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6.51 What do all those medical terms mean? (ER) A-C


This article is from the ER FAQ, by Rose Cooper cooper@acm.cse.msu.edu with numerous contributions by others.

6.51 What do all those medical terms mean? (ER) A-C

The technical reader will, hopefully, forgive me for oversimplifying
things in this section.

+ ABG: Arterial Blood Gas. A lab measurement of, among other things,
the pH and oxygen concentration of arterial blood; the procedure is
known as an arterial stick, and trust me, this is one thing I'll never
tell someone is "just a little prick." It hurts.
+ ACLS: Advanced Cardiac Life Support. A protocol developed back around
1990 that involves the use of drugs, defibrillators, and sequenced
flowcharts to correct most cardiac dysrhythmias.
+ AED: Automatic External Defibrillator. "Idiot proof cardioversion."
Take the pads, pull the adhesive backing off, put them on the patient's
chest according to the diagram, turn the machine on, push the green
button and follow the voice prompts. Very simple, very easy. Might save
a lot of lives; we don't know yet. The data is conflicting.
+ AMA: Against Medical Advice. If I tell you stay put and you leave
anyway, you're leaving Against Medical Advice. It's pretty
+ Angioplasty: An invasive procedure where a catheter with a balloon
on the end is inserted into an artery. The balloon is inflated, and the
catheter withdrawn, kind of like a small plumber's snake. It's a
procedure done to remove the crap that builds up inside the arteries as
time goes on, usually after a heart attack, but sometimes for other
things too.
+ AOB: Alcohol On Breath. Now discouraged in favour of "alcohol-LIKE
odor on breath." Sure. Uh-huh.
+ Bag 'em: To use a bag-valve mask to ventilate a patient.
+ Bounce-back: Someone who is seen again shortly after being discharged
from the same department. You'll hear this as a "bounce-back
+ BP: Blood Pressure. This is two numbers, like 120/80, that represents
the pressure inside the arteries during contraction (systole) and
relaxation (diastole) of the heart, respectively. There are a couple
ways to take a blood pressure, one involving the use of a stethoscope
and the other involving the use of your fingers and the artery. (Okay,
so there's a machine, too. Yeesh.) If it's done the second way, the
pressure is said to be "120 palp," and there's no diastolic measurement.
It's not exact, but it'll do in some situations. (Fun fact: Did you know
that unless the pressure is being taken by a machine, you should never
have an odd number in a BP? Look at a BP cuff sometime and see if you
can figure out why this is the case.)
+ "Bradying down": Bradycardia is a slow (<40) heart beat. Bradying down
is the slowing of the heart rate. See 'tachycardia' for the opposite
+ C-Spine: The first seven vertebrae in the spine, going from the base of
the skull downward; the cervical spine. (C1 through C7, in other words.)
A cross-table c-spine is a kind of x-ray taken laterally across the body
to check for fractures of these vertebrae, a common occurance in
traumatically injured patients.
+ CT/CAT: Computed Tomography/Computerized Axial Tomography. A scanning
technique that involves x-rays, detectors (instead of film plates),
and computers to make pretty pictures of the inside of the body. It
gets a lot of use for things like head injures (because it shows
intracranial bleeding very nicely), but also sees service in other
parts of the body. Expensive.
+ CBC: Complete Blood Count. It's the first test most "ER" doctors order
for the vast majority of their patients, if one is needed. It's pretty
useful. Tells you lots of nifty stuff, like red and white cell counts,
hematocrit, hemoglobin, and some determinations calculated from those
values, because we're mostly too lazy to work it out ourselves, and
besides, the computer's faster at anyway. Those determinations are the
mean corpuscular volume (MCV), the mean corpuscular hemoglobin (MCH),
and the mean corpuscular hemoglobin concentration (MCHC). Some people
report that they don't get platelets and differential counts with their
CBCs, but I always seem to get them whether I order them or not, so I
figure them come free with my tests. :)


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