Hospital slang

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Mon Aug 15 02:17:23 UTC 2005

At 11:01 PM -0400 8/11/05, Douglas G. Wilson wrote:
>>My wife had to get a CAT scan today. She reports that hospital
>>personnel referred to that awful barium drink that you have to take as
>>a "barry slushie."
>CT oral contrast material is either very dilute barium sulphate suspension
>or a solution of an iodine compound, and I'm not sure the patient would be
>informed of which one he would receive. Either way the consistency would be
>like that of water (or close). The barium type would have little flavor but
>would be sort of chalky, maybe like diluted milk of magnesia ... but there
>are all sorts of flavored versions  ... so maybe there's one named "berry
>slushie" for all I know. The iodine type has an intrinsic flavor which
>reminds me of very bad pastis or anisette; again it is often flavored.
>(Other people have expressed very different impressions from mine.)
>Sometimes the stuff is flavored by mixing it with something like Kool-Aid,
>and I think there is a similar fruit-flavored product with the brand name
>"Slushie", so maybe this is the reference.
>I inquired of a CT technologist (Pittsburgh area), who routinely serves
>oral contrast material but who has never heard of "slushie" applied to this
>material. I've never heard it myself either.

Since my cancer diagnosis in June 2002, I have had CT scans every few
months, each of which was preceded by three tall cupfuls (or were
they cupsful?) of the barium drink, and my last couple of PET scans
were as well.  The standard term the staff use is "barium milkshake"
(no thanks, make mine vanilla).  It does taste somewhat odd and not
unchalky, but I'd sooner down a couple of gallons of it (ideally not
at one sitting) than one small bottle of Fleet PhosphoSoda, which I'm
sure a number of you have experienced as the prep for colonoscopy.
Uggh.  In the CT scans, I'm always hooked up to an IV (either through
my chest port or the standard access via a vein in my arm) through
which some dilution of iodine is administered.  That yields a not
really unpleasant but hard to contextualize taste of potatoes and a
warm feeling in the throat.  (I'm not a fan of anisette, pastis,
Ricard, Pernod, or other licoricey drinks, but I never associate
either the iodine IV or the barium milkshake with that flavor.)


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