Medicine is one of the fastest growing scientific fields. Throughout our lives, we repeatedly come across many types of medical documentation; drug package inserts, publications from the medical press, doctor’s certificates, medical diagnoses and much more.

Translation of medical literature is considered to be one of the most demanding specializations and few professional translators undertake such translations. But why is that so? In the following article, we will analyse the underlying causes of this phenomenon and present the pitfalls and difficulties that await the potential translator.


The fundamental problem is the enormous responsibility of the translator. For instance, a seemingly small error in the translation of the diagnosis can have disastrous consequences for a patient. In addition, errors or oversights in key pharmacological information may result in the rejection of the medicinal product and consequently a company’s exposure to additional costs.

Problematic terminology

Another source of problems in this translation field is mainly the complicated terminology. Medical texts in English are characterized by the frequent occurrence of Latin or Greek names. The vocabulary used in medicine is largely based on prefixes, suffixes or stems borrowed from these ancient languages (e.g.  “endo” (Latin for inside), ” in “endothelial”). Moreover, medical terminology uses many abbreviations (e.g. “a.a”- “arteriae”- (Latin for arteries)), an inexperienced translator may find it very difficult to translate a document and it may take much longer to complete.


Medicine is a fast-growing field of science. New methods of treatment, medicines or medical devices are constantly emerging. For those involved in such translations, this means that they should continuously improve in their medical specialization. Expanding their knowledge is crucial, especially for interpreters who will need to be fluent in a particular terminology at various scientific or medical conferences in order to convey the speaker’s point flawlessly.

Legal standards

With regard to medical translations, it is also necessary to have knowledge of all formal requirements used in the production of medical texts. For example, the translation of documentation of new medical products must comply with the clinical trials directives of the country in which the products are to be certified. In the case of Europe, clinical trials are conducted under the Clinical Trial Regulation (Regulation (EU) No 536/2014).

We have mentioned many times that the profession of a translator combines many disciplines in an interdisciplinary way. A person translating in the medical field must have excellent knowledge and experience in translating medical texts, excellent knowledge of the native language and up-to-date knowledge of the law and applicable standards. Atominium cooperates only with such people. Our team of medical translators includes doctors of various specializations, thus their knowledge and skills are supported by many years of education and practice in this profession.

(translation M.L.L.K)

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