published between 2017 and 2020
Medicine has a long history of having its own technical and discriptive language.
This has often developed from observations of medical phenomena being explored and cataloged scientifically, presented in a way that is descriptive and useful for clinicians.
Ireland is a country defined by it literature. It is famous for its coloquial language and linguistic idiosyncrasities. From Joycian ‘chamber music’ to Wildes’ wit and Irish idioms like ‘being away with the fairies’, it is clear that we more than most have our own way with words.
This is not disimilar to many parts of the world where dialects have evolved to better represent the cultural nuiances of the given area. In many ways language evolves out of a need to communicate amongst each other.
In Ireland, specifically the geographically isolated West coast, many patients present to their family doctor reporting that they are ‘caught in the chest’. For some, particularly as you move away from the West and certainly out of Ireland, this may seem an unusual symptom or at least an unusual turn of phrase, but for a GP from the West of Ireland, this presentation occurs at least several times a day and more frequently during the winter months.
So what exactly is the message that these patients are trying to convey and why indeed is it such a common presentation?
This description of the sensation they are experiencing generally refers to patients with respiratory tract type infections. M...
This description of the sensation they are experiencing generally refers to patients with respiratory tract type infections. Moreover, it appears to be an attempt to describe the sensation that the a patient’s lungs are full of sputum, which they feel unable to expectorate. Obviously this rara avis is not unique to these rural outposts of Ireland but interestingly the term ‘caught in the chest’ is to a certain extent an Irish phenomena. A straw pole of my international colleagues tells me that while similar descriptions exist, the actual phrase itself may be intrinsically linked to Ireland. This author would be interested to hear of alternative coloquial expression for this phenomena?
The language of medicine has evolved over time, from ancient greek and latin origins to more contemporary technical ‘jargon’ to describe molecular medicine and modern pharmacology. Strangely, despite this, no documented terminolgy for this most common of presentations exists. As such, one feels burdened to try to characterise it in a descriptive manner which would lead to its ease of annotation and consitent universality of expression. In essence, all words are about semantics and to have a meaningful descriptor for something so common can only but help further the cause of our medical endeavours.
After careful consideration and many unsuccessful attempts, I believe ‘mucopleuralstasis’ to be an apt description of this phenomenon. Of course simply presenting a new word in isolation is not sufficient, so further to this it is important to define it. As such, it follows:
Mucopleuralstasis: adjective, muco (pertaining to mucous / secretions / sputum) pleural (related to the pleural viscera and pulmonary organs) and stasis (stagnant or imovable).
Synonm: ‘caught in the chest’
Use: Doctor I feel like I am caught in the chest.