Standardised Medical Terminology

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T. Loch (Chair), B. Carey, J. Walz, P.F. Fulgham


The continued development of new imaging techniques in urology has had considerable impact on both clinical practice and urologic research [1,2]. The clinical integration of these imaging techniques into urologic practice involves contributions from investigators and clinicians of varied backgrounds including physics and engineering, informatics, urology, and radiology. Each profession has its own jargon, a specialised language that allows for rapid and efficient communication between members of the same profession while minimising the potential for misunderstandings. Abbreviations are an extension of the jargon of each profession, and they enable health care professionals to document their work more easily and communicate quickly.

Abbreviations have generally been adopted on an ad hoc basis to accommodate the often conflicting demands of utilising brief context-sensitive phrases and combinations of letters with the challenging requirements of more rigid, computer software-driven, clinical and research practice; however, this jargon might lead to the problem of several terms for the same object. The differences in terminology and the lack of standardisation of the terminology can lead to confounders, errors, and misunderstandings as well as to loss of information and knowledge.

Most of this development and expansion of terminology has occurred in an unplanned and uncoordinated manner and has been adopted through common usage within specialities rather than by consensus agreement [3]. Various lists of abbreviations and terminologies have been produced by different speciality groups [4,5]. During the review, it was found that a wide variety of terms were used for the same examination, for example, Intravenous Urogram (IVU) was also termed Kidney, Ureter, Bladder (KUB) Urogram or Urography.

Much of this usage has been driven by agreed common practice without reference to any unifying standard of methodology or taxonomy. Taxonomy is a general principle of scientific classification. Organisms are classified into a hierarchy of groupings. The order of ranking is usually from the more general to the more specific to describe and reflect a morphologic relationship [6].

There has been a general lack of international co-operation among different specialities and among different geographic locations for the same speciality. Confusion between the different requirements for digital archive coding systems and research may cause a lack of support to integrate data produced by everyone involved in urology imaging and further promote a diversity of interests.

The benefits of a shared nomenclature for literature research and communication among clinicians are obvious. The absence of agreed on operational nomenclature will inevitably undermine the yield from literature review if different search terms are used. The aim of this work is to review the current nomenclature used for imaging in urology in clinical practice and in the published literature and to propose standardisation of terms using taxonomy.