The proper pronunciation and recognition of common medical terminology by patients improves communication in health care.
Knowledge of many of the common medical terminology words can serve as a springboard of motivation to increase your knowledge of issues relating to your health and health care. As such it improves the understanding of graphical or spoken information. Gaps in understanding of just a few basic words are often the difference between poor, good and outstanding health literacy.
Medical terminology pronunciation
Proper medical terminology pronunciation by patients improves the accuracy and usefulness of information they present to doctors and other healthcare providers. Recognition of the words spoken increases the understanding of the concepts they convey as patients hear them.
General common medical terminology
Asymptomatic – Not associated with symptoms of illness.
Acidemia – It is a state of increased acidity and low pH of blood resulting from acidosis.
Alkalemia – It is a state of increased alkalinity and pH of blood resulting from alkalosis.
Alkalosis – It is the process and state of excess loss of H+ or accumulation of excess base in body fluids.
Antimicrobial–It is a drug used to treat microbial infection. It is a general term that can mean an antibiotic, antifungal, antiprotozoal or antiviral.
Autopsy – The examination of a body after death. It includes dissection (sectioning by cutting) of the internal organs. Its purpose is usually to determine the cause of death. It means the same as postmortem examination.
Benign – It is a descriptor term for tumors which means not malignant or likely to cause serious health problems or death.
Biopsy – Is the acquisition of tissue from a living person for the purpose of making a diagnosis. The method by which it is performed depends on the circumstances and the organ of concern. The main methods are:
- Tissue removal during surgery
- Removal of tissue during a procedure to inspect a lumen
- Removal of tissue trough a needle placed in the tissue through the skin
Carcinoma – It is a medical term for cancer. More specifically, it is cancer which originates in epithelial cells of a structure of organ.
Catheter – Is a flexible hollow tube for insertion into a body cavity or lumen. Its purpose is to perform a study of, or allow fluids to pass into or out of the structure in which it lodges.
Collagen – The major protein of the white fibers of bone, tendons, cartilage, skin and other connective tissue. It comprises over half the protein in mammals.
Complication – Is an event(s) or disease (s) that occurs at the same time or in close proximity with another disease. It is not an essential part of the initial disease, but may result from it or the treatment of it. Heart failure complicating a heart attack is an example. The onset of kidney failure following the receipt of a drug to treat cancer is another. The event could also be an injury such as a fracture from a fall caused by a disease of the nervous system such as MS. – Complicated adj. – The hospital course was complicated by pneumonia following surgery – example.
Connective tissue – It is the supporting tissue of various structures of the body. Cartilage, bone and fat are some examples. In main organs such as the lungs, liver and kidneys it is so named interstitial tissue.
Degeneration – Is a change in a cell or tissue to a less functionally active form. It is usually the result of aging and/or disease. It is sometimes the earliest sign of tissue or cell destruction. – Degenerate – v. – Degenerative – adj.
Diagnosis – Is a term denoting the nature and circumstances of a disease based on a patient’s signs and symptoms, the course of the disease and/or or tests. It is also the process of reaching such a conclusion. – Diagnoses pl. – Diagnostic adj.
Dilation (Dilatation) – Is the state or the act of increase in the circumference of a structure with a lumen or cavity. – Dilate – v. – Dilated – adj.
Disease modifying drug – It is a treatment agent that can modify or change the course of a disease. That change might be a reduced number of attacks, decreased severity of attacks or a halting or slowing of the overall progression of the disease.
Dorsal – It is a term meaning on, toward, or near the back or the upper surface of an organism, organ, or structural part of an organism. The term dorsal root ganglion is an example. – Dorsum n.
Element – It is a simple substance that cannot be broken down into smaller parts by chemical means. It is composed of atoms of the same type. Sodium, calcium and oxygen are examples. For example, the smallest single piece of a gold nugget is a gold element.
Endothelium – It is the layer of epithelial cells that line the cavity of the heart and the lumen of blood vessels, lymph vessels, and other cavities of the body. – Endothelial adj.
Epithelium – It is the covering or layer of tissue of external and internal surfaces of the body. It applies to structures such as the skin, lining of blood vessels, lumens of other structures, the surface of glands, and membranes lining the abdominal and chest cavities. – Epithelial adj.
Evidence-based medicine – It is the prudent use of the best current available data derived from scientific research in making decisions about the care of patients. Its intention is to integrate clinical expertise with research evidence and patient values.
Extension – The movement resulting in an increase in the distance between two surfaces with a joint in between. It particularly, but not only, applies to bones; a straightening movement between two surfaces.
Extracellular fluid – It is that portion of the body’s total fluid comprised of the interstitial fluid and blood plasma. It constitutes approximately 20% of a human adult’s weight.
Fibrosis – It is the formation of excessive fibrous tissue in an organ. It is a form of scarring which can result from a reparative or disease process. Common sites for it are the lungs and liver. It can also form in other areas of the body. – Fibrotic – adj.
Flexion – The movement of two surfaces with joints – particularly bones – closer together as a result of muscle contraction and the resulting force it exerts through a tendon(s); a bending movement between two surfaces.
History (Medical history) – Is a record or narrative of current and distant past circumstances, events, and conditions that are, or might be, relevant to a patient’s current state of health. It includes past diseases, symptoms, surgeries, injuries, past treatments, and current medications. Family history, allergies and lifestyle data are also a part of the history. Doctors and other healthcare workers gather most of the information from direct questioning of a patient. But some of the information might be from a review of old records if they are available.
The family history is a part of the medical history which contains information gleaned from questions about past or current diseases in relatives. It applies to both living and deceased family members. It is most important with respect to diseases that the patient may have or be vulnerable to, that are hereditary or that run in families.
Homeostasis – It is the state of equilibrium in the body with respect to various functions and the chemical composition of fluids and tissues. It is also the process of maintaining that state.
Hyperplasia – It is an abnormal increase in the number of normal cells with normal arrangement in a tissue.
Iatrogenic – Caused by the treatment or other actions of a physician. It most often refers to a disease or other complication which results from a form of treatment.
Index of suspicion – Index of suspicion – Is a term that doctors use in their communications with each other to reflect how seriously they believe a patient has or might have a given condition or disease. In other words, it is a biased gauge of how strongly a doctor suspects that a patient might have a particular condition or disease. The higher the index, the greater is the belief. The converse is also true, the lower it is. It tends to influence tests that a doctor orders in an attempt to make a diagnosis.
Interstitial fluid – It is the fluid in the spaces between cells of various tissues of the body.
Ionization – It is the dissociation of a molecule or atom into ions.
Malignancy – It is a synonym for cancer.
Malignant– It is a descriptor term for cells. It refers to them having properties of loss of differentiation and orientation to one another and their ability to locally invade or distantly spread to other tissues. The term is most commonly used in reference to tumors.
Metastatic – It is a term referring to the fact that a cancer has spread. Metastatic lung cancer is an example.
Microbe – It is a microscopic organism such as a bacterium, virus, fungus or parasite. – Microbial Adj.
Molecule – It is the smallest part of a chemical compound that has the chemical properties of that compound. It is composed of atoms held together by chemical bonds. The bonds form as a result of the sharing or exchange of electrons between the atoms. Atoms may be of the same or different elements. Oxygen (O2) is an example of the former. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is an example of the latter. – Molecular adj.
Obstruction – The blockage of a lumen of the body.
Organ – It is the structural unit of an organism that performs a specific function or functions. It differs from tissues in that it is more complex and is usually composed of different types of tissues working in harmony. The brain and heart are examples.
Organism – It is any individual living form of life, whether animal, plant, or microbe.
Patent – Open; said of the lumen of a structure – adj. Patency – n.
Pathogen – It is any microbe or agent that causes disease.
pH – It is the symbol which relates to the concentration of hydrogen ions (H+) in a solution compared to a standard solution – one containing 1 mole per liter or 6.025 x 1023 H+ per liter. Since compounds that dissociate to yield H+ are acids, pH reflects the acidity of a solution. Since bases neutralize acids and are inversely proportional to H+ concentration, pH is also indicative of the alkalinity of a solution. In the health care field blood and other body fluids are the solutions for which pH measurements are important. Since pH is the negative logarithm of the reciprocal of the H+ concentration, the lower the pH the greater is the concentration. A pH of 7 is neutral. A pH less than 7 is acid. A pH greater than 7 is alkaline.
Physical examination – Is the assessment of the structure and function of the body by means of palpation (feeling with the hands), percussion (tapping with the fingers), auscultation (listening) and visual inspection. Facets of the examination might include the use of some simple bedside instruments. Some of the more commonly used ones are a pen light for looking at the pupils and inside of the mouth; a stethoscope for listening to the heart and lungs; a sphygmomanometer to check the blood pressure; a watch or clock with a second hand to record the pulse rate; a thermometer for checking the temperature; a tuning fork to check hearing and the ability to sense vibration; and a rubber hammer for checking deep tendon reflexes.
Physiology – Is the normal vital processes and functions within organisms in part or as a whole. It applies to plants, animals and humans. – Physiologic adj.
Posterior – It is a term which means situated toward the back of the body or a structure. – Posteriorly adv.
Receptor – It is a molecular structure within the cell or on the surface, which binds specifically with a chemical(s) or senses a condition(s) which it responds to. The response has physiologic effects.
Reversible – Is a descriptor that refers to the capability of something reversing or being reversed. In a medical sense, the object of the adjective is a disease from which recovery is likely. The term can also apply to a chemical reaction in the body. – Reversibility n. – Irreversible – atm.
Risk factor – Is something that increases the likelihood of a specified disease or medical event in a person. It might be a trait, medical condition, or behavior such as smoking or alcohol ingestion to name a few.
Specificity – The likelihood that a test will correctly identify a disease in a person. It allows for the fact that other diseases or circumstances can cause the test to be positive. – Specific adj.
Stroma – It is the connective tissue which forms the framework of an organ, gland or other structure. It contrasts with the tissues performing the special function of the organ or structure. – Stromal adj.
Tissue – It is a group of harmonious cells that perform a specialized function. Skin is one example.
Workup – Is the overall proceedings related to a patient, the purpose of which is to make a diagnosis. It includes the taking of a history, the physical examination, laboratory tests, x-rays, etc.