Paramedic terminology: 10 phrases everyone should know

Understand some terms related to paramedic care should a loved one need an ambulance


Paramedic terminology can be complex and confusing. That’s because paramedics are highly trained professionals who perform complex life-saving procedures on patients in extreme situations. Nobody wants to become a paramedic’s patient, but if you or a loved one does need paramedic help, there is some paramedic terminology you might want to know.

Here are the 10 paramedic terminology phrases everyone should understand:

1. A.L.S. Advanced Life Support 

Triage is the assignment of degrees of urgency to wounds or illnesses to decide the order of treatment of a large number of patients or casualties.
Triage is the assignment of degrees of urgency to wounds or illnesses to decide the order of treatment of a large number of patients or casualties. (Photo/Wikimedia Commons)

This is paramedic terminology for the advanced level of emergency care they administer using invasive life saving procedures, including intravenous (IV) infusions, tracheal intubation, medication administration and electrocardiogram interpretation.

2. Anaphylactic Shock

This is a collapse of the circulatory system function and decrease in blood pressure from an allegic reaction. Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening condition that can result in death if not treated immediately. It can be caused by an allergic reaction to medications, bee stings, other insect bites and certain foods. Read how a flight paramedic survived an in-flight case of anaphlaxis

3. Atrial Tachycardia

Uncontrolled rapid heartbeat in the atria of the heart. This condition sounds scary, but it’s not life threatening. It can however cause blood clots which can cause a stroke, which is life threatening.

4. Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR)

Most people know this term, but for the uninitiated, CPR refers to a life-saving procedure used when the heart has stopped beating and the patient has stopped breathing. It employs hand pressure on the chest to circulate blood and breathing into the patient’s mouth to introduce air into the lungs. Anyone can learn how to perform hands-only CPR — watch a demo of hands-only CPR — or receive just-in-time CPR instruction from a 911 dispatcher. 

5. Cardiac Arrest

The sudden temporary or permanent cessation of the heart function. Fatal if not treated. Apply an Automatic External Defibrillator as soon as it available.

6. Collapsed Lung 

This can occur as the result of a chest injury such as impact to the chest in a car accident. It can also be caused by lung disease.

7. Supra-ventricular Tachycardia

This condition is life threatening. It denotes a synchronized rapid contraction of the heart ventricles, decreasing cardiac function and will cause death if it isn’t treated and corrected.

8. Triage

This paramedic term involves the prioritizing of medical response according to the severity of the patient's condition or injury. Test your ability to triage 10 mass casuality incident patients with a quiz.

9. Ventricular Fibrillation

Uncontrolled spasm of the heart muscle with no cardiac output. Results in death if not corrected immediately. An electric defibrillator is used to correct this condition through electric shock, allowing the heart to return to a normal rhythm, if successful.

10. Ventricular Tachycardia

Uncontrolled rapid heartbeat produced in the ventricular section of the heart. This reduces cardiac function due to a decrease in ventricle filling. Potentially life threatening if it progresses to ventricular fibrillation.

By knowing the paramedic terminology commonly used in emergency situations, you can better understand the procedures they use in treating patients.

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