Torubarova Irina Ivanovana1, Petrova Nadezhda Mikhailovna2
1Voronezh N.N.Burdenko State Medical University, Lecturer of the Foreign Languages Chair
2Voronezh N.N.Burdenko State Medical University, First-year student of the General Medicine Faculty

The article deals with some challenges arising when translating medical records – medical reports, medical cases, lab tests. These challenges are said to be connected with the specificity of the medical documentation as well as appearance of new words describing new diagnostic and treatment methods.

Keywords: challenges of translation, medical documentation

Category: 10.00.00 Philology

Article reference:
Medical records translation: a few characteristic features // Modern scientific researches and innovations. 2016. № 7 [Electronic journal]. URL:

View this article in Russian

INTRODUCTION. Due to globalization there arise new challenges, requiring the development of new professional knowledge and skills for different specialists. Currently an active cooperation and international exchange of experience in the field of medicine and health care are considered to be of great significance. Therefore, importance to perform high-quality translations of medical documents increases nowadays. Medical translation is a highly specialized type of translation, and requires relevant foreign language and special terminology knowledge of the translated text. In addition, characteristic feature of modern medicine is the increase in the number of narrow specialties, the occurrence of new therapies and development of specialized equipment and materials. All this demands increased requirements of interpreter’s qualification. Translation of medical documentation should only be performed by experienced translators who have some knowledge in the field of medicine and pharmaceuticals, because it has a direct relation to life and health.

Characteristic features of medical translation are specialized medical terminology, medical abbreviations, and acronyms. The problem consists also in the fact that every year medical vocabulary is updated with hundreds of new titles, and previously used words and expressions can acquire new meaning. In particular, there appear new words describing new diagnostic and treatment methods expanding the vocabulary of specialized medical areas (such as Telemedicine, Robotic Check-Ups, Needle-Free Diabetes Care, Electronic Aspirin, MelaFind optical scanner)[1].

AIM OF STUDY. To investigate challenges connected with translation of medical documentation: medical reports, medical cases, lab results.

DISCUSSION. Translation of medical documentation requires special exactness and responsibility. There are a lot of challenges that any translator faces working with medical texts but in this study we consider the most wide-spread of them.

Firstly, translation should be targeted, i.e. if it is intended for a patient it is necessary to avoid misunderstanding and specialized terms and abbreviations (except widely known); specialized terms and Latin names are allowed in translations intended for healthcare professionals. For example, term “Babinski, or plantar  reflex” may be unknown for an ordinary person, term “sole reflex” should be used instead.

Next, it should be mentioned that currently a lot of international medical teams work in different medical institutions; their cooperation sometimes leads to appearance of unchanged  or non-adapted words borrowed from different languages, which are used in the medical texts reporting patient conditions. Such words and expressions occur frequently in the documents received by patients in international hospitals and medical centers, which employ multinational healthcare teams. In such cases, Latin terms become of special significance because they are generally accepted at the international level.

(этот кусок дать не подробно текстом, а схемой: international medical teams – borrowed words – misunderstanding)

Furthermore, documentation design should also be taken into consideration. Medical documents from European countries are characterized by tabular, short form, while in Russian medical reports usually have descriptive character and are written in the form of an essay.

Abbreviations represent special challenge for translators. Latin and European languages abbreviations sometimes coincide. Both of them are widely used in written and oral speech of medical professionals. This fact may lead to misunderstanding when translating from European languages. For example, routinely used abbreviation OD , which means oculus dexter (right eye) in ophthalmology, in other cases may be referred to as “occupational disease”, “patients with over dosage of some drug”, “organ dysfunction”, “once daily”, “organ donation”  and others [2]. In such cases translators should be guided by the context or try to find similar documents with the decoded abbreviations. When translating medical abbreviations it is essential to understand clearly the meaning of the original text.

Most often, especially when translating special, scientific-technical texts translators can also create abbreviations from the Russian equivalent terms. When applying this method they need to be confident in the existence of an adequate Russian equivalent or look for this term or abbreviation in the special literature. For example, MDM method stands for  “mesodiencephalic modulation method”, the same – in Russian medical language: МДМ  means «мезодиэнцефальная модуляция»; thus, these terms fully correlate with each other [3]. The situation is different with abbreviation MRN widely used in foreign medical documents – “medical report number”: there is no equivalent Russian abbreviation for this term in the Russian medical texts [4].

In addition to the abovementioned difficulties, medical texts provided for translation, are also characterized by specific lexico-grammar dependence (grammar relations between words become clear only when the lexical meaning is taken into consideration), sentence structure (the problem of determining logical stress in the sentence), improper sentence construction full of detailed definitions, which hinders the establishment of links between words. All this leads to the ambiguity of the translated text.

CONCLUSION. In order to provide proper care and maintenance for patients all medical documents should be clearly understandable. To ensure this, translation of the medical texts should be done by highly-skilled professionals with deep knowledge of medicine and language as well.

  1. Michael MacRae. Top 5 Medical Technology Innovations//, 2013. URL:дата обращения: 23.04.2016)
  2. (дата обращения: 23.04.2016)
  3. (дата обращения: 27.06.2016)
  4. (дата обращения: 27.06.2016)

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