Nugget of Knowledge: Medical jargon

Doctors use these terms, mainly with the media

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – Watching WYTV, you may hear us give medical conditions. Here’s what they mean:

“Critical” does seem to mean something fairly standard. Critical requires care in a critical care or intensive care unit.

It means there’s a high risk of death in the next 24 hours.

“Serious” means there is a lower likelihood of death, but you still have to watch the patient. You’re better off in “serious” condition than in “critical” condition, but you’re not ready to run a marathon

How about stable condition? That’s not really a condition. It means the patient’s basic vital functions are not changing. No special support is needed.

Then there’s “satisfactory” or “good” conditions. These are more or less judgment calls with no clear definitions.

They’re basically a doctor’s way of saying “don’t worry, he or she will be fine.”

These terms, critical, stable and serious are mostly for the benefit of the media. Most doctors don’t use these words when talking with the families.

Doctors need to use general terms for the quick sound bite. They have less to do with reality and more with using a a simple term to describe a complex situation.

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