Medical Definition of Zebra

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Reviewed on 12/27/2018

Zebra: In medicine, a very unlikely diagnostic possibility. It comes from an old saying used in teaching medical students about how to think logically in regard to the differential diagnosis: 'When you hear hoof beats, think of horses, not zebras.' For example, when someone develops a mild transient cough, a virus infection is the most logical and likely cause, and tuberculosis is a zebra.

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Reviewed on 12/27/2018