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Medical Slang

Medical Slang

Medical slang is the slang of doctors, nurses, paramedics and other Hospital and Medical staff. One part of medical slang is the use of technical-looking acronyms to describe patients, co-workers or situations, often facetiously, to other medical professionals. Medical slang is found around the world and has entered popular culture through the medium of hospital dramas such as Casualty (UK) and ER (US).

Facetious or insulting acronyms are now considered unethical and unacceptable because patients can demand access to their medical records. Medical facilities risk being sued by patients offended by the descriptions. Another reason for the decline is that facetious acronyms could be confused with genuine medical terms.

There is an annual round-up of the usage of medical slang by British physician Dr Adam Fox of St Mary's Hospital, London. Fox has spent five years charting more than 200 examples, regional and national terms and the general decline of medical slang. He believes that doctors have become more respectful of patients which has contributed to the decline. While its use may be declining in the medical profession, several dictionaries of the slang have been compiled on the internet.

Descriptions of symptoms
GOK - "God only knows"; confession of ignorance.
P(A)FO - "pissed, (and) fell over" ("pissed" is British slang for "drunk")
PGT - "pissed, got thumped"
TAT - "tired all the time"
UBI - "unexplained beer injury"
SPAK - "status post ass-kicking"
UPF - "Un-passed fart", describing gasseous distention as seen on an xray of the abdomen
FOS - "Full of shit", describing severe constipation that can be seen on an xray of the abdomen
GLF - "Ground level fall," i.e. a fall from standing, not a fall from a height.
DB - dirt ball (dirty person)
Geosphere - technical version of DirtBall (Geo=dirt; sphere = ball)
FOL,GOL,FOS - Fat Old Lady, Gone off Legs, Full Of Shit; An old term used to describe a confused elderly lady unable to exercise at home, now unable to move on her own and badly constipated as a result = causing Toxic Confusional State. Reversible within 10 days with regular bowel care, rehydration, good diet and mobility excersises.
Other acronyms
ATFO - "asked to fuck off", instructed to go away.
CTD - "circling the drain" (expected to die soon)
DBI - "dirt bag index" - a number calculated from number of tattoos and missing teeth.
TTR - "tooth to tattoo ratio," a synonym of DBI. A low TTR indicates that the patient will probably live, especially if he is a trauma patient.
FLK - "funny looking kid" (sometimes used to note Down syndrome or low-level abnormalities of appearance)
BFH - "big fucking head", usually hydrocephalus, often used to describe an FLK as in "Go examine the FLK with the BFH."
GLM - "good looking mum"
GOMER - "get out of my emergency room"; patient, usually poor or elderly, in the emergency room with a chronic, non-emergency condition. Popularized by Samuel Shem in his novel The House of God.
GPO - "good for parts only"
LOBNH - "Lights on but nobody home"; stupid.
NFN - "normal for Norfolk"; not quite normal, possible suggestion of inbreeding as a cause
TEETH - "tried everything else, try homeopathy"
TTFO - "told to fuck off", instructed to go away. (This acronym can also be plausibly expanded to "to take fluids orally" for the benefit of inquiring authorities.)
LGFD - "looks good from door"; used to describe a difficult patient that you do not want to enter the room and interact with.
PBTB - "pine box to bedside"; indicates an imminent demise
FOOSH - "fall on outstretched hand"
TUBE - "totally unnecessary breast exam"
LOL - "little old lady"
AMF-YOYO* - "adios MoFo, you're on your own"
FFDID - "found face down in ditch"
FFDIG - "found face down in gutter"
FOOBA - "found on ortho barely alive"
POPTA - "passed out prior to arrival"
TFTB - "too fat to breathe"
P4P - Penicillin for a penile discharge (back when it was indicated for such)
VD - for Veak and Dizzy - n. Any older person who just doesn't feel "right". No specific complaint, but decided something must be wrong and came to the ER at 2am. "I am just weak and dizzy doc!"
FLK with GLM - covered above, but is a funny looking kid with a good looking mom. Likely a chromosomal abnormality.
FUBAR - "Fucked up beyond all repair;" a patient who is so sick or trauma-injured that they are beyond help, terminal, i.e., the guy who tried to commit suicide with a shotgun, but only blew off half his head and was still breathing when the paramedics arrived.
Slang terms
Terms for occupations
Captain Kangaroo - head of a paediatrics department
Freud Squad - psychiatry department
Gasser, gas passer, gas man - anaesthetist (Note: Gasser's also the name of a class of race car from the late 1950's-early 1970's that ran on petrol, as opposed to alcohol or Nitromethane)
Slasher - surgeon
Short-order chef - morgue worker
Knuckledragger - orthopedist
Flea - internal medicine doctor
Humpty-dumpty doctor - a physiatrist or rehabilitation physician; referring to verse from the popular Grimm Brothers fairy tale that "all the king's horses and all the king's men could not put humpty together again."
Stream team - the urology service collectively
Pecker checker - urologist
Pediatron - pediatrician
Baby catcher - obstetrician
Unclear medicine - nuclear medicine
BoneHo - off-service resident working on Orthopedic service
Cath Jockey - A cardiologist that catheterizes every patient they see. Or one that does cardiac catherizations.
Hammered - To get a bunch of admits while on call. "I got hammered last night with 10 admissions".
Physical Exam Signs
Chandelier sign - n. used to describe a patient who experiences extreme pain during a physical exam and thus "jumps up to the chandelier." Classically used to describe cervical motion tenderness from a pelvic inflammation.
O-sign - n. used to describe a comatose patient with his mouth agape.
Q-sign - n. similar to an O-sign but with the patient's tongue protruding.
Q-dot sign - n. similar to a Q-sign, but with a fly on the tongue. A poor prognostic sign.
Throckmorton sign (USA), also known as the John Thomas sign (UK) - n. used to describe a penis that is visible on xray; tradition dictates that the side that the penis points to will have an abnormal finding.
Other terms
Angel Lust - A death erection.
Code brown - faecal incontinence emergency
Code yellow - urination emergency
Code pink (triangle) - likely homosexual, used in the early days of HIV/Aids when test results took a while to come back.
Slow code - usually an elderly patient who is very ill, but wants everything done so they will not die. Everyone on the medical team disagrees. "Mr. Smith is a slow code". i.e. don't run to get the code cart (take your time).
Slow code to China - same as above.
Psycode - a code blue in a psychiatric hospital. It is always someone passing out from the side effects of their meds.
Brain Fry - Electroconvulsive Therapy, ECT. For depression.
Tattoo titer - a way to measure the likelihood of a patient being insane. The more tattoos (like more than 5) the more likely they are to be crazy.
Tattoo to tooth ratio - a rough measure of social class and hill-billy probabiliy
Last flea to jump off a dead dog - Oncologists who never seem to be able to let people die with dignity.
Crispy critter - severely burnt patient
Departure lounge - geriatric ward
Fascinoma - any interesting or amusing tumor or malignancy
Oligoneuronal - stupid (means 'small number of brain cells')
Plumbum oscillans - 'swinging the lead' (a malingerer)
Plumbii Pendulousus - 'swinging the lead' (a malingerer; used on medical certificates known to be used as an excuse in a Court of Law/Magistrates Court, especially when the Magistrate is known by the Doctor).
Pneumo-cephalic - stupid (means 'airhead')
Pumpkin positive - lacking in intelligence; implies that the patient's brain is so small that shining a torch into their mouth would cause their head to light up like a pumpkin
Peek and shriek - to open a patient surgically, discover an uncurable condition, and close the incision immediately
Head bonk - describing an otherwise uninjured patient who was struck on the head but came to the ER just to be sure.
Crook-U - similar to ICU, SICU, PICU, etc, but is a prison ward in a hospital.
Bounce back - v. to be re-admitted to the hospital shortly after discharge, for the same or related condition.
Bounce-back - n. A patient who has bounced back. For instance "I admitted one of your bounce-backs last night."
Wall - n. A physician (usually a resident) adept at preventing admissions to his service. See "dump" below.
Sieve - n. A physician (usually a resident) who is not skilled at dumping; the opposite of a wall.
Buff - v. to be sure all details regarding a patient's care are attended to so that discharge or transfer to another service or facility will proceed smoothly and no excuses or objections can be raised to prevent the discharge or transfer. For example "Be sure to buff the guy in 702 before we send him to the nursing home." It can also mean that you make up lab and other results, even if you haven't done them, to make yourself look good on rounds.
Turf - v. to transfer a patient to another service. For example "The GOMER was healed from his surgery but his diabetes was still uncontrolled, so we turfed him to medicine."
Dump - v. arranging for a patient who should probably be admitted to your service to be admitted to another service or another facility. Also used as a noun, for example "This guy was a total dump from the private hospital."
Appy - n. an appendix, or a patient with appendicitis.
Choly or Chole - cholecystitis (inflammation of the gallbladder), or a patient with cholecystitis.
Virgin abdomen - n. a patient that has never had abdominal surgery before, implying that there will be little intra-abdominal scarring.
Celestial discharge - n. death.
Trauma handshake - n. a digital rectal exam. Every major trauma patient gets one.
Win the game - v. to discharge all of the patients from your service, so that you have no inpatients to care for. For example "Mike won the game and doesn't have to round this weekend." Also known as a "Yahtzee"
Supratentorial - adj. literally "above the tentorium", loosly meaning "in the brain cortex" and used to imply that something is all in a patient's head, usually right in front of them. For instance "This patient's condition is supratentorial."
Donorcycle - n. a motorcycle.
Digging for worms - varicose vein removal surgery.
Gorillacillin - n. a very powerful antibiotic.
Crump - v. to have a sudden change for the worse.
Code - v. similar to "crump", usually implies that CPR is necessary.
Gorked - adj. unresponsive and nonverbal, either due to sedation or medical condition.
Hallucinoma - n. used when you though you saw something that wasn't really there. For instance "The mass on the MRI turned out to be a hallucinoma."
Shotgun labs - v. to order many labs in the hope that one will be abnormal and give you a clue what is wrong with the patient.
GI Rounds - n. a meal. GI means "gastrointestinal."
Knife and Gun Club - n. local street gangs and other criminal organizations, for example "We have a very active knife and gun club, so the trauma experience is outstanding."
Two dudes - n. This is always the answer when doctors ask a patient who beat them up, as in "I was walking down the street minding my own business when these two dudes jumped me for no reason." The implication is that if it were only one dude the patient would have won the fight.
Tough stick - n. a patient that it is difficult to draw blood from.
Treat and street - v. to treat a patient in the ER or clinic without admitting them to the hospital.
Bean - n. kidney.
Squash - n. brain.
Smashola - n. a patinet with multiple blunt trauma injuries, usually a motor-vehicle accident.
Vitamin H - n. Haldol.
Vitamin V - n. Valium or any sedative given IV
Vitamin L - n. Lasix. Also sometimes called "Vitamin P" because it is a diuretic.
Dance - v. the process of tying a surgical gown behind the surgeon's back; involves a 180-degree spin by the surgeon. "Shall we dance?"
Squirrel - n. a strange patient, particularly one whose eccentricities make your life difficult. There is a related adjective, "squirrelly." A common aphorism is "Squirrels get sick too", used as a reminder not to dismiss such a patient's concerns out of hand because they may actually have a real problem.
trainwreck (synonymous with shipwreck) - adj. patient with multiple medical problems and complications that will keep one up all night
Incidentaloma - something found on a scan that requires action, even though it was not what the discoverer was looking for in the first place. "I found an incidentaloma in the adrenal gland". Likely to be benign in nature, but full of liability risks.