I was born in the era of SNL (Saturday Night Live)…the late-night sketch comedy show….so this acronym is well known to me, but a lesser know acronym more generally is WNL. It’s just as famous….but only in the world of medicine.
What is WNL? It stands for ‘Within Normal Limits’, and it is a commonly used phrase in general medical practice. It is meant to encompass both normal results and those that although slightly outside the normal range, are still not enough of an outlier to cause concern.
Why is this so important? Simple….knowing when ‘something is nothing’ is the most important part of my job. That is what I specialize in…..the range of what is normal.
Is that blood test, slightly out of range, a concern. Nope…WNL! Is that finding on the scan, that variation in my lung tissue or pancreas cause for concern…..not likely….WNL!
Sure…WNL can cover a wide swath of territory, and we can even be wrong when we see a slight outlier and call it WNL…not to worry about it, but 99% of the time we are right, and this gives us, your doctors, a great amount of confidence in what we do.
This is why ‘the art’ of medicine is part and parcel of good practice, and like Malcolm Gladwell, the famous journalist and author of OUTLIERS and other well-known books, has noted….only with 10,000+ hours of practice can one become an expert (not surprising …that is the minimum amount of time spent in a medical residency training program.
So….WNL is something you won’t find on your GOOGLE SEARCH. Dr. Google does not know from WNL….but I do!