Glossary of Terms

It is common for medical practitioners to lapse into the use of medical terms to describe your condition. We have provided a small glossary of common terms to be able to assist you in navigating through what can be a confusing time. If at any time you do not understand the words being used to describe your condition or treatment please ask us for clarification.

Acute Cholecystitis – Acute inflammation and infection of the gallbladder caused by obstruction of the cystic duct from stones formed within the gallbladder.

Achalasia – A condition characterized by severe unremitting spasm of the lower esophagus and lack of peristalsis in the remaining esophagus.

Adenomas – Refers to benign tumors of glandular structures.

Anastomosis – Connection, natural or surgically created, between two tubular structures.

Antrum – The portion of the stomach where food collects prior to passage into the small intestine, also contains the acid secreting cells.

Axilla – The region of the body commonly referred to as the armpit.

Axillary – Relating to the axilla

Bariatric – referring to surgery for the purpose of inducing weight loss.

Barrett’s Esophagus – The abnormal change of the distal esophageal lining from the normally found squamous cell type to the columnar cell type normally found in the stomach or intestine.

Biliary Colic – syndrome of right upper quadrant abdominal pain seen after eating, associated with nausea; caused by gallstones.

BMI – Body Mass Index. The ratio of body mass to body surface area. A means of standardizing the appropriateness of weight for a person’s size.

Bougie – A long tapered tube of soft plastic used in esophageal surgery to dilate strictures.

Brawny Edema – The skin changes that occur in post-phlebitic extremities due to increased venous pressure and deposit of breakdown product of blood.

Calcitonin – A hormone secreted by specialized cells in the thyroid gland, which results in lowering of the serum calcium level.

Cardia – Relating to that portion of the stomach closest to the heart, where the esophagus enters.

Cardiology – Medical Specialty dealing with diseases of the heart.

Cautery – a device employing electric current for cutting tissue and controlling bleeding during surgery.

Cholangiogram – An X-ray study of the bile ducts performed with contrast injected into the ducts.

Cholangitis – Infection with in the bile ducts usually caused by stones.

Cholecystectomy – Removal of the gallbladder.

Cholecystokinin – A hormone secreted by the duodenal mucosa in the presence of fats which causes the gallbladder to contract.

Choledocholithiasis – Stones within the bile duct system.

Choledochoscope – Highly specialized fiber optic endoscope for looking within the common bile duct.

Congenital – A condition which one is born with.

Cytopathologist – A medical specialty dealing with examination and diagnosis of cells.

Defecation – The act of passing a bowel movement.

Diaphragmatic – Relating to the diaphragm.

Diaphragmatic crura – Those muscle fibers of the diaphragm which cross in front of the esophagus creating an opening in the diaphragm for the passage of the esophagus and aorta.

Distal – Towards the end of an extremity or organ.

Dysphagia – Difficulty swallowing.

Dysplasia – Abnormal changes in a cell which may lead to malignancy.

Edematous – Swollen.

Endocrinology – Medical Specialty dealing with diseases of the glands and hormones.

Endoscopic – Referring to procedures performed inside the body through small incisions or within the lumen of an organ with the aid of a special camera.

ERCP – Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangio-Pancreatography- An examination of the common bile duct and pancreatic duct performed with a specially designed endoscope and X-ray.

Esophageal hiatus – The defect in the diaphragm through which the esophagus passes from the thorax into the abdomen.

Esophagectomy – Removal of the esophagus.

Esophagitis – inflammation of the lining of the esophagus.

Fascia – The tough connective tissue that surrounds muscles and holds them in place.

Fissures – A crack in the lining or surface of an organ such as in the anus.

Fistula – an abnormal connection between two hollow organs or between a hollow organ and outside of the body

Foley catheter – a catheter placed through the urethra into the bladder to drain urine and monitor the volume of urine output.

Foregut – Pertaining to that part of the GI tract from the mouth to the duodenum.

Fulminant – any event or process which occurs suddenly, quickly and is intense and severe to the point of lethality.

Fundus – Referring to that portion of the stomach, gallbladder uterus or other hollow organ furthest from its entrance or exit.

Galactocele – A cyst in the breast caused by obstruction of the ductal system with debris. The cyst is usually small, filled with milk and occurs after the cessation of lactation. May result in breast abscess or infection if left untreated.

Gangrene – Death of tissue caused by infection and/or lack of circulation.

Gastroenterologist – Medical specialist for diseases of the gastrointestinal tract.

Gravid – Pregnant.

Hemorrhoidectomy – Excision of hemorrhoid.

Homeostasis – Chemical balance.

Hemosiderin – A breakdown product of red blood cell pigments

Hepatic – a medical term meaning “of the liver”

Hepatic Artery – the main artery providing oxygen laden blood flow to the liver from the aorta

Herniorrhaphy – Repair of a hernia.

Hiatal Hernia – A hernia defect occurring in the area where the esophagus passes through the diaphragm from the chest into the abdomen.

Hypercoagulability – A clinical state with a variety of causes in which the blood clots more easily than normal.

Hyperlipidemia – The condition of having an elevated level of fat circulating in the blood.

Hyperplasia – Abnormal growth of tissue characterized by an increase in size and number of individual cells.

Hypertension – High Blood Pressure

Hypothyroidism – A condition of which the Thyroid gland does not produce enough Thyroid Hormone. Has several causes.

Immunohistochemistry – Pathologic examination technique involving tumor specific antibodies linked to a dye. These antibodies react with antigens located on the surface of tumor cells and allow for detection of even single cells within a microscopic slide.

Infarction – Death of a tissue or organ.

Incontinence – Loss of control of bowel or bladder function.

Interstitial – Between cells.

Laparoscope – A camera designed to aid in the performance of surgery in the abdomen.
Laparoscopic – refers to procedures performed with the laparoscope.

Ligation – Interruption with a suture or tie.

Linton Procedure – A procedure involving ligation of venous perforators in the leg via an open longitudinal incision.

Local Anesthesia – Provides pain control at the site of a surgical procedure by injection of the site with a medication. No sedation or relaxation is induced.

Lower Esophageal Sphincter – The last few centimeters of esophagus which are intro-abdominal and form a functional mechanism to prevent the reflux of material from the stomach into the esophagus yet relaxes in a coordinated fashion to permit passage of a food bolus into the stomach.

Lumbar – Relating to the lower back.

Lymphedema – A pattern of tissue swelling related to obstruction of lymphatic flow.

Lymphatics – The vast network of vascular channels that drain all tissues, process the drained fluid through lymph nodes and ultimately return the fluid to the blood.

Lymphocintogram – A nuclear medicine study in which an area of the body is injected with a radioactive isotope and an x-ray image of the lymphatic flow pattern is obtained.

Malabsorption – a state arising from abnormality in digestion or absorption of food and nutrients across the gastro-intestinal tract.

Mammary Duct Ectasia – An inflammatory breast condition caused by ductal obstruction but which may produce symptoms which may be confused with carcinoma, notably a mass and nipple retraction.

Mediastinum – That area in the middle of the chest containing the heart, great vessels, esophagus and other structures.

Mesentery – Attachment of an organ to the body by a broad double layer of connective tissue in which blood vessels, nerves, lymphatics and other structures are contained.

Metastasis – Spread of a cancer to non-contiguous organ.

Micrometastasis – Refers to metastatic deposits of tumor that may consist of only a few cells.

Mucosa – Innermost tissue layer lining the gastro-intestinal tract.

Mucosal – referring to the lining of most hollow organs.

Naso-gastric tube – aplastic tube inserted through the nose used to provide drainage of gastric contents.

Necrotizing Fasciitis – A fulminant infection involving the connective tissue layer under the skin and subcutaneous fat. May result in “Gas Gangrene” leading to a high degree of morbidity and mortality.

Necrotizing pancreatitis – A most severe form of pancreatitis in which there is significant death of pancreatic tissue associated with high morbidity and mortality.

Neoplasia – Tumor formation.

Obtundation – A state of decreased awareness, near coma.

Obturator – Relating to the obturator foramen of the pelvis.

Pancreatitis – inflammation of the pancreas often due to presence of gallstones or excessive intake of alcohol

Papilloma – Refers to a small benign tumor on a stalk, may occur in many locations including; within the duct in the breast, on the mucous membranes of the nose and mouth, larynx or esophagus and around the anus or genitals. The causes and implications are different in these different locations.

Papillotomy – The creation of a small incision in the entrance of the bile duct into the duodenum such as to enlarge this entrance and permit easier passage of stones and debris.

Pathophysiology – The relationship between pathology and function.

Peristalsis – the coordinated neuromuscular contractions of the gastro-intestinal tract that cause passage of GI contents in the right direction

Peritoneum – The lining of the inside of the abdomen.

Pleomorphic – Of varying shape and size.

Pneumothorax – a condition in which there is air in the chest cavity outside of the lung causing the lungs not expand properly during breathing.

Portal circulation – Refers to the vascular circuit draining the gastro-intestinal tract into the liver via the portal vein.

Portal Vein – the main blood vessel that the intestinal blood vessels drain into. This large blood vessel then drains into the liver and provides 80% of blood flow to the liver

Post – Prandial – After meals.

Proctitis – Benign inflammation of the rectum from various causes.

Proctosigmoidoscopy – An examination of the rectum and last portion of the colon using a tubular speculum and a light source.

Progesterone – A hormone produced in the second half of a woman’s menstrual cycle.

Proximal – Towards the beginning of an extremity or organ.

Pulmonology – Medical Specialty dealing with diseases of the lungs.

Pyloric stenosis – Tight narrowing of the pyloric channel such as to cause obstruction. Typically occurs in newborns.

Pylorus – The muscular valve separating the stomach from the duodenum.

Rebound tenderness – a finding on physical exam where the patient complains of more pain as the hand is taken away from the abdomen than when it is pressed in.

Sclerose – To scar.

Sclerotherapy – Treatment by injection of an agent which causes a destructive reaction.

Sestamibi – Technitium 99 Sestamibi is a radioactive isotope used in nuclear medicine for cardiac function studies and for localizing parathyroid adenomas.

Sleep Apnea – A condition in which, during sleep the soft tissues of the larynx relax and close the airway, thus stopping breathing. A person so afflicted is aroused from sleep continuously through the night.

Spider Angiomata – Varicosities of small superficial cutaneous veins and capillaries.

Squamo-columnar junction – The junction between the normal squamous cell lining of the esophagus and columnar cell lining of the stomach.

Subfascial – Below the fascia.

Superficial Thrombophlebitis – An infection in a superficial vein caused ro exacerbated by thrombosis within the vein.

Thoracotomy – an incision in the chest.

Thrombosis – A clot in a blood vessel.

Tibia – The larger bone of the lower leg.

Trocar – Surgical instrument passed through the body, used to allow easy exchange of endoscopic instruments during endoscopic surgery.

Ultrasonic scalpel – a device using high frequency sound waves fore cutting tissue and controlling bleeding during surgery.

Venous compression devices – external devices attached to the legs to provide intermittent compression and maintain venous blood flow during periods of immobility. Greatly diminishes the likelihood of venous clot formation.

Videoscopic – Generic term referring to performance of a surgical procedure through a scope and viewing the procedure in progress on the video screen.

Venogram – Special X-ray study in which contrast is injected into a vein and X-rays are taken

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