Using Medical Wikis for Translation & Interpreting Research

Using Medical Wikis for Translation and Interpreting ResearchAs I mentioned in my post on resources I use for translation and interpreting, Wikipedia plays an important role in my terminology research process, particularly when I’m just trying to get acquainted with a new field or learn about novel technologies. While many are put off by Wikipedia’s collaborative nature and the fact that it can be edited by anyone, the technology behind Wikipedia has enabled us to build easy-to-maintain, collaborative knowledge bases on a variety of topics. With enough time, just about anyone can start their own collaborative knowledge base, known as a wiki, and invite experts to contribute.

Lately, I’ve discovered several field-specific medical wikis intended for and largely maintained by professionals. If you have concerns about the reliability of Wikipedia for medical information, these sites should give you more than enough to work with. Many of these even use the same open-source wiki software (MediaWiki) as Wikipedia, so they should feel familiar to users of Wikipedia. Medical wikis contain a plethora of information about a variety of subfields and are for the most part more trustworthy than Wikipedia, too, thanks to their contributors, making them excellent, albeit monolingual resources for medical translators and interpreters! I do a lot of medical translation, and these are some of the first places I turn when I’m stuck.


One of my favourites is Radiopaedia contains a plethora of articles about radiology and its contributors are primarily radiologists, meaning that you can be reasonably sure that the information you find is accurate. Radiopaedia also publishes case reports, including the diagnostic imaging to go along with them. I find these especially helpful when translating hospital reports because they will often describe or refer to X-rays or CT scans. Being able to see what a particular pathology looks like and how it’s described in English makes it much easier to decipher unclear acronyms, abbreviations and barely legible handwriting! Interpreters will also appreciate the in-depth information from medical professionals on radiology, especially considering how common radiology appointments are.


Although I don’t use Wikiecho very often, it has more to do with the fact that this wiki is specifically focussed on echocardiography, and I don’t often translate echocardiography reports! Like Radiopaedia, Wikiecho is a free, collaborative resource. Wikiecho is a project of the European Association of Cardiovascular Imaging, so you can also be reasonably sure that the information contained in the articles is accurate. In addition, some articles are even EACVI approved and so should be even more reliable. I have to admit that I can’t recall interpreting for a cardiovascular imaging appointment of any kind, but I’m sure Wikiecho would be a great resource if I did.


RespWiki is an invaluable resource intended for respiratory practitioners, such as pulmonologists and respiratory therapists. It is particularly useful when it comes to translating breath sound descriptions, thanks to RespWiki’s breath sounds article, which contains descriptions and recordings of the different types of breath sounds in English. Great for trying how to figure out the right words to use to describe breath noises in English!

As the name suggests, the focus of HemOnc is hematology and oncology. It was created by professional hematologists and oncologists and has a continuous peer review process. The main priority seems to be chemotherapy drugs and regimens, but this can be valuable information when translating reports as it gives you an idea of common treatment protocols for a variety of cancers, leukemias and lymphomas, among others. All of the articles seem to include references to relevant medical studies as well, if you want to do further research. Given how common hematology and oncology appointments are, medical interpreters are sure to have to interpret for one at some point, as well, so it makes sense to familiarize yourself with the basics with this website.


This website contains a plethora of information on common treatments and management and possible complications. Notably, this website focuses on emergency medicine, which comes up every so often when translating medical reports, making this website a particularly useful resource in that regard. Medical interpreters may also want to consult this, particularly those who get called to the emergency department.


OzEMedicine has a particular focus on emergency medicine, and the wiki only allows emergency physicians to contribute. Articles tend to be written in bullet points and/or shorthand, which can be great for trying to get a feel for how doctors write in English and the kind of shorthand they actually use and are likely to understand (although you might still want to consider writing out the full word for clarity’s sake). This website focuses on the same subject matter and is written in a similar style to WikEM, although OzEMedicine seems to be a bit more detailed.

Final Thoughts

While Wikipedia may suffer from some problems when it comes to the accuracy of its content, particularly when it comes to medical subjects, these wikis are highly specialized and generally maintained by professionals. What these wikis lack in breadth, they more than make up for with thorough content.

Do you use any wikis as a part of your research process? Do you find them more helpful as a starting point for your research, or do you find them to be sufficient for most of your needs? Do you use any wikis in other fields? Do you know any medical wikis in French? Comment below and let me know!

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