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A Piece of My Mind
September 10, 2008

Extremities

Author Affiliations
 

A Piece of My Mind Section Editor: Roxanne K. Young, Associate Editor.

JAMA. 2008;300(10):1125-1126. doi:10.1001/jama.300.10.1125

A medical student was presenting the story of the patient she had admitted the previous night: “ . . . he also complained of increasing edema in his bilateral lower extremities . . . .”

I was struck by the phrase “bilateral lower extremities.” Three words. Ten syllables. Bi-lat-er-al low-er ex-trem-i-ties. Why not “both legs”? Two words. Two syllables. Why had this student, like virtually every student I’ve worked with recently, chosen this unwieldy phrase?

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