2012.4-24.Similar names

DOI: 10.7241/ourd.20124.86                                                                     article in PDF
Our Dermatol Online. 2012; 3(4): 367-368
Date of submission: 26.06.2012 / acceptance: 21.07.2012
Conflicts of interest: None



Ahmad Al Aboud1, Khalid Al Aboud2

1Dermatology Department, King Abdullah Medical City, Makkah, Saudi Arabia
2Pathology Department, Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, NC, USA

Corresponding author: Dr. Daifullah Al Aboud    e-mail: dalaboud@hotmail.com


In medicine, one can find easily an abbreviation which stand for few different things as well as many similar words. The similarities in the words in medical field include the names of the drugs and the names of the diseases. The names might be similar in „written communications’’ which is known as ”look alike’’ or in „verbal communications’’ which is known as „sound alike’’. In a busy health care work environment, drug products are often mistaken for other products because of similar names. Hundreds of articles have been published about „Look alike and sound alike’’ drugs. These papers listed the drugs with a similar names in each specialty and discussed the possible confusion which may result among them. The different strategies to tackle this confusion have been elaborated [1-5]. The similarities in the names, specially, of drugs in medical field, are a cause of confusion to the health care providers and hence a great source of risk to the patients. Medication errors contribute substantially to patient injury and death, with 25% of these errors attributed to drug names that look or sound alike [5]. Errors involving look-alike names are common when the names are handwritten and errors with sound-alike names are common when the names are spoken. The problem involves both brand names and generic drug names. However, brand (proprietary) names are the most common to be confused.
Examples of the numerous drug names that have been confused because they look and/or sound similar include Celebrex (celecoxib), Cerebyx (fosphenytoin), and Celexa (citalopram) [3]. In another example, the antihistamine Zyrtec syrup (cetirizine) has been confused with the histamine H2- receptor antagonist Zantac syrup (ranitidine) for pediatric patients.
Factors such as poor handwriting and clinical similarity may exacerbate the problem. Several Measures to decrease medication errors due to confusing drug nomenclature are suggested, in order to maximize patient safety [1-4].
For instance ,in medication orders that are communicated orally, whether in person or by telephone or other auditory device. It is recommended that drug names be confirmed by spelling the name, providing both the brand name and the generic name, or providing the indication for use. It is also recommended that the person receiving the order repeat it to the person transmitting the order. Storing similarly named drugs separately and using auxiliary labels to differentiate the products in medication storage areas, was also suggested [1-4].
Overall, this problem can be alleviated through actions by regulatory agencies, pharmaceutical manufacturers, healthcare professionals, and patients [1-4].
In dermatology, in particular, confusing dermatologic drug names do, also, exist [5].
Moreover, the problem of „look- or sound-alike’’ names is not limited to the drugs but also involve the names of the diseases and other terms in dermatology literature.
As a matter of fact, one can find a single term, for two different things.
Hutchinson’s sign is a clinical sign which may refer to two different things [6,7]. The first is the pigmentation of the nail fold in association with melanonychia as a sign of melanoma. The second thing, is skin lesion on the tip of the nose as a sign of ophthalmic herpes zoster. This occurs because the nasociliary branch of the trigeminal nerve innervates both the cornea and the tip of the nose. This sign is named after Sir Jonathan Hutchinson (1828 –1913), who was an English surgeon, ophthalmologist, dermatologist, venereologist and pathologist [7].
The most common type of names which may cause confusion with other names is the eponyms. An eponym is a name that comes from a person’s name [8,9].
Possibly for non-dermatologist, one may think that ‚’Sweet’’ in „Sweet’s syndrome’’, is „a taste of sugar’’. But, this syndrome was named for Dr Robert Douglas Sweet, who first described it 1964 [10].
Similarly, „Mali’’ in the term acroangiodermatitis of Mali [11,12], does not refer to Republic of Mali but for Dr Mali, who described it 1965, in 18 patients having mauve colored
macules and papules predominantly over the extensor surface of feet with underlying chronic venous insufficiency [11]. Similar name might be thought for and confused with another person, for example verrucous carcinoma of Ackerman is named after Lauren Vedder Ackerman (1905-1993) and not, A. Bernard Ackerman (1936-2008). One may see also identical names for 2 different eponyms. For examples „Sjögren’’ in „Sjögren’s syndrome’’ (Sicca syndrome), is named after Henrik Samuel Conrad Sjögren (1899-1986), Swedish ophthalmologist. Whereas, „Sjögren’’, in „Sjögren-Larsson syndrome’’, is named after, Karl Gustaf Torsten Sjögren (1896-1974), Swedish physician, psychiatrist and inheritance researcher [13]. Similarly, „Stewart’’ in „Stewart-Treves syndrome” [14], (a malignancy that arises within chronic lymphedema), is different from the one in’’ Stewart-Bluefarb syndrome’’. The latter is a type of acroangiodermatitis which was described independently by Stewart as well as by Bluefarb and Adams on the legs of patients with arterio-venous malformations [11]. The term, pseudo-Kaposi sarcoma, is generally used synonymously with acroangiodermatitis of Mali, but is a broader term and includes both acroangiodermatitis of Mali and Stewart-Bluefarb syndrome [11]. We have also published that, there are 2 „Bart’s’’ in the eponyms of dermatology. Dr Bruce J Bart, who is behind „Bart syndrome’’, and Dr Robert Bart, who was one of the men behind „Bart-Pumphrey synrome’’ [15]. „Look-alike or sound-alike’’ eponyms are not rare. This is because there is extensive list of eponyms bearing the name of the same scientist [16,17]. In Table I, we listed examples of scientists whose names are eponymously linked to more than one condition in dermatology literature. It goes without saying that consolidation of the nomenclature is needed in medicine. The concept of „re-naming’’ the similar names of drugs or diseases, to prevent possible confusion, has been debated over the years and there is a still controversy over this topic. Neverthless, healthcare providers need to be, at least, vigilant about the similarities in the names, in particular those which may potentially cause a patient harm.
Examples of diseases linked his name
Abraham Buschke (1868-1943),
German dermatologist
Buschke-Löwenstein tumour
1Verrucous carcinoma of genital skin
Abraham Buschke (1868-1943),
German dermatologist
Buschke-Ollendorff syndrome
Dermatofibrosis lenticularis disseminate
Henri Gougerot (1881-1955),
French dermatologist
Gougerot-Blum disease
Lichenoid type of pigmented purpura
Henri Gougerot (1881-1955),
French dermatologist
Gougerot-Carteaud papillomatosis
Confluent and reticulate papillomatosis
François Henri Hallopeau (1842-1919), French dermatologist
Acrodermatitis continua of Hallopeau
Pustular eruption of the fingers and toes
François Henri Hallopeau (1842-1919), French dermatologist
Hallopeau-Siemens syndrome
Recessive dystrophic epidermolysis bullosa
Josef Jadassohn (1863-1936),
German dermatologist
Jadassohn-Lewandowsky syndrome
Pachonychia congenita
Josef Jadassohn (1863-1936),
German dermatologist
Nevus sebaceous of Jadassohn
Yellowish to orange or tan hairless plaquelike lesions, usually present at birth
Table I. Examples of scientists whose names are eponymously linked to more than one condition in dermatology literature

1. Santell JP, Cousins DD: Medication errors related to product names. Jt Comm J Qual Patient Saf. 2005;31:649-654.
2. Cohen MR: Medication errors. The suffix problem: will the F.D.A. solve it? Nursing. 1990;20:17.
3. Hoffman JM, Proulx SM: Medication errors caused by confusion of drug names. Drug Saf. 2003;26:445-52.
4. Al Aboud A, Al Aboud K: From where did the names of dermatology drugs and brands come from? J Pak Asso of Dermatol. 2008;18:165-6.
5. Gremillion L, Hogan DJ: Dermatologic look- or sound-alike medications. J Drugs Dermatol. 2004;3:61-4.
6. Al Aboud K, Al Hawsawi K, Ramesh V, Al Aboud D, Al Githami A: Cutaneous signs. Skinmed. 2003;2:104-7.
7. van Ruth S, Toonstra J: Eponyms of Sir Jonathan Hutchinson. Int J Dermatol. 2008;47:754-8.
8. Al Aboud K, Al Hawsawi K, Ramesh V, Al Aboud D, Al Githami A: An appraisal of terms used in dermatology. Skinmed. 2003;2:151-3.
9. Al Aboud K, Al Hawsawi K, Ramesh V, Al Aboud D, Al Githami A: Eponyms in dermatology. Skinmed. 2004;3:11-2.
10. Sweet RD: „An acute febrile neutrophilic dermatosis”. Br J Dermatol. 1964;76:349-56.
11. Jindal R, De D, Dogra S, Saikia UN, Kanwar AJ: Acroangiodermatitis of Mali in a patient with congenital myopathy. Dermatol Online J. 2010;16:4.
12. Mali JW, Kuiper JP, Hamers AA: Acroangiodermatitis of the foot. Arch Dermatol. 1965;92:515-8.
13. Al Aboud K, Al Aboud D: Karl Gustaf Torsten Sjögren and the Sjögren-Larsson syndrome. Dermatol Reports. 2011;3:74-e34.
14. Aguiar Bujanda D, Camacho Galán R, Bastida Iñarrea J, Aguiar Morales J, Conde Martel A, et al: Angiosarcoma of the abdominal wall after dermolipectomy in a morbidly obese man. A rare form of presentation of Stewart-Treves syndrome. Eur J Dermatol. 2006;16:290-2.
15. Al Aboud A, Al Aboud K: Separating ‚’Bart’s’’ apart in dermatology eponyms. Our Dermatol Online. 2012;3:64-5.
16. Al Aboud A, Al Aboud K: Josef Jadassohn (1863-1936), Felix Lewandowsky (1879-1921), and their syndrome. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2011;4:179-82.
17. Al Aboud K: Rudolf Happle and the dermatology eponyms linked to his name. Our Dermatol Online. 2012;3:143-44.



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