Medical words that sound similar (and how to deal with them)
Sound-alike words can pose a challenge to Medical Transcription/Healthcare Documentation Specialists. For example, there is a vast difference between ileum and ilium, even though they sound the same. It could be a critical mistake to type the wrong word into a medical report. The ileum refers to the distal portion of the colon while ilium refers to the superior portion of the hip bone. Using the wrong word could make the medical report very confusing and could potentially put a patient’s life at risk.
Understand the context
The best way to avoid problems with sound-alike words is to understand the context of the dictation. It is important to ensure (not insure) you have done thorough research. After researching, if you are not sure of the correct word, flag it! As we like to say, “When in doubt, leave it out!”
Sound-alikes can help
One good thing about sound-alike words is that they can be useful when trying to understand what is being dictated. For example, if you think you are hearing “metatarsal” but the doctor is discussing carpal tunnel syndrome, then you could think to yourself “what sounds like metatarsal but has to do with the wrist,” and you may be able to come up with metacarpal.
Become familiar with them
Below are only a few of the more common medical and non-medical sound-alike words you will probably encounter in the course, as well as in your job as an MT.
abduction – move away from
adduction – move towards
affect – to influence
effect – to bring about
afferent – toward the center
efferent – outward from the center
accept – to receive willingly
except – other than
carotid – artery
parotid – gland
cirrhosis – liver disease
xerosis – abnormal dryness (eyes, skin, mouth)
discreet – reserve in one’s speech/behavior
discrete – separate or individually distinct
compliment – praise
complement – something that completes
dysphagia – difficulty swallowing
dysphasia – difficulty in speaking
ensure – make certain
insure – provide insurance coverage
facial – pertaining to the face
fascial – pertaining to the fascia
miosis – contraction of the pupil of the eye
mitosis – method of indirect cell division
You can find a more extensive list in Appendix C in your AHDI Book of Style. Make yourself familiar with these sound-alikes, and keep them in mind while you are doing your dictations. CanScribe’s Medical Transcription/Healthcare Documentation course will set you up with a ton of dictations that will prepare you for these situations.