You’ve heard the terms below used time and again in medical dramas. They trip off actors’ tongues like they know what they’re talking about… and so should we, the viewers. Unless you actually are a medical professional, we bet you are uncertain about at least a few of them.
And so, in order for you to confidently view and comprehend medical scenes (and perhaps even impress fellow viewers with your superior knowledge), we give you a quick definition of some of the most commonly used terms. We will not force you to learn to spell them all as we have, though.
acrotic – An extremely weak pulse or no pulse at all.
afebrile – Having no fever (this is a good thing).
CBC – Complete blood count.
chem panel – A series of seven or eight blood chemical tests. One of the most widely ordered sets of tests.
cyanotic – Someone who is cyanotic has bluish skin color resulting from poor circulation and insufficient oxygen in the blood.
echocardiogram – An ultrasound image of the inside of the heart. Not to be confused with an ECG, or electrocardiogram, which measures the heart’s activity through electrodes on the chest. Typically, ECGs generate the long strip of paper TV docs are often seen studying carefully.
edema – An abnormal accumulation of fluid in the body causing swelling.
intubation – The insertion of a tube into a hollow organ or passage. In movies and television, it’s most often seen as the introduction of a breathing tube through the mouth and down the throat, but any hollow organ (intestines, stomach, nose, bile ducts) can be intubated.
ischemia – Decrease or lack of blood supply to an organ or part due to a constriction or obstruction of the blood vessels.
petechial hemorrhage – Small red or purple spots on the skin caused by a minor bleed.
pneumothorax – Air or gas in the space between the chest wall and the lungs causing the lung(s) to collapse.
Ringer’s lactate – A solution used to rehydrate and replenish electrolytes. It consists of sodium chloride, potassium chloride, calcium chloride, and sodium lactate in distilled water.
subcutaneous – Just beneath the skin; i.e. a drug administered subcutaneously would be injected under the skin.
succinylcholine – A short-acting muscle relaxant and local anesthetic.
tachycardia – An abnormally rapid heart rate.
tracheotomy – A procedure whereby an incision is made in the windpipe in order to bypass the nose and mouth. Used to restore breathing. The resulting hole, through which the patient breathes, is called a tracheostomy.