Views & Reviews Personal View

Commonly used, easily confused: let’s eliminate hyper and hypo

BMJ 2010; 341 doi: (Published 20 October 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;341:c5867
  1. Adam Frankel, surgical registrar and member of medication safety team,
  2. Phillip Vecchio, director of rheumatology and chairman of medication safety team
  1. 1Princess Alexandra Hospital, Woolloongabba, Queensland
  1. a.frankel{at}, phillip_vecchio{at}

Medicine is steeped in tradition, more so than most other professions. Perhaps with the exception of legal studies no field is so heavily dominated by terms derived from classical ancient languages (especially Latin and Greek). In contrast, particularly in recent times, there has been much focus on the need for better communication in medicine, whether among professionals or with our patients.1 2 3 Indeed poor communication (in a variety of guises) is an oft cited cause of iatrogenic error, itself a cause of morbidity, mortality, and litigation in hospitals the world over. Avoidable medication errors form a large part of this group.

A useful method of improving communication is to avoid specialty specific jargon across multidisciplinary teams.4 However, some words in common use among a wide range of health professionals can also be a source of confusion and error. A case at our hospital illustrated this.

During a busy morning a patient in the intensive care unit was noted by a doctor to have high blood pressure requiring immediate …

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