Glossary P's

pulmonary artery catheter

Definition:flexible tube inserted into the pulmonary artery to assess pulmonary artery pressures and performance of the heart; also called Swan Ganz catheter, right heart catheter, or heart monitoring catheter

pulmonary artery catheterization

Definition:procedure performed to provide information regarding blood circulation, specifically, the pressure and amount of fluid or blood in the circulation and an assessment of the pumping action of the heart

Physician's Assistant (PA)

Definition:see physician's assistant


Definition:small electronic device, often surgically implanted in a pocket made under the skin, to stimulate the heart muscle to provide a normal heartbeat


Definition:roof of the mouth

palliative treatment

Definition:treatment that relieves the symptoms of a disorder without curing it


Definition:abnormally pale skin; usually refers to the skin of the face


Definition:use of the hands to feel parts of the body to check for any abnormalities


Definition:abnormally rapid and strong heartbeat


Definition:loss of sensation or ability to move


Definition:long gland located behind the stomach that produces enzymes that help to break down food and hormones (insulin and glucagon) that help to regulate glucose levels in the blood


Definition:inflammation of the pancreas, often caused by gall stones or alcohol abuse

panic disorder

Definition:emotional disorder characterized by attacks of anxiety that have no apparent or rational causes; usually made worse by stress

pap smear

Definition:test in which a sample of cells is scraped from the cervix and examined for abnormalities; also used to diagnose viral infections such as herpes simplex and for detection of cervical cancer


Definition:insertion of a needle into a body cavity to relieve pressure, inject a drug, or remove a sample for analysis


Definition:inability to use a muscle because of injury to or disease of the nerves leading to the muscle


Definition:disorder in which a person becomes overly suspicious and emotionally sensitive


Definition:complete or partial loss of sensation and movement of the legs


Definition:organism that lives on or in other organisms, from which it obtains nutrients

parasympathetic nervous system

Definition:he part of the autonomic nervous system that is stimulated during times of relaxation


Definition:numbness or tingling in the skin; commonly referred to as pins and needles

parathyroid hormone

Definition:ormone released by the parathyroid glands that plays a role in controlling calcium levels in the blood

parathyroid glands

Definition:small glands located in the neck that produce parathyroid hormone


Definition:surgical removal of one or more of the parathyroid glands

parenteral nutrition

Definition:method of delivering nutrition or other substances directly into a vein


Definition:introduction of a substance into the body by any route other than the digestive tract, such as through a vein or muscle


Definition:partial paralysis


Definition:pertaining to the walls of a cavity; also, pertaining to the parietal bone


Definition:sudden attack or worsening of a disease's symptoms

partial mastectomy

Definition:treatment for breast cancer in which a tumor is removed, along with the skin covering it and some of the surrounding tissues and muscles

partial seizure

Definition:abnormal electrical discharge in a certain area of the brain, affecting only certain functions

pastoral care

Definition:ounseling provided by members of the clergy


Definition:medical term for the kneecap


Definition:not obstructed; open


Definition:any substance capable of causing a disease; usually refers to a disease-causing microorganism


Definition:the origin and development of a disease or disorder


Definition:branch of medicine dealing with study of disease, its structure and functional effects on the body

patient-controlled analgesia (PCA)

Definition:system for administering pain killing drugs in which the amount of drug delivered is controlled by the patient

peak flow measurement

Definition:maximum speed that air is exhaled from the lungs; used to diagnose asthma or to determine the effectiveness of asthma medications

pectoral muscles

Definition:muscles of the upper part of the chest that move the arm across the body, raise some of the ribs, and move the shoulders


Definition:pertaining to the chest


Definition:branch of medicine dealing with the diagnosis and treatment of diseases and disorders in children

peer review

Definition:scrutiny by one's peers or equals; peer-reviewed articles in medical journals have been reviewed by members of the medical community prior to publication; in health care, the review by practicing doctors or other health care professionals of the quality and efficiency of patient care of other doctors

pelvic examination

Definition:examination of a woman's reproductive organs


Definition:group of bones in the lower part of the trunk that support the upper body and protect the abdominal organs


Definition:external male reproductive organ, which passes urine and semen out of the body

peptic ulcer

Definition:erosion in the lining of the esophagus, stomach, or small intestine, usually caused in part by the corrosive action of gastric acid


Definition:through the skin; describes a procedure that is performed through the skin, such as an injection


Definition:hole in an organ or body structure caused by disease or injury

pericardial effusion

Definition:fluid buildup inside of the pericardium, affecting the performance of the heart


Definition:inflammation of the membranous sac that covers the heart, causing chest pain and fever


Definition:membranous sac that covers the heart and the base of the blood vessels that are attached to the heart

peripheral nervous system

Definition:the nerves that branch out from the brain and spinal cord to the rest of the body


Definition:descriptive of being situated away from the center


Definition:wavelike movement of smooth muscle containing tubes, such as the digestive tract

peritoneal dialysis

Definition:type of dialysis in which the body's waste products are removed via a tube placed into the peritoneum


Definition:membrane that lines the abdominal cavity and covers the abdominal organs


Definition:tapping the surface of the body to learn the condition of underlying parts by the sound emitted or sensation felt by the fingers


Definition:inflammation of the peritoneum

PET scan

Definition:see positron emission tomography scan

petit mal

Definition:seizure characterized by loss of awareness for brief periods

positron emission tomography scan (PET scan)

Definition:an imaging method in which substances emitting positrons (positively charged particles) are introduced into the body, and detectors connected to a computer are used to form images of the tissues


Definition:measure of the acidic or basic character of a substance


Definition:branch of medical science that deals with the discovery, chemistry, effects, uses and manufacturing of drugs


Definition:inflammation of the throat (pharynx), causing sore throat, fever, earache, and swollen glands


Definition:the throat; the tube connecting the back of the mouth and nose to the esophagus and windpipe


Definition:group of drugs used as antipsychotics, antihistamines, and antiemetics


Definition:noncancerous tumor of cells that produce epinephrine and norepinephrine, causing higher levels of these hormones in the blood and an increase in blood pressure


Definition:inflammation of a vein


Definition:formation of a blood clot in a vein


Definition:mucus and other material produced by the lining of the respiratory tract; also called sputum


Definition:persisting fear of and desire to avoid something


Definition:mineral that is an important part of structures such as bones, teeth, and membranes in the body; also involved in numerous other chemical reactions

Pickwickian syndrome

Definition:extreme obesity along with shallow breathing, sleep apnea, excessive sleepiness, and heart failure

pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)

Definition:inflammation of a woman's internal reproductive organs, usually as a result of a bacterial infection; one of the most common causes of pelvic pain and infertility in women

pituitary gland

Definition:small, round gland located at the base of the brain that releases hormones that control other glands and body processes

placebo effect

Definition:positive or negative response to a drug that is caused by a person's expectations of a drug rather than the drug itself


Definition:chemically inactive substance given in place of a drug to test how much of a drug's effectiveness can be attributed to a patient's expectations that the drug will have a positive effect; an inert compound, identical in appearance with material being tested in experimental research

placenta previa

Definition:disorder in which the placenta develops at the lower section of the uterus, close to or covering the cervix; varies in severity, from no effect on a pregnancy to vaginal bleeding and danger to the mother and the fetus


Definition:organ formed in the uterus during pregnancy that links the blood of the mother to the blood of the fetus; provides the fetus with nutrients and removes waste

placental abruption

Definition:separation of the placenta from the wall of the uterus before childbirth, which causes severe bleeding that threatens the life of the mother and the fetus

placental insufficiency

Definition:disorder occurring during pregnancy in which the placenta does not function properly, causing the fetus to be deprived of nutrients

plantar reflex

Definition:normal curling of the toes downward when the sole of the foot is stroked


Definition:area of buildup of fat deposits in an artery, causing narrowing of the artery and possibly heart disease

plasma cell

Definition:white blood cell that makes antibodies


Definition:liquid part of the blood, containing substances such as nutrients, salts, and proteins


Definition:procedure for removing unwanted substances from the blood; during the procedure, blood is removed from the body, plasma is separated and replaced, and the cleansed blood is returned to the body


Definition:smallest particle found in the blood, which plays a major role in forming blood clots


Definition:two connected membranes that line the lungs and chest cavity

pleural cavity

Definition:the space surrounding the lungs, between the two membranes of the pleura

pleural effusion

Definition:buildup of fluid in the pleural cavity; causes compression of the lungs, which leads to breathing difficulty

pleural rub

Definition:rubbing sound produced by inflamed pleural membranes that can be heard when breathing

pleural space

Definition:the space between the two layers of the pleura


Definition:inflammation of the lining of the lungs and chest cavity, usually caused by a lung infection; characterized by sharp chest pain


Definition:respiratory disease caused by dust inhalation

pneumocystis pneumonia

Definition:opportunistic infection of the lungs caused by a single-celled parasite

pituitary adenoma

Definition:noncancerous tumor of the pituitary gland


Definition:surgical removal of a lung


Definition:inflammation of the lungs due to a bacterial or viral infection, which causes fever, shortness of breath, and the coughing up of phlegm

power of attorney

Definition:a legal instrument authorizing one to act as the agent of the grantor


Definition:infectious disease caused by a virus; usually causes only mild symptoms but in rare cases can attack the brain and spinal cord and cause paralysis or death; commonly called polio


Definition:arthritis occurring in more than one joint

polycystic kidney disease

Definition:condition in which there are multiple, slow-growing cysts on both kidneys


Definition:increased amount of red blood cells in the blood


Definition:condition of excessive thirst

polymyalgia rheumatica

Definition:rare disease of the elderly, characterized by muscle stiffness and pain in the hips, thighs, shoulders, and neck


Definition:autoimmune disease of connective tissue in which muscles weaken and become inflamed


Definition:growth that occurs on mucous membranes such as those in the nose and intestine; bleeds easily and can become cancerous


Definition:complex carbohydrate composed of three or more simple carbohydrate molecules joined together

polyunsaturated fat

Definition:fat or oil that contains well below the maximum number of hydrogen atoms possible; thought to reduce the risk of heart disease


Definition:excessive production of urine; can be a symptom of various diseases, most notably diabetes mellitus

portal hypertension

Definition:increased blood pressure in the portal vein

portal vein

Definition:vein connecting the stomach, intestines, and spleen to the liver

postmyocardial infarction syndrome

Definition:condition that occurs following a heart attack or heart surgery; characterized by fever, chest pain, pericarditis, and pleurisy

post-mortem examination

Definition:examination of a body after death to determine the cause of death; commonly called an autopsy


Definition:term that describes something that occurs after childbirth, usually to the mother

postural drainage

Definition:drainage of mucus from specific areas of the lungs by placing the body in a specific position

polycystic ovary syndrome

Definition:hereditary disease characterized by multiple cysts on the ovaries, obesity, excessive hairiness, infertility, and irregular menstruation


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

postural hypotension

Definition:unusually low blood pressure that occurs after suddenly standing or sitting up


Definition:mineral that plays an important role in the body, helping to maintain water balance, normal heart rhythm, conduction of nerve impulses, and muscle contraction


Definition:describes a condition from which cancer is likely to develop


Definition:susceptibility to disease which may be activated under certain conditions


Definition:serious disorder that occurs in the second half of pregnancy, in which a woman experiences high blood pressure, fluid retention, nausea, and headaches; if not treated it can lead to eclampsia


Definition:drugs, usually painkillers, taken one to two hours before surgery


Definition:term that describes the period of a few years in a woman's life just before menopause


Definition:with regard to the fetus, existing or occurring before birth


Definition:preceding an operation

pressure sore

Definition:ulcer (erosion) on the skin as a result of constant pressure and the consequent poor circulation of blood to the affected area; in the case of someone with sores on the buttocks as a result of being bedridden, those pressure sores are commonly called bedsores


Definition:inflammation of the rectum, which causes soreness and sometimes mucus and/or pus in the stool


Definition:examination of the rectum using a viewing instrument

productive cough

Definition:cough that brings up phlegm, which is the body's natural way of clearing blocked airways

product name

Definition:trade name used to market a drug (i.e., Celebrex is Monsanto's brand name for a drug with the generic name Celecoxib); also called brand name


Definition:occurring after a surgical operation


Definition:doctor's probable forecast of the effects and outcome of a disease


Definition:displacement of an organ from its normal position to a new one


Definition:anything used to prevent disease

prostate gland

Definition:organ located under the bladder that produces a large part of the semen


Definition:partial or complete surgical removal of the prostate gland


Definition:symptoms caused by an enlarged prostate gland, including difficulty with urination


Definition:inflammation of the prostate gland, usually due to a bacterial infection spread from the urethra


Definition:artificial replacement for a missing part of the body


Definition:complete physical or mental exhaustion


Definition:large molecules made up of amino acids that play many major roles in the body, including forming the basis of body structures such as skin and hair, and important chemicals such as enzymes and hormones


Definition:standardized procedure or sequential combination of procedures


Definition:a disease that began in the affected location


Definition:simple, single-celled organism


Definition:descriptive of being located nearer to or relating to a central point of reference on the body, such as the trunk

pseudomembranous enterocolitis

Definition:severe inflammation of the colon as a result of antibiotic use by an immunocompromised individual

private duty nurse

Definition:a registered or licensed nurse who is paid to care for a specific patient in a health care facility or in the home


Definition:pertaining to psychiatry


Definition:branch of medicine dealing with diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mental illness


Definition:resulting from psychological or emotional disorders


Definition:relating to the mind and the processes of the mind


Definition:branch of science dealing with the mind and the processes of the mind


Definition:mental disorder in which a serious inability to think, perceive, and judge clearly causes loss of touch with reality


Definition:treatment of mental and emotional disorders using psychological methods, such as counseling, instead of physical means


Definition:descriptive of a physical condition that is influenced by psychological or emotional factors


Definition:relating to psychosis

psychotropic drug

Definition:drug that has a psychological effect

Patient Bill of Responsibilities

Definition:generally accepted responsibilities of patients; less widely agreed upon than Patient Bill of Rights

Patient Bill of Rights

Definition:generally, but not universally, agreed upon rights of patients pertaining to quality of care, informed consent, confidentiality, etc.; widely adhered to on a voluntary basis by many hospitals and other medical facilities

physical therapy

Definition:the treatment of injuries or disorders using physical methods, such as exercise, massage, or the application of heat

prothrombin time

Definition:time it takes for a sample of blood to clot after substances that speed clotting time have been added; used to measure state of the coagulation process and the effect of anticoagulant drugs


Definition:condition in which air enters the space between the chest wall and the lungs, causing chest pain and shortness of breath; may occur spontaneously or be the result of a disease or an accident

pulmonary artery

Definition:artery that supplies the lungs with blood from the heart

pulmonary arteriogram

Definition:contrast X-ray procedure of the arteries that go to the lungs, often performed when it is suspected that blood clots may have traveled from another site, such as the legs, and settled in the lungs

pulmonary edema

Definition:buildup of fluid in lung tissue, which is usually caused by heart failure

pulmonary embolism

Definition:blockage of the pulmonary artery by a floating mass in the blood

pulmonary fibrosis

Definition:condition in which the tissue of the lungs has become thick and scarred, usually because of inflammation caused by lung conditions such as pneumonia or tuberculosis

pulmonic heart valve

Definition:heart valve that stops blood pumped to the lungs from leaking back into the heart

pulmonary hypertension

Definition:increased blood pressure in the arteries supplying blood to the lungs; caused by increased resistance to blood flow in the lungs, usually a result of a lung disease

pulmonic insufficiency

Definition:rare defect in the pulmonary heart valve in which it fails to close properly after each muscle contraction, allowing blood to leak back into the heart; weakens the heart's pumping ability


Definition:drooping of the upper eyelid

pulmonic stenosis

Definition:obstruction of the flow of blood from the heart to the lungs


Definition:pertaining to the lungs


Definition:pertaining to the pulmonic heart valve


Definition:expansion and contraction of a blood vessel due to the blood pumped though it; determined as the number of expansions per minute


Definition:opening at the center of the iris in the eye that constricts (contracts) and dilates (widens) in response to light


Definition:thick, yellowish or greenish fluid that contains dead white blood cells, tissues, and bacteria; occurs at the site of a bacterial infection


Definition:small blister containing pus

peripheral vascular disease

Definition:narrowing of blood vessels in the legs or arms, causing pain and possibly tissue death (gangrene) as a result of a reduced flow of blood to areas supplied by the narrowed vessels


Definition:surgical removal of a kidney stone


Definition:inflammation of the kidney, usually due to a bacterial infection


Definition:surgical widening of the outlet between the stomach and small intestine


Definition:body temperature of above 98.6¦ F in the mouth or 99.8¦ F in the rectum


Definition:any substance that causes a fever

pyloric stenosis

Definition:narrowing of the outlet located at the junction of the stomach and small intestine


Definition:presence of white blood cells in the urine; usually an indication of kidney or urinary tract infection