The Importance of Medical Translation in Modern Medicine

The field of medicine is constantly evolving. New drugs and new medical devices are being developed around the world and new research is being conducted every day. Medical translation is crucial in the effective dissemination of new knowledge and discoveries in modern medicine and other health-related fields like the pharmaceutical industry around the world. The demand for medical translation is relatively constant.


Translation Mistakes with Zero Tolerance When Life Is at Stake

Bad medical translations can endanger lives. Incorrect translation, in particular, has adversely affected the lives of many people. The following are a couple cases where medical translation error has resulted in casualties.

A common example happened in 1980, where an 18-year-old baseball player named Ramirez Willie of Latino decent presented in a comatose state to a hospital in Florida. His family and friends were native speakers of Spanish. When they tried to explain to the doctors what was wrong with Willie, they were assisted by a bilingual hospital staff member. The staff member interpreted the Spanish word “intoxicado” into English as “intoxicated” which means alcohol or drug abuse; however, “intoxicado” means poisoned in Spanish.

Ramirez was wrongly treated for alcohol intoxication instead of food poisoning as a result of the interpreting error. Ramirez was left quadriplegic due to this misinterpretation which delayed treatment for the correct condition. If a professional interpreter had been used, the difference between the Spanish and English term would not have been confused and Ramirez would not have become a quadriplegic.

Another example happened in 2013 in a hospital in Berlin. An instruction manual was inaccurately translated which led to the improper replacement of forty-seven knee prostheses. In English, the prostheses were supposed to have come with the instruction that they were non-modular cemented prostheses. The hospital staff member misinterpreted the words “non-modular cemented” as “non cemented” and translated it in German as “zementfrei” (not requiring cement).

Relying on the information in the manual, the doctors proceeded in installing the prostheses without cement. The horrible result was that 1/3 of patients who received the prostheses complained of serious complications.


Professional Medical Translation Can Save Lives

Make sure you are not putting your patients’ lives at risk by using a bad translation service. Only professional translation agencies with resources and technology at their disposal can create an efficient team for medical translation, terminology management, editing, and proofreading.

Mistakes have harmed people in the past and they will continue to do so unless the highest quality of translation is demanded in every sector related to healthcare.


What Is Professional Medical Translation?

Medical translation helps accurately tackle the issue of language barriers faced by healthcare and pharmaceutical practitioners.

This helps healthcare workers who speak and read other languages and work in hospitals and health centers, the translation of clinical trial documents for experimental drugs for different countries ensures that patients who speak a different language understand instruction manuals for drug medications to avoid taking an incorrect dose and know the appropriate course of action if they have adverse side effects.

Medical translation and other highly demanding translations must be put in the hands of highly-trained, professional translators who are experienced in a given specialty. Medical translators must have an established portfolio of good and effective translation of medical documents with outstanding dependability and depth of information. Medical translators must be highly knowledgeable, passionate, and interested in the text to ensure high-quality work.

Here are some key areas that need professional medical translation:

  • Documentation for drugs
  • Translation of clinical trial and study documents
  • Documentation for medical devices
  • Regulatory standards
  • Packaging and Labeling
  • Marketing material
  • Learning material



Each year, millions of patients undergo medical treatment abroad. For this reason, there is an urgent need for various medical documents to be translated. Inaccurate translation of any term or document used may result in various problems or complications in treatment abroad. Thus, the result of effective healthcare is highly dependent on the accuracy of the translation of medical documents.

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