Glossary A's

atrial fibrillation

Definition:irregular heartbeat in which the upper chambers of the heart (the atria) beat inconsistently and rapidly

atrial flutter

Definition:irregular heartbeat in which the upper chambers of the heart (the atria) beat rapidly but consistently


Definition:see abdominal aortic aneurysm

abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA)

Definition:a, ballooning, or dilation of the walls of a portion of an abdominal artery due to weakness in the blood vessel


Definition:an accumulation of pus in a body tissue, usually causedby a bacterial infection


Definition:the part of the body between the bottom of the ribs and the top of the thighs, containing most of the digestive and urinary systems along with some reproductive organs; also called the abdominal cavity

abdominal cavity

Definition:see abdomen

abdominal filtering

Definition:see peritoneal dialysis

arterial blood gas (ABG)

Definition:arterial blood test for oxygen, carbon dioxide, andbicarbonate content, plus blood pH; used to testeffectiveness of respiration

ABO blood groups

Definition:system by which human blood is classified, based onproteins occurring on red blood cells; the fourclassification groups are A, B, AB, and O


Definition:termination of a pregnancy; can occur because of naturalcauses (called a miscarriage) or be a medical intervention

Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme (ACE) inhibitors

Definition:group of drugs used to treat high blood pressure andcongestive heart failure

achilles tendon

Definition:tendon at the back of the lower leg that connects thecalf muscle to the heel bone

acid-base balance

Definition:mechanisms the body uses to keep its fluids close toneutral (i.e., neither basic nor acidic) so that the bodycan function properly

acid reflux

Definition:disorder in which acid in the stomach rises into theesophagus because the valve separating the stomach andesophagus does not function properly


Definition:condition marked by abnormally high acid levels in theblood, associated with shock, some forms of diabetes, lungdisease, and severe kidney disease


Definition:escriptive of a condition or illness that beginssuddenly and is very short-lasting

acute respiratory disease

Definition:urgent condition in which oxygen levels in the blood are lower than normal and breathing is difficult

advance directive

Definition:common name for Advance Directive for Health Care, a document that describes the kind of medical treatment a person would want to receive for different levels of illness if the signer becomes unable to make medical decisions; includes Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care and Living Will


Definition:dependence on a substance (e.g., alcohol or other drugs)or activity, to the point that stopping is very difficultand causes severe physical and mental reactions

Advance Directive for Health Care

Definition:document that describes the kind of medical treatment aperson would want to receive for different levels of illnessif the signer becomes unable to make medical decisions;includes Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care andLiving Will; commonly called advance directive


Definition:see adverse drug reaction

adverse drug reaction (ADR)

Definition:unintended and unwanted side effect of a drug therapy

adrenal glands

Definition:two small glands located on top of the kidneys that secrete several important hormones into the blood

adrenal insufficiency

Definition:condition in which the adrenal glands do not produce enough of the hormones that control important functions such as blood pressure


Definition:hormone produced by the adrenal glands and secreted in response to stress; also called epinephrine; used as a medication named adrena line

adult respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS)

Definition:see acute respiratory distress syndrome

adverse reaction

Definition:unintended and unwanted side effect of some sort of treatment

automatic external defibrillator

Definition:defibrillating device used in many public venues (e.g., airports, theatres, etc.) that is simple to use and does not require a doctor or nurse to operate

affective disorder

Definition:mental disorder involving abnormal moods and emotions; affective disorders include manic-depressive disorder

age spots

Definition:flat, darker patches of skin, occurring on sun-exposed areas of the body such as the back of hands and forehead, caused by aging and/or exposure to the sun; usually not serious and more a cosmetic than medical concern


Definition:person to whom one formally (by Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care [DPA]) gives the power to make medical treatment decisions on the signer's behalf, if the signer is unable to make or communicate their own decisions regarding health care; also called a proxy or attorney-in-fact

acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS)

Definition:infection by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV),which causes a weakening of the immune system


Definition:see acquired immunodeficiency syndrome

air embolism

Definition:blockage of an artery by air bubbles, which may have entered during surgery or after an injury


Definition:normal passageway for air into and out of the bodyduring breathing, from the mouth and/or nose to the lungs;also, a device that helps keep the mouth and windpipe openso that air can reach the lungs, used to help prevent bitingdown on the tongue or breathing tube

airway obstruction

Definition:blockage of the passage of air through the windpipe to the lungs

alcoholic cardiomyopathy

Definition:heart damage and failure caused by intake of too much alcohol

alimentary canal

Definition:see digestive system; also called digestive tract


Definition:dangerously decreased acidity of the blood, which can becaused by high altitudes, hyperventilation, and excessive vomiting

allergic rhinitis

Definition:medical term for hay fever


Definition:reaction to a substance that in most people causes no reaction

amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)

Definition:most common of a group of disorders known as motorneuron diseases, in which the nerves in the brain thatcontrol the movement of muscles degenerate and musclefunction is gradually lost; commonly called Lou Gehrig's disease


Definition:see amyotrophic lateral sclerosis

altitude sickness

Definition:headaches, dizziness, and nausea usually experienced atheights above 8,000 ft due to reduced oxygen in the air


Definition:person named to substitute for an agent, if the agent is unable to fulfill his/her duties relative to a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care (DPA)

air sacs

Definition:small, thin-walled sacs or spaces in the lungs which arepart of the respiratory system; also called alveoli

amnesic effect

Definition:used to describe effect of causing one to forget anunpleasant experience, as with some antianxiety drugs

anabolic steroids

Definition:synthetic drugs similar to the hormones produced by themale sex organs

anal fissure

Definition:long, open sore on the skin of the anus

anal fistula

Definition:abnormal tube-like passage connecting the anus to thesurface of the surrounding skin

anal sphincter

Definition:ring of muscle fibers at the opening of the rectum,controlling the opening and closing of the anus


Definition:drug that relieves pain, such as aspirin or acetaminophen

anaphylactic shock

Definition:life-threatening allergic reaction resulting indifficulty breathing and low blood pressure


Definition:condition in which the blood does not contain enough hemoglobin, the compound that carries oxygen from the lungs to other parts of the body


Definition:medical specialty concerned with the study of anesthetics and anesthesia


Definition:substance that temporarily causes a person to be unableto feel pain, either in a certain area (local) or over theentire body (general)


Definition:loss of sensation in a certain part of the body (local)or throughout the body


Definition:abnormal swelling of the wall of an artery, caused by a weakening in the vessel wall


Definition:repair of a damaged blood vessel to restore proper function; may involve widening or reconstructing the blood vessel; often done by inflating a balloon within the vessel

angina pectoris

Definition:acute pain in chest (and often arms or jaw) due to lack of oxygen delivery to the heart muscle; a warning sign that the heart is under severe stress and needs relief before a heart attack occurs


Definition:drug that neutralizes stomach acids; used to treat indigestion, heartburn, and acid reflux


Definition:descriptive of being located in or relating to the front of the body

antianxiety drugs

Definition:used to describe group of drugs that have a calmingeffect, enabling a person to better deal with unpleasantfeelings or events; may also cause one to forget anunpleasant experience (amnesic effect)


Definition:bacteria-killing substance used to fight infection

antibiotic resistance

Definition:development by bacteria of the ability to live in the presence of a certain antibiotic, making treatment difficult


Definition:protein made by white blood cells that reacts with a specific foreign protein as part of the immune response


Definition:drug used to stop abnormal blood clotting, such as to prevent stroke


Definition:group of drugs that help prevent the brain fromproducing abnormal electrical impulses that can cause seizures (convulsions)


Definition:drug used to minimize or eliminate confusion


Definition:drug used to normalize the heart rhythm


Definition:drug used to treat nausea and vomiting


Definition:drug that relieves an allergic reaction by stopping the effects of histamine, the substance responsible for the negative symptoms associated with the reaction


Definition:drug used to relieve the symptoms and prevent the damagethat can occur from high blood pressure


Definition:drug used to treat severe mental disorders


Definition:chemical applied to the skin that prevents infection bykilling bacteria and other harmful organisms


Definition:the main artery in the body, originating at the heart and carrying oxygenated blood from the heart to other arteries in the body


Definition:arteriogram of the main blood vessel in the body, the aorta


Definition:computerized scoring system for prediction of outcomesof illness/injury situations; acronym for Acute Physiologyand Chronic Health Evaluation

plastic anemia

Definition:severely reduced amount of red blood cells, white bloodcells, and platelets

advanced practice nurse (APN)

Definition:advanced practice nurse (APN)registered nurse with advanced graduate trainingincluding nurse practitioner (NP), clinical nurse specialist(CNS), and other specialists


Definition:possibly life-threatening condition in which breathingstops, for either a short or long period of time


Definition:inflammation of the appendix


Definition:short, tube-like structure that branches off the largeintestine; has no known function


Definition:surgical removal of the appendix to treat appendicitis

acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS)

Definition:dangerous form of lung failure due to lung injury orinfection; also called, shock lung, wet lung, or adultrespiratory distress syndrome


Definition:stopping, as in,cardiac arrest, when the heart stops beating


Definition:pertaining to an artery or the arteries


Definition:contrast X-ray of an artery resulting from arteriography


Definition:contrast X-ray procedure in which a contrast material isinjected into an artery to image the artery on a X-ray


Definition:smallest division of an artery, leading to a capillary


Definition:disorder causing thickening and hardening of arterywalls


Definition:inflammation of the walls of an artery that causes thepassageway to become narrower; can lead to tissue damagebecause oxygen is not properly supplied


Definition:blood vessel that carries blood from the heart totissues and organs in the body


Definition:disease of the joints characterized by inflammation,pain, stiffness, and redness

artificial respiration

Definition:procedure of forcing air (either by mouth-to-mouth,mouth-to-nose or mechanically) into the lungs of person whoeither needs assistance breathing or has stopped breathing;also called artificial ventilation


Definition:excess fluid in the abdominal cavity, which leads to swelling

atrial septal defect

Definition:abnormal hole located in the wall between the two upperchambers of the heart (atria)


Definition:uffocation, which can be caused by choking on anobject, by lack of oxygen in the air, or by chemicals suchas carbon monoxide, which reduce the amount of oxygen in the blood


Definition:liquid or solid material entering the windpipe (trachea)


Definition:disorder characterized by inflamed airways and difficulty breathing


Definition:fatty deposits on the inner walls of blood vessels,which can cause narrowing and decrease blood flow


Definition:progressive narrowing and hardening of the arteries over time


Definition:one of the two, right and left, upper chambers of theheart; plural form is atria


Definition:shrinkage or near disappearance of a tissue or organ


Definition: warning signal, which may include emotions orsensations of movement or discomfort, that precedes a migraine headache or an epileptic seizure

autoimmune disease

Definition:disorder in which the body's immune system attacks itself

autonomic nervous system

Definition:the portion of the nervous system not under conscious control


Definition:medical examination of a body following death, possibly to determine the cause of death or for research; also called a post-mortem examination


Definition:medical term for the armpit