygen saturation: a measure of the amount of oxygen in the blood. Example: The nurse checked the man’s oxygen saturation level with a pulse oximeter.
37. Palliative care: medical care that focuses on relieving pain and symptoms in patients with serious illnesses. Example: The patient was receiving palliative care for their terminal cancer diagnosis.
38. Pulmonary embolism: a blockage in one of the pulmonary arteries in the lungs, often caused by a blood clot. Example: The patient was diagnosed with a pulmonary embolism and received anticoagulant therapy to prevent further blood clots.
39. Radiation therapy: a treatment for cancer that involves the use of high-energy radiation to kill cancer cells. Example: He received radiation therapy to treat their prostate cancer.
40. Resuscitation: medical intervention to revive a patient who has stopped breathing or whose heart has stopped beating. Example: The medical team performed resuscitation on the woman who was in cardiac arrest.
41. Sepsis: a life-threatening condition caused by the body’s response to an infection. Example: The man was diagnosed with sepsis and admitted to the ICU.
42. Stroke: a sudden interruption of blood flow to the brain that can cause severe damage. Example: My uncle suffered a stroke and was rushed to the hospital.
43. Surgery: a medical procedure that involves cutting into the body to repair or remove tissue. Example: My father underwent surgery to remove their gallbladder.
44. Triage: the process of sorting patients based on the severity of their condition to determine priority for treatment. Example: The medical team used triage to prioritize victims of the attack in the emergency department.
45. Ultrasound: a medical imaging technique that uses high-frequency sound waves to create images of the inside of the body. Example: My aunt had an ultrasound to determine the cause of their abdominal pain.
46. Vein: A blood vessel that takes blood back to the heart. Example: Her sister was rushed to the hospital after having severed a vein in a car accident.
47. Ventilator: a machine that helps a patient breathe by delivering oxygen to the lungs. Example: Our grandmother was placed on a ventilator after their surgery to help him with breathing.
48. Virus : A micro-organism that invades living cells in order to grow and reproduce. Viruses cause countless infections, from the common cold, chickenpox and measles. Example: He caught the HIV virus by sharing needles to inject intravenous drugs.
49. Vital signs: measurements of basic body functions, including blood pressure, heart rate, respiratory rate, and temperature. Example: The nurse monitored her vital signs every hour.
50. X-ray: a medical imaging technique that uses X-rays to create images of the body. Example: The child had an X-ray to check for a broken bone.
Summary of medical English
Medical English is a specialized form of language that is unique to the medical profession. It encompasses the technical vocabulary and syntax that is required for medical communication, from the use of medical terminologies to medical history-taking and report writing. Medical English serves as the lingua franca of the medical world, enabling medical professionals from different countries and cultural backgrounds to communicate and work together effectively.
The importance of English for medicine cannot be overstated for medical professionals who do not speak English as their first language. These professionals must master the nuances of Medical English to provide the best care possible to their patients. By understanding medical terminologies and communicating effectively with patients, medical professionals can diagnose and treat illnesses with greater accuracy and efficiency.
Moreover, it is crucial for effective collaboration among medical professionals worldwide. Medical professionals must communicate clearly and concisely in written reports, research papers, and other documents to ensure that their findings are understood by colleagues and the wider medical community. In this way, Medical English enables medical professionals to contribute to the advancement of medical knowledge and practice.
The interdisciplinary nature of medical research and practice further underscores the importance of English in the medical sector. Medical professionals must collaborate with experts from other fields such as physics and engineering to develop new technologies and treatments. Medical English serves as the common language that enables these experts to work together, innovate, and push the boundaries of medical knowledge and practice.
In conclusion, Medical English is an essential skill for medical professionals, particularly those who do not speak English as their first language. Medical English enables medical professionals to communicate effectively with patients, collaborate with colleagues worldwide, publish research papers and contribute to the advancement of medical knowledge and practice. The mastery of the terminology is not only a matter of professional development but also a matter of patient care, as it enhances accuracy, efficiency, and cultural sensitivity in medical practice.
And now, to practice your newly acquired knowledge, here’s a 20-question multiple-choice quiz!
- What is the most common symptom of bronchitis?
a) Chest pain
b) Shortness of breath
d) Sore throat
- Which of the following organs is responsible for regulating blood sugar levels?
- Which of the following medications is commonly used to treat high blood pressure?
- What is the medical term for a blood clot that travels to the lungs
b) Myocardial infarction
- Which of the following imaging techniques uses a magnetic field and radio waves to produce images of the body?
b) CT scan
- What is the medical term for a viral infection that affects the liver?
- Which of the following is a symptom of diabetes?
a) Chest pain
c) Blurred vision
- Which of the following devices is used to measure oxygen saturation in the blood?
c) Pulse oximeter
- What is the medical term for a medical procedure that involves removing a sample of tissue for examination?
- Which of the following is a symptom of meningitis?
a) Joint pain
b) Chest congestion
c) Stiff neck
d) Blurred vision
- What is the medical term for a type of cancer that affects the blood and bone marrow?
- Which of the following is a symptom of a heart attack?
- What is the medical term for a condition in which the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues?
d) Multiple sclerosis
- Which of the following is a symptom of anaphylaxis?
d) All of the above
- What is the medical term for a device that is used to treat sleep apnea?
c) CPAP machine
d) BiPAP machine
- Which of the following medications is used to treat anxiety disorders?
- What is the medical term for a type of stroke caused by a blockage in a blood vessel in the brain?
a) Hemorrhagic stroke
b) Ischemic stroke
c) Transient ischemic attack
- Which of the following is a symptom of Parkinson’s disease?
b) High fever
c) Chest pain
d) Sore throat
- What is the medical term for a condition in which the bones become weak and brittle?
c) Rheumatoid arthritis
- Which of the following is a symptom of a urinary tract infection?
a) Chest pain
c) Painful urination
1.b / 2.b / 3.c / 4.a / 5.c / 6.d / 7.c / 8.c / 9.a / 10.c / 11.c / 12.c / 13.a / 14.d / 15.c / 16.b / 17.b / 18.a / 19.a / 20.c
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