Friday, December 10, 2010

Know Your Medical Terms

Ever talk to the vet and wondered what were they saying, what does it mean, and how is it relevant? There are some useful terms to know and to use when talking to your vet.  Here's a few things I thought of but please let me know what else we should add. What do you find useful to know?  Knowing these terms will make you more comfortable when discussing issues and will help your doctor relate better to you.  It's as if you are comfortable discussing things at their level and they understand that you know more than the average owner/patient and it will make the doctor more comfortable with you.

1) Doctors do actually say "the patient presents with".  The patient "presents with" means how is the patient behaving and what is her medical condition or symptoms.  Why they say that I don't know but I picked it up in my work on a project at a hospital. They say "35 year old male presents with ..."  If we are in the ER with a vet who doesn't already know one of our cats, (and by now about half have been there)  I always say "18 month old spayed female with history of...presents with..." Always say the cat "presents with" and list the symptoms-a fever, with breathing difficulty, with a limp, etc. .

2) Diagnosis-what the physician has determined to be the condition of the patient after an exam or tests.

3) Contraindicated-something a cat or person takes or does and shouldn't because of another existing thing which the first thing interferes with. For example, steroids are contraindicated to HCM. Heart patients shouldn't take steroids because it exacerbates HCM.  Steroids are contraindicated to patients taking insulin or who have diabetes meaning they shouldn't take steroids.  Stomach meds are contraindicated to blood thinners like Plavix meaning heart patients shouldn't take certain stomach meds.  So, knowing something is contraindicated will also help you know when things-meds, procedures-should be avoided and why.

4) Mitigate-to have a plan of action to make a condition less severe as in we need to mitigate her condition. Use this word for all other areas of your life as well.

5)Respiratory or breathing rate-the rate at which you or the cat should be breathing.  Normal rate for cats is 25-30 at rest.  For HCM patients, the normal rate can be a bit higher but should be closer to normal. Watching and counting the breathing rate of your cat is a helpful tool in determining if they are in distress or having congestion issues or breathing issues of any kind. To count-use the second hand or stop watch and count how many times the chest rises and falls (a rise and a fall is one count) in 15 seconds. Times that by 4 and you'll have the respiratory rate. So, if normal is 30, divide that by 4 and your cat should breathe 7 1/2 times approx. in 15 seconds.

6) Heart rate-Similar to respiratory rate, it is counted in beats per 15 seconds. Normal heart rate for cats is 160-220.  A low of 130 might be too low for normal cats but sustainable for HCM patients. Myrna's rate is low due to Atelenol medication.  A rate over 220 could indicate distress and the cat should see the vet.

7) Body temperature-normal for cats is 100-102. Anything over 102 ish could indicate that there is a fever/infection but it's still normal.  Anything over 103 indicates the cat is sick and may need meds to bring it down. Anything over 104 is dangerous and the cat is indeed sick (and probably not eating and is sleeping too much or is in distress) and must see the vet as soon as possible. Don't wait until the next before seeing the vet. And do give water by mouth with an eye dropper or plastic syringe. Liquids are needed, about 3 ccs or more if the cat can tolerate it and keep it down. Start slowly first and add more after a few minutes.

8) Mucous membranes-gum tissue, what is examined to indicate if the cat is sick or healthy. The color of the gums is a good indicator of blood perfusion and oxygenation. Gum color is a good indication of illnesses. The normal gum color is pink. If the gums are pale or white, the cat is dehydrated and possibly sick and could need meds and sub q fluids.  If your pet has pigmented gums-dark or other colored gums, lowering the eyelid can also give you an indicator of mucous membrane color. Pale, white, blue or yellow gums are cause for concern and you should contact your veterinarian immediately.

9) Adverse reactions-a bad reaction to a drug or procedure that you want to avoid.  A drug or procedure could cause an "adverse" reaction which means you should be cautious before continuing. An adverse reaction to steroids for HCM patients is congestion in the lungs, causing breathing difficulty.

10) Response rate-how fast can you expect a cat to respond to a drug or procedure before you see changes.

11) MRI-magnetic resonance imaging; CT or Cat scan; Xrays or radiographs; ultrasound; electro cardiogram-all different ways to image a body to see what is inside. Xrays are the simplest and can show bones, size of heart, and congestion in the lungs. To see deep within the tissue or the brain, a patient then needs an MRI or CT.  Heart patients need an echo or electrocardiogram or cardio ultrasound.

12) CBC/Chem 7 or 14 etc.-These are different blood tests which show how the body is functioning especially the kidneys and liver.  There are normal levels which the doctor can describe and the results indicate if the cat is ill in some way.  CBC means a complete blood count and is a helpful tool.  Chem test is a blood test that detects the chemical elements in the body that also indicates how well the body is functioning. It detects electrolytes, sodium levels, potassium, chloride, blood urea nitrogen, creatine, glucose, calcium, etc. all necessary to proper functioning of the body and again indicates an illness if the levels are off.

13) Urinalysis-a test of the different levels of things found in urine. A urinalysis tells if there is bacteria, and what normal rate of white and red blood cells are present.  Also can give details about proteins, potassium, salt, and other things found in urine which indicate the functioning of the kidneys and is also a leading indicator of an illness in the cat.

14) sub q- subcutaneous, meaning that a med or saline fluids are given sub q or into the layers of the skin with a needle and not in a vein and not by IV (intravenous). Animals receive fluids mostly through sub q  whereas humans receive fluids through an IV or intravenous.  Annual shots for example, are given in a vein. If your cat isn't feeling well and the doctor recommends fluids, ask if they are given "sub q" and you'll seem very smart.

15) NPO-Latin for not to have anything by mouth-no food or water-possibly before a blood test or operation.

16) Dispensing medicine terms-the doctor may discuss medicines and will write a "script" or prescription using some of these terms:
  • pr = to take per rectum (a suppository)
  • sq = a subcutaneous shot under the skin
  • au = each ear (ad = right eye, as = left eye)
  • ou = each eye (od = right eye, os = left eye)
How much to take:
  • cc = ml = the number of cc's or ml's to take. The syringe that is used to dispense meds has markings on the side such as 1 ml, 2 ml, with marks in between to note 1/4s such as 1 1/4 ml, etc.  Often the vet will give you premeasured syringes filled with the medicine for your cat. But if you must withdraw the med yourself into a syringe to dispense, put the syringe in the liquid, pull back the stopper in the syringe, draw into the syringe the meds up to the marking that you must fill (for example the 1 ml mark or the 1 1/2 ml mark.) Then dispense to the cat.  Or you can withdraw the meds into the syringe just beyond the point of the amount that you need and push some back into the bottle until you reach the exact mark that you need. 
How often to give meds:
  • q- meaning every.  For example meds given q 12 hrs is meds given every 12 hours
  • qd = once a day
  • bid = twice a day or q 12 hours
  • tid = three times a day
  • prn = as needed
For more medical terms, you can review this website:

Hope these are helpful and let me know what else to add to the list.

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