From a description of a clinical study:

Of the 12 patients with CFD, 10 showed improvement after referral for treatment with folinic acid (1-2 mg/kg/day) for at least 6 weeks (range, 6-79 weeks) while continuing their preevaluation treatment regimens.

Does this mean that the doctors managing the study did not prescribe the medicine personally but rather directed the patients to other doctor(s) who wrote the prescription?

Could it mean basically "the very doctors who managed the study prescribed the folinic acid to the patients", with the word "referral" lacking any "rerouting" meaning?

In Wiktionary, meaning 3 of the verb refer is described thus:

To submit to (another person or group) for consideration; to send or direct elsewhere.
He referred the matter to the principal.
to refer a patient to a psychiatrist


The patients were referred for treatment. The nominal form for that action of referring the patient (or, from the patient's perspective, of being referred) is the referral for treatment.

A patient can even say "I have received a referral for treatment" or "I have been given a referral for treatment."

So the nominal thing is independent of the direction of the referral as seen from the point of view of the doctor to whom the patients were referred or from the point of view of the doctor who sent the patients on.

The treating doctor, the one to whom the patients were referred, can even say

We've received a referral from the city clinic.

And there the word referral can refer either to the patient so referred or to the inter-practice transaction.

Note the verb make here:

How many referrals did we make to the university medical center last month?

To make a referral is to refer a patient elsewhere for treatment.

To get a referral is to have a patient referred to you for treatment, but a patient can also say I need to get a referral to a specialist, and there the meaning is "to have my current doctor refer me to a specialist".

  • Sorry, I don't understand. Was there a second doctor to whom the patients were sent (referred) to receive their prescription, or were they given prescriptions right away? – CowperKettle Dec 30 '18 at 14:46
  • A group of patients were given folinic acid for at least six weeks, and given it in addition to whatever medical regimen they had been following before being referred to receive the folinic acid treatment. In the original sentence, you could strike referral for and the meaning would be the same. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Dec 30 '18 at 14:50
  • When a referral is involved, there are three parties: the patient, of course, and the doctor or medical practice to whom the patient is sent, and the doctor or medical practice sending the patient. I would say that the doctors administering the folinic acid are not the same doctors who prescribed the other regimen. That regimen was prescribed before the folinic acid doctors evaluated the patients who had been referred to them. The word preevaluation is spoken from the perspective of the folinic acid doctors: it means before they did their evaluation. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Dec 30 '18 at 14:54

The statement means only that the CFD patients were prescribed treatment with folinic acid for the period concerned.

It does not specify who referred the patients for such treatment nor does it say who administered it.

The people concerned, both those prescribing and those administering the treatment, were presumably medical doctors but might have included technicians, pharmacists and other paramedics. It's not possible to say.

The writer is clearly not concerned with these details but merely with the size of the patient group, the specified drugs, their dosage, the duration of the treatment and the results.

  • Interesting! I thought "refer to" implies "to direct to some other person". – CowperKettle Dec 30 '18 at 14:14
  • These patients were referred for rather than referred to. – Ronald Sole Dec 30 '18 at 14:53
  • @RonaldSole What would be the difference? A referral to treatment is a recommendation for treatment. So what's a referral for treatment? – userr2684291 Dec 30 '18 at 15:19
  • @userr2684291 One is NOT referred to treatment. One is referred to a doctor for treatment - alternatively, referred to a hospital/clinic/institution for treatment/examination/ x-rays/diagnosis or whatever. – Ronald Sole Dec 30 '18 at 16:32
  • @RonaldSole sbirtnh.org/referral-to-treatment It looks like some people use it this way as well. – userr2684291 Dec 30 '18 at 16:35

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