Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Surgeon speak

Ok, going to try to go a bit lighter in topic today. Last post was just a touch on the heavy side.

I always knew that 97% of surgeons had personality disorders, but I wasn't aware that most of them communicated as well as 5 year old autistic children. Our fun for the last couple of weeks:

Exhibit A:
Dr. Smak: How long until he wakes from the surgery?

Neurosurgeon: He'll be up as quickly as he was from his sedated MRI.

Translation: His Glascow coma score will be 15 out of 15 within a few hours. However, he'll lie in bed and moan for 2-3 days.


Exhibit B:
Neurosurgeon: We got it all out.

Translation: The tumor was successfully resected. Of course, there remains portions that had spread to your son's spine and we know that there is microscopic spread across much of his brain, however, the main tumor is gone.


Exhibit C:
Dr. Smak: Why does he have a lateral rectus palsy since the procedure?

Neurosurgeon: It'll go away. I wasn't anywhere near that.

Translation: Lateral rectus palsies are not uncommon when operating near the brainstem due to stretching of nerve fibers. They generally resolve without intervention.


Exhibit D:
Pediatric surgeon after Hickman catheter placement: There was an abnormality on your son's chest xray....grand pause....He has a small pneumothorax....grand pause...He won't need a chest tube.

This one didn't really need a translation, but come on! Don't use the word abnormality to someone whose kid has cancer. That means metastasis.

Maybe they need mandatory play therapy to work on the concept of empathy.
Ok, so it wasn't puppies-and-bubbles-and-balloons light, but it wasn't lead-anvil heavy either. I'm working on it.

8 comments:

rlbates said...

So very sorry that "we" surgeons seem to have trouble communicating. Mostly though I wish your son's had been able to give you better news--in that "we got all of it" had really meant they got all of it.

Dr. Smak said...

RLBates - it seems that I go out of my way to insult you! (I seem to remember slamming plastic surgeons specifically recently.) Please don't take offense, I'm quite certain you're in the 3% of fully functioning empathic communicative surgeons.

rlbates said...

Dr. Smak, I really don't think you have ever insulted me. I wish I could ease your pain somehow.

Anonymous said...

Hi Dr Smak,
You and yours are an incredible family. You are not a bother or anyone's worst nightmare. Those near and dear would always like to hear from you, no matter what time it is.

Gotta say you were very accurate with the "mumbo jumbo" language that we medical people speak. And unfortunately, now that you are on "the other side" of this jumbo, you are able to remind us of how we often speak "in code".

Many children who are battling autism learn to speak, hopefully we medical types will learn this too.

K3P3

Anonymous said...

Ah, neurosurgeons--bless their hearts! Geez, if what they say is hard for you to understand it must me totally unclear to the average parent. Hang in there.

Bruce said...

Our thoughts are with you and your family!

We could use a good "surgeon-to-English" web-based translation system.

Moof said...

Dr. Smak, please don't feel as if you have to post "lighter" subjects for the sake of your readers. Everyone is thinking of you, and wishing they could do something tangible to help. They won't mind if you lean on them in whatever way is helpful.

PalMD said...

Neurosurgeons always surprise me. They always consult me on patients who look, well, um, dead. I ask them, "Aren't the, er, dead?", and they say, "Just give them a few months...keep their pressure good for us...be patient."
Despite my inherent distrust of surgeons, the patients seem to get better, albeit slowly. I'm starting to really like those guys and what they can do.