Medical Translation – Definition

Medical translations involve documents in the field of medicine and pharmacy. They include the translation of technical, standardization, clinical and marketing documentation, software and training courses on pharmaceutical and medical products and the healthcare system. Specialised medical translations are also required for pharmaceutical and medical product labels, and for clinical trial documentation and medical equipment certificates.

Medical translations belong to the category of specialist translations. They require from the translator not only proficient language skills but also specialist knowledge in the field of medicine and pharmacy.

What types of documents can be translated?

The following documents are translated in the medical industry:

  • marketing materials (descriptions of medical services offered by hospitals, clinics, and doctor’s offices);
  • medical opinions;
  • descriptions of pharmaceutical products (drug leaflets);
  • descriptions of medical equipment (catalogues);
  • scientific publications (articles and books) in the scope of medicine and related fields;
  • laboratory results;
  • results of specialist tests: ultrasound (USG);
  • electrocardiogram (ECG), computed tomography (CT);
  • discharge from the hospital with treatment description (medical history);
  • sick leave documents.

The process of translating medical records

The translation of medical records consists of several stages that are designed to ensure accurate translation and minimize the risk of errors.

Medical documents can be difficult to translate – they contain many jargon phrases and specialized terms. Medical records also provide a space for communication between doctors. In medical translations, all medical records must be translated in their entirety.

The first step is to translate the documentation from the source language to the output language. Then the document is passed to the editor, who checks whether the text has been translated using the correct terminology and whether the style of translation matches the source document. The final document should be properly formatted to maintain the form of the source document. The last step may be giving the document to a proofreader who checks whether the final text has been formatted in the same style as the original, has the correct punctuation, and does not contain errors.

Quality – Standards applicable to medical translations

The medical translation must always be accurate and reflect the source text. Translators need to be familiar with the standards used to create medical texts. These vary depending on the type of document.

The guidelines for the European Medicines Agency (EMEA) apply to drug leaflets and other information on medical and pharmaceutical products. They are updated periodically and the translator must be up to date with all changes.

Translations of documents related to clinical trials conducted in the European Union must comply with the Clinical Trials Directive (e.g. Directive 2001/20/EC, 2005/28/EC).

It is also necessary to comply with standards regarding the naming of diseases. The translations of medicinal products and raw materials are regulated by the European Pharmacopoeia.


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