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February 3, 2012

Unfamiliar Terms in Medical Charts

As part of every physical therapy evaluation and treatment requires that we look up a patient's medical history. Do this enough and you begin to see patterns emerge. It seems that most people who are ill and end up in the hospital have hypertension, diabetes mellitis, and hyperlipidemia. This triad is known as metabolic syndrome - avoid getting these diseases and you likely cut your risk for being hospitalized.

Then there are terms in the medical history that I've never seen before. These require that I pull out my medical dictionary or, even quicker, go on line and look up the definition. The first of these is Eaton-Lambert Syndrome. Lambert-Eaton syndrome is a disorder in which faulty communication between nerves and muscles leads to muscle weakness. This is a diagnosis that physical therapy can work to improve.

Then there is the term balanitis. My colleagues and tossed this one around, trying to take the root of the word and find a reasonable definition: could it be a swelling of the balance? Is our patient an "uber balancer"? Maybe he's a superhero. Well, my coworkers and I were way off. Unfortunately for the patient, the disorder is much less glamorous and intimate. It does involve swelling, but it involves the foreskin of the penis. There's something you wish you didn't know about a person. I doubt my patient would want me to know either. This is why we have HIPAA laws. As Elaine from the show http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B000VECAEE/ref=nosim/fingertips-20 once said, "I don't know how you guys live with those things."

Yesterday, I stumbled across Laennec's cirrhosis. I know what cirrhosis is, but I had never heard of Laennec's. This type of cirrhosis is related to over consumption of alcohol. The patient who had this in their diagnosis presented with swollen abdomen and really skinny arms and legs, appearing almost like malnourished individuals in impoverished countries.

And finally, while I was checking out a CT report on a patient with CVA, they were found to have encepholomalacia, a degenerative softening of the brain, usually due to a brain injury. But it was the location of the problem, the "opercular region of the temporal lobe" that threw me. We learn brain and spinal cord anatomy in PT school. We learn general functions of the brain regions and how they impact function. But when someone starts getting into the particulars of brain anatomy, I need a review.

This is why blogging is important to me, because it helps me brush up on areas where I have gaps in my knowledge. Better yet, I acquire practical knowledge in the context of my job and how the condition presents in a particular patient. This helps me learn rather than simply memorize facts out of context, which is what much of PT school felt like. I believe this process helped me become a better massage therapist, and I believe it will help me be a better PT clinician, as well.

Posted by linda at February 3, 2012 6:35 AM

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