Medical Terms Glossary


Click on a letter below to view each medical term.

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Advance Directives

A document that patients complete to direct their medical care when they are unable to communicate their own wishes due to a medical condition.

AIDS

Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome is an incurable, usually fatal disease caused by a virus hat destroys the body’s ability to fight off illness. AIDS causes recurrent infections or secondary diseases affecting multiple body systems.

A1c (HbA1c)

This is a blood test given to diabetics to determine how well their condition is under control. It is a very effective tool in monitoring Diabetic control as it shows the amount of glucose in your blood over the last six or more weeks.

Albumin

The main protein in human blood and the key to regulating the osmotic pressure of blood. Chemically, albumin is soluble in water, precipitated by acid, and coagulated by heat. Albumin is a protein made by the liver.

Alkaline Phosphate

A test in the basic liver panel. It is an enzyme that helps cells work. High concentrations can be found in bone producing cells and in the liver.

Ambulatory Care

Care delivered on an outpatient basis, including primary care, same-day surgery and outpatient diagnostic services.

Ancillary

A term used to describe additional services performed related to care, such as lab work, X-ray and anesthesia.

Bilirubin

A pigment produced when the liver processes waste products. The liver is responsible for removing bilirubin from the blood. When bilirubin levels are high, a condition called Jaundice occurs which causes yellowing of the skin and eyes.

BUN

Blood urea nitrogen. A measure primarily of the urea level in blood. Urea Nitrogen is a metabolic by product in the liver from the breakdown of blood, muscle and protein. Abnormal elevation in the blood urea nitrogen can indicate renal disease, dehydration, congestive heart failure, gastrointestinal bleeding, starvation, shock or urinary tract obstruction (by tumor or prostate gland). Low BUN level can indicate liver disease, malnutrition or a low protein diet.

CT/CAT Scan

Computerized axial tomography. An advanced, noninvasive method of radiological diagnosis that creates “images” of the body in a computerized display.

Cholesterol

Cholesterol is a fatty substance that is an important part of the outer lining of cells in the body of animals. Cholesterol is also found in the blood circulation of humans. The cholesterol in a person's blood originates from two major sources, dietary intake and liver production. There are two types of cholesterol in the body, LDL and HDL. LDL cholesterol is known as "bad" cholesterol since it is associated with an increased risk of coronary artery disease. HDL is called the "good cholesterol" because HDL cholesterol particles prevent atherosclerosis by extracting cholesterol from the artery walls and disposing of them through the liver.

Cholesterol Ratio

The total cholesterol to HDL cholesterol ratio (total/HDL) is a number that is helpful in predicting atherosclerosis. The number is obtained by dividing total cholesterol by HDL cholesterol. (High ratios indicate higher risks of heart attacks, low ratios indicate lower risk). High total cholesterol and low HDL cholesterol increases the ratio, and is undesirable. Conversely, high HDL cholesterol and low total cholesterol lowers the ratio, and is desirable. The best ratio would be 2 or 3 or less than 4, however, average is 4.5.

Creatinine

A chemical waste product of muscle metabolism that is transported by the bloodstream, filtered by the kidneys and eliminated in the urine. It can be measured to assess overall kidney function. An abnormally elevated blood creatinine level is seen in those individuals with kidney insufficiency and kidney failure. Creatinine has been found to be a fairly reliable indicator of kidney function.

Colonoscopy

Examination of the entire colon with an optic fiber tube inserted through the anus and rectum.

Coronary Artery Disease

Disease caused by the narrowing and hardening of the coronary arteries, which provide the blood supply to the heart. It may produce angina pectoris, myocardial infarction, or death.

Dementia

Loss of mental capacity. Demented people may have hallucinations and may not remember recent events or familiar people.

Endoscope

Long, flexible, fiber-optic tube used for examination of the upper or lower gastrointestinal tract.

Endoscopy

Examination of upper gastrointestinal (GI) tract, including the esophagus, stomach and duodenal portion of the small intestine.

Fructosamine

Fructosamine is a measurement of a person's average blood sugar concentration from the most recent two or three weeks. This is an indicator of diabetes and/or the level of control of diabetes.

GGTP/GGT

Gamma Glutamyl Transpeptidase is an enzyme that is measured as part of liver function tests. This enzyme is very sensitive to changes within the liver and can indicate a number of conditions such as alcoholism, cirrhosis, hepatitis, carcinoma and jaundice. This test should be used with other liver studies such as ALT and AST.

Globulin

A class of simple proteins that occur widely in plant and animal tissue. It is found in the blood and contains antibodies, other proteins and enzymes.

Glucose

Commonly called sugar, it is the end product of carbohydrate metabolism and is the chief source of energy for living organisms. Its utilization in the body is controlled by insulin. The measurement of glucose is used in the diagnosis and management of diabetes. By measuring glucose we can see how well the body is able to regulate and breakdown sugar for energy.

HDL

Abbreviation for High Density Lipoprotein, which is a part of the lipid panel. HDL carries excess cholesterol away for disposal, so a higher level (up to 75 mg) is considered a positive risk factor. HDL levels should be evaluated as part of the entire lipid panel and not as an individual finding.

Hepatitis

Inflammation of the liver from any cause. Hepatitis is most often viral, due to infection with one of the hepatitis viruses (A, B, C, D, and E) or another virus (such as those that cause infectious mononucleosis, cytomegalovirus disease, or yellow fever). The main nonviral causes of hepatitis are alcohol and drugs.

HIV

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a virus that attacks the immune system, making it difficult for the body to fight infection and disease. HIV is the same virus that also causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). However, having HIV does not mean you have AIDS. AIDS is the last and most severe stage of the HIV infection. Some people live with HIV for years or even decades before the condition progresses to AIDS.

Health Maintenance Organization (HMO)

An entity that offers prepaid, comprehensive health coverage for both hospital and physician services with specific health care providers using a fixed fee structure or capitated rates.

Hospice

A facility or program that is licensed, certified or otherwise authorized by law, that provides supportive care of the terminally ill.

Homeopathy

Therapy based on the administration of very small amounts of substances to treat a condition or symptoms that would be caused by larger amounts of the same substances.

Hysteroscopy

Visual exam of the uterus.

LDL

Low Density Lipoprotein is part of the regular lipid panel along with cholesterol, HDL, and triglycerides. It is a risk factor for heart disease. LDL is a carrier of cholesterol and is considered bad because it deposits cholesterol into the walls of blood vessels.

Liver Function Tests

ALT, AST, SGOT, SGPT are simple blood tests to determine the presence of certain liver enzymes in the blood which may indicate liver damage. The tests measure some of the most sensitive liver enzymes which are called aminotransferases. Under normal circumstances, these enzymes reside within the cells of the liver. But when the liver is injured, these enzymes are spilled into the blood stream.

MRI

Magnetic Resonance Imaging. Using a scanner, this is a high-technology diagnostic procedure used to create cross-sectional images of the body through the use of magnetic fields and radio frequency fields.

Midwife

Certified nurse. A registered professional nurse with post-graduate education in pre-natal care and the delivery of babies.

Mortality

Death rate.

Morbidity

Incidents of illness and accidents in a defined group of individuals.

Neonatal

An infant's life from the hour of birth through the first 27 days, 23 hours and 59 minutes.

Nurse Practitioner

(NP) A registered professional nurse with graduate level education in a nursing specialty (i.e., family health, pediatrics, gerontology).

Osteopathic

A school of medicine that uses manipulative measures in treating patients in addition to the diagnostic and therapeutic measures of medicine.

Physician Assistant

A health care professional licensed to practice medicine with the supervision of a licensed physician.

Preventive Care

Comprehensive care emphasizing priorities for prevention, early detection and early treatment of conditions, generally including routine physical examination and immunizations.

Primary Care

Entry-level care which may include diagnostic, therapeutic or preventive services.

Tertiary Care

Medical care of a highly technological and specialized nature provided in a medical center or teaching and research institution for patients with severe, complicated or unusual medical problems.

Triage

The process by which patients are sorted or classified according to the type and urgency of their conditions.

Triglycerides

The major form of fat. A triglyceride consists of three molecules of fatty acid combined with a molecule of the alcohol glycerol Triglycerides come from the food we eat as well as from being produced by the body. Triglyceride levels are influenced by recent fat and alcohol intake, and should be measured after fasting for at least 12 hours.

Ultrasound

A high frequency (pitch above human hearing) imaging technique also called sonography.

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