Introduction to Medical Terminology

  1. What are the four different word parts or elements that can be used to construct medical terms?
    • Word root
    • Prefix
    • Suffix
    • Combining vowel
  2. Define word root.
    It is the foundation of a medical term and provides us with the general meaning of the word.  It often indicates the body system or part of the body that is being discussed, such as cardi for heart.  At other times the word root may be an action.  For example, the word root cis means to cut (as in incision).  A term may have more than one word root.  For example, osteoarthritis combines the word root oste meaning bone and arthr meaning joints.  Combined with suffix -itis, meaning an inflammation involving bone at the joints.
  3. Prefix
    Is at the beginning of the word, frequently gives information about the location of an organ, the number of parts, or the time (frequency).  For example, the prefix bi- stands for two of something, such as bilateral, which means having two sides.  However, not every term will have a prefix.
  4. Suffix
    Is at the end of the word to add meaning, such as condition, disease, or procedure. 

    Every medical term must have a suffix.

    For example, the suffix -itis, which means inflammation, when added to cardi- forms the new word carditis, which means inflammation of the heart.  The majority of the time, the suffix is added to a word root, as in carditis above. However, terms can also be built from a suffix added directly to a prefix, without a word root.  For example, the term dystrophy, which means abnormal development, is built from the prefix dys- and the suffix -trophy (meaning development).
  5. What is a combining vowel?
    It is a vowel (usually o) that links the word root to another word root or a suffix.

    To decide whether to use a combining vowel between a word root and a suffix, first look at the suffix.  If it begins with a vowel, do not use the combining vowel.  If however, the suffix begins with a consonant, then use the combining vowel.  For example: to combine arthr with -scope will require a combining vowel: arthroscope.  But to combine arthr with -itis does not require a combining vowel: arthritis.

    The combining vowel is typically kept between two word roots, even if the second word root begins with a vowel.  For example, in forming the term gastroenteritis the combining vowel is kept between the two word roots gastr and enter.  The combining vowel makes the pronunciation easier.

    When writing a word root by itself its combining form is typically used.
  6. How is a combining form written?
    This consists of the word root and its combining vowel written in a word root/vowel form, for example, cardi/o.
  7. Common Combining Form
    Meaning / Example (Definition)
  8. aden/o
    gland / adenopathy (gland disease)
  9. carcin/o
    cancer / carcinoma (cancerous tumor)
  10. cardi/o
    heart / cardiac (pertaining to the heart)
  11. chem/o
    chemical / chemotherapy (treatment with chemicals)
  12. cis/o
    to cut / incision (process of cutting into)
  13. dermat/o
    skin / dermatology (study of the skin)
  14. enter/o
    small intestine / enteric (pertaining to the small intestine)
  15. gastr/o
    stomach / gastric (pertaining to the stomach)
  16. gynec/o
    female / gynecology (study of females)
  17. hemat/o
    blood / hematic (pertaining to the blood)
  18. hydr/o
    water / hydrocele (protrusion of water [in the scrotum])
  19. immun/o
    immune / immunology (study of immunity)
  20. laryng/o
    voice box / laryngeal (pertaining to the voice box)
  21. morph/o
    shape / morphology (study of shape)
  22. nephr/o
    kidney / nephromegaly (enlarged kidney)
  23. neur/o
    nerve / neural (pertaining to a nerve)
  24. ophthalm/o
    eye / ophthalmic (pertaining to the eye)
  25. ot/o
    ear / otic (pertaining to the ear)
  26. path/o
    disease / pathology (study of disease)
  27. pulmon/o
    lung / pulmonary (pertaining to the lungs)
  28. rhin/o
    nose / rhinoplasty (surgical repair of the nose)
  29. ur/o
    urine, urinary tract / urology (study of the urinary tract)
  30. Common Prefixes
    Meaning / Example (Definition)
  31. a-
    without, away from / aphasia (without speech)
  32. an-
    without / anoxia (without oxygen)
  33. ante-
    before, in front of / antepartum (before birth)
  34. anti-
    against / antibiotic (against life)
  35. auto-
    self / autograft (a graft from one's own body)
  36. brady-
    slow / bradycardia (slow heartbeat)
  37. dys-
    painful, difficult / dyspnea (difficulty breathing)
  38. endo-
    within, inner / endoscope (instrument to view within)
  39. epi-
    upon, over / epigastric (upon or over the stomach)
  40. eu-
    normal, good / eupnea (normal breathing)
  41. hetero-
    different / heterograft (a graft from another person's body)
  42. homo-
    same / homozygous (having two identical genes)
  43. hyper-
    over, above / hypertrophy (overdevelopment)
  44. hypo-
    under, below / hypoglossal (under the tongue)
  45. infra-
    under, beneath, below / infraorbital (below, under the eye socket)
  46. inter-
    among, between / intervertebral (between the vertebrae)
  47. intra-
    within, inside / intravenous (inside, within a vein)
  48. macro-
    large / macrocephalic (having a large head)
  49. micro-
    small / microcephalic (having a small head)
  50. neo-
    new / neonate (newborn)
  51. pan-
    all / pancarditis (inflammation of all the heart)
  52. para-
    beside, beyond, near / paranasal (near or alongside the nose)
  53. per-
    through / percutaneous (through the skin)
  54. peri-
    around / pericardial (around the heart)
  55. post-
    after / postpartum (after birth)
  56. pre-
    before, in front of / prefrontal (in front of the frontal bone)
  57. pseudo-
    false / pseudocyesis (false pregnancy)
  58. retro-
    backward, behind / retrograde (movement in a backward direction)
  59. sub-
    below, under / subcutaneous (under, below the skin)
  60. super-
    above, excess / supernumerary (above the normal number)
  61. supra-
    above / suprapubic (above the pubic bone)
  62. tachy-
    rapid, fast / tachycardia (fast heartbeat)
  63. trans-
    through, across / transurethral (across the urethra)
  64. ultra-
    beyond, excess / ultrasound (high-frequency sound waves)
  65. Number Prefixes
    Meaning / Example (Definition)
  66. bi-
    two / bilateral (two sides)
  67. hemi-
    half / hemiplegia (paralysis of one side/half the body)
  68. mono-
    one / monoplegia (paralysis of one extremity)
  69. multi-
    many / multigravida (woman pregnant more than once)
  70. nulli-
    none / nulligravida (woman with no preganancies)
  71. poly-
    many / polyuria (large amounts of urine)
  72. quad-
    four / quadriplegia (paralysis of all four extremities)
  73. semi-
    partial, half / semiconscious (partially conscious)
  74. tri-
    three / triceps (muscle with three heads)
  75. uni-
    one / unilateral (one side)
  76. Common Suffixes
    Meaning / Example (Definition)
  77. -algia
    pain / gastralgia (stomach pain)
  78. -cele
    hernia, protrusion / cystocele (protrusion of the bladder)
  79. -cise
    cut / excise (to cut out)
  80. -cyte
    cell / erythrocyte (red cell)
  81. -dynia
    pain / cardiodynia (heart pain)
  82. -ectasis
    dilation / bronchiectasis (dilated bronchi)
  83. -gen
    that which produces / mutagen (that wich produces mutations)
  84. -genesis
    produces, generates / osteogenesis (produces bone)
  85. -genic
    producing, produced by / carcinogenic (producing cancer)
  86. -ia
    state, condition / hemiplegia (condition of being half paralyzed)
  87. -iasis
    abnormal condition / lithiasis (abnormal condition of stones)
  88. -ism
    state of / hypothyroidism (state of low thyroid)
  89. -itis
    inflammation / cellulitis (inflammation of cells)
  90. -logist
    one who studies / cariologist (one who studies the heart)
  91. -logy
    study of / cardiology (study of the heart)
  92. -lysis
    destruction / osteolysis (bone destruction)
  93. -malacia
    abnormal softening / chondromalacia (abnormal cartilage softening)
  94. -megaly
    enlargement, large / cardiomegaly (enlarged heart)
  95. -oma
    tumor, mass / carcinoma (cancerous tumor)
  96. -osis
    abnormal condition / cyanosis (abnormal condition of being blue)
  97. -pathy
    disease / myopathy (muscle disease)
  98. -plasia
    development, growth / dysplasia (abnormal development)
  99. -plasm
    formation, development / neoplasm (new formation)
  100. -ptosis
    drooping / proctoptosis (drooping rectum)
  101. -rrhage
    excessive, abnormal flow / hemorrhage (excessive bleeding)
  102. -rrhea
    discharge, flow / rhinorrhea (discharge from the nose)
  103. -rrhexis
    rupture / hysterorrhexis (ruptured uterus)
  104. -sclerosis
    hardening / arteriosclerosis (hardening of an artery)
  105. -stenosis
    narrowing / angiostenosis (narrowing of a vessel)
  106. -therapy
    treatment / chemotherapy (treatment with chemicals)
  107. -trophy
    nourishment, development / hypertrophy (excessive development)
  108. Adjective Suffixes
    Meaning / Example (Definition)
  109. -ac
    pertaining to /  cardiac (pertaining to the heart)
  110. -al
    pertaining to / duodenal (pertaining to the duodenum)
  111. -an
    pertaining to / ovarian (pertaining to the ovary)
  112. -ar
    pertaining to / ventricular (pertaining to the ventricle)
  113. -ary
    pertaining to / pulmonary (pertaining to the lungs)
  114. -eal
    pertaining to / esophageal (pertaining to the esophagus)
  115. -iac
    pertaining to / chondriac (pertaining to cartilage)
  116. -ic
    pertaining to / gastric (pertaining to the stomach)
  117. -ical
    pertaining to / neurological (pertaining to the study of the nerves)
  118. -ile
    pertaining to / penile (pertaining to the penis)
  119. -ior
    pertaining to / superior (pertaining to above)
  120. -ory
    pertaining to / auditory (pertaining to hearing)
  121. -ose
    pertaining to / adipose (pertaining to fat)
  122. -ous
    pertaining to / intravenous (pertaining to within a vein)
  123. -tic
    pertaining to / acoustic (pertaining to the hearing)
  124. Surgical Suffixes
    Meaning / Example (Definition)
  125. -centesis
    puncture to withdraw fluid / arthrocentesis (puncture to withdraw fluid from a joint)
  126. -ectomy
    surgical removal / gastrectomey (surgically remove the stomach)
  127. -ostomy
    surgically create an opening / colostomy (surgically create an opeing for the colon through the abdominal wall)
  128. -otomy
    cutting into / thoracotomy (cutting into the chest)
  129. -pexy
    surgical fixation / nephropexy (surgical fixation of a kidney)
  130. -plasty
    surgical repair / dermatoplasty (surgical repair of the skin)
  131. -rrhaphy
    suture / myorrhaphy (suture together muscle)
  132. Procedural Suffixes
    Meaning / Example (Definition)
  133. -gram
    record or picture / electrocardiogram (record of heart's electricity)
  134. -graph
    instrument for recording / electrocardiograph (instrument for recording the heart's electrical activity)
  135. -graphy
    process of recording / electrocardiography (process of recording the heart's electrical activity)
  136. -meter
    instrument for measuring / audiometer (instrument to measure hearing)
  137. -metry
    process of measuring / audiometry (process of measuring hearing)
  138. -scope
    instrument for viewing / gastroscope (instrument to view stomach)
  139. -scopy
    process of visually examining / gastroscopy (process of visually examining the stomach)
  140. Example of word building.
    hyster/o (meaning uterus) to salping/o (meaning fallopian tubes) along with the suffix -ectomy (meaning surgical removal of) forms hysterosalpingectomy, the removal of both the uterus and the fallopian tubes.

    Note: that the combining vowel o is dropped when adding the suffix -ectomy since two vowels are not necessary.
  141. Strategy Interpreting Medical Terms
    • Divide the term into its word parts. (gastr/o/enter/o/logy)
    • Define each word part. (gastr = stomach; o = combining vowel, no meaning;  enter = small intestine; o = combining vowel, not meaning; -logy = study of)
    • Combine the meaning of the word parts. (stomach, small intestine, study of)
  142. Pronunciation of a Medical Term
    • You will hear different pronunciations for the same terms, as long as it is clear which term people are discussing, differing pronunciations are acceptable. 
    • If you have any doubt about a term being discussed, ask for the term to be spelled.
  143. Explain Spelling of a Medical Term
    • You will hear differing pronunciations of the same term, there will be only one correct spelling. 
    • If you have any doubt about the spelling of a term or of its meaning, always look it up in a medical dictionary. 
    • If only one letter of the word is changed, it could make a critical difference for the patient. 

    Example: think ileum, or small intestine and ilium, or hip bone.
  144. Sounds like si
    • psy (psychiatry)
    • cy (cytology)
  145. Sounds like dis
    • dys (dyspepsia)
    • dis (dislocation)
  146. Singular and Plural Endings
    Many medical terms originate from Greek and Latin words.  The rules for forming the singular and plural forms of some words follow the rules of these languages rather than English.  For example, the heart has a left atrium and a right atrium for a total of two atrias, not two atriums.  Other words, such as virus and viruses, are changed from singular to plural by following English rules.  Each medical term needs to be considered individually when changing from the singular to the plural form.
  147. Words ending in -a
    vertebra > vertebrae
  148. Words ending in -ax
    thorax > thoraces
  149. Words ending in -ex or -ix
    appendix > appendices
  150. Words ending in -is
    metastasis > metastases
  151. Words ending in -ma
    sarcoma > sarcomata
  152. Words ending in -nx
    phalanx > phalanges
  153. Words ending in -on
    ganglion > ganglia
  154. Words ending in -us
    nucleus > nuclei
  155. Words ending in -um
    ovum > ova
  156. Words ending in -y
    biopsy > biopsies
  157. Abbreviations of Medical Terms
    They are commonly used in the medical profession as a way of saving time.  However, some abbreviations can be confusing, such as SM for simple mastectomy and sm for small.  Use of the incorrect abbreviation can result in problems for the patient, as well as with insurance records and processing.  If you have any concern that you will confuse someone by using an abbreviation, spell out the word instead.  It is never acceptable to use one's own abbreviations. 
  158. The Medical Record or Chart
    It documents the details of a patient's hospital stay.  Each healthcare professional who has contact with the patient in any capacity completes the appropriate report of that contact with the patient in any capacity completes the appropriate report of that contact and adds it to the chart.  This results in a permanent physical record of the patient's day-to-day condition, when and what services he or she received, and the response to treatment.  (Each page must contain the proper patient identification information: the patient's name, age, gender, physician, admission date, and identification number.)
  159. A list of the most common elements of a hospital chart with a brief description of each follows.
    • History and Physical
    • Physician's Orders
    • Nurse's Notes
    • Physician's Progress Notes
    • Consultation Reports
    • Ancillary Reports
    • Diagnostic Reports
    • Informed Consent
    • Operative Report
    • Anesthesiologist's Report
    • Pathologhist's Report
    • Discharge Summary
  160. Written or dictated by the admitting physician; details the patient's history, results of the physician's examination, initial diagnoses, and physician's plan of treatment.
     History and Physical
  161. Complete list of the care, medications, tests, and treatments the physician orders for the patient.
     Physician's Orders
  162. Record of the patient's care throughout the day; includes vital signs, treatment specifics, patient's response to treatment, and patient's condition.
    Nurse's Notes
  163. Physician's daily record of the patient's condition, results of the physician's examinations, summary of test results, updated assessment and diagnoses, and further plans for the patient's care.
    Physician's Progress Notes
  164. Reports given by specialists whom the physician has asked to evaluate the patient.
    Consultation Reports
  165. Reports from various treatments and therapies the patient has received, such as rehabilitation, social services, or respiratory therapy.
    Ancillary Reports
  166. Results of diagnostic tests performed on the patient, prinicipally from the clinical lab (for example, blood tests) and medical imaging (for example, X-rays and ultrasounds).
    Diagnostic Reports
  167. Document voluntarily signed by the patient or a responsible party that clearly describes the purpose, methods, procedures, benefits and risks of a diagnostic or treatment procedure.
    Informed Consent
  168. Report from the surgeon detailing an operation; includes a pre- and postoperative diagnosis, specific details of the surgical procedure itself, and how the patient tolerated the procedure.
    Operative Report
  169. Relates the details regarding the substances (such as medications and fluids) given to a patient, the patient's response to anethesia, and vital signs during surgery.
    Anesthesiologist's Report
  170. Report given by a pathologist who studies tissue removed from the patient (for example, bone marrow, blood, or tissue biopsy)
    Pathologist's Report
  171. Comprehensive outline of the patient's entire hospital stay; includes condition at time of admission, admitting diagnosis, test results, treatments and patient's response, final diagnosis, and follow-up plans.
    Discharge Summary
  172. Healthcare Settings
Card Set
Introduction to Medical Terminology
Intro to Medical Term.