Healthcare Glossary


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Abdominal thrusts - An emergency technique used for those who have an upper airway obstruction (choking) and are conscious. When the airway is blocked, the abdominal thrusts procedure, called the Heimlich maneuver, exerts pressure on the diaphragm, compressing the lungs to expel the object trapped in the trachea. Performed by placing one fist just above the belly button and grasping it with the other hand to produce an upward thrust.

Acidosis - A state of acidity in the body fluids or tissue. Acidosis is a broad medical term that can refer to many different issues such as high pH in arterial blood. It is generally classified as either respiratory or metabolic because the kidneys and lungs balance the pH level of acids and bases in the body. Respiratory acidosis refers to excess carbon dioxide while metabolic acidosis occurs when the kidneys fail to remove enough acid. Alkalosis is the opposite of acidosis.

Airway Management Trainer - A device used in the training of airway management procedures both basic and advanced. They come in various shape and sizes and with different features. Basic models simply mimic a non-responsive and non-breathing patient while others simulate breathing and cardiac scenarios. Certain models are effective specifically for advanced life support training to use to practice intubation techniques and more invasive airway management.

Angina - Angina, sometimes called angina pectoris, refers to chest pain or pressure. It is further broken down into three categories. Stable angina relates to myocardial ischemia and sometimes occurs during physical activity. Unstable angina is a form of acute coronary syndrome and indicates a partial heart attack. The third type of angina is cardiac syndrome X, ischemic changes that occur during exercise despite healthy arteries.

Arrhythmia - An irregular heart beat due to improper electrical impulses. Heart rhythm is controlled by a natural pacemaker called the sinus node. This node, combined with the atrioventricular node, produces the electrical impulses that stimulate contraction of the heart muscles and pumping of the blood. Arrhythmias occur when this system malfunctions due to trauma or disease. Arrhythmias fall into one of two classifications: tachycardia (fast) or bradycardia (slow). Common arrhythmias include atrial fibrillation, atrial flutter and ventricular tachycardia.

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Backboard - Also known as the long spinal board, devices used by emergency responders for pre-hospital trauma care. The board provides rigid back support to secure the spine and limbs until medical personnel can rule out a spinal injury. Often used for transfer by rescue workers removing patients from accident scenarios.

Blood pressure - Blood pressure is a measure of circulating blood as it hits the walls of large arteries. The blood pressure reading comes with two numbers: systolic and diastolic. The systolic, generally the higher number, is the pressure as the heart beats while diastolic measures the pressure as the heart relaxes. Both of these numbers are influenced by cardiac output, peripheral resistance and arterial stiffness. Combined with other vital signs such as pulse and respiration, blood pressure is a measure of the patient’s current state of health.

Bronchoscopy - A procedure that allows a medical professional to see inside the airways leading to the lungs. The process involves the insertion of a specialized medical device situated with a light and camera into on the mouth or nose of the patient and then down the throat and into the trachea. The procedure allows for the detection of respiratory problems such as tumors, infection blocking airways and bleeding.

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Colonoscopy - The endoscopic examination of the large bowel and the distal portion of the small bowel. It requires the passing of a small, flexible tube that includes a CCD or fiber optic camera through the anus into the colon. The goal is the visual diagnosis of diseases of the colon and rectum including colorectal cancer. A colonoscopy also provides the opportunity to biopsy or completely remove polyps or lesions.

Cricoid pressure - Known as the Selick maneuver, this is a technique that involves the application of pressure to the cricoid cartilage at the neck to reduce the risk of regurgitation during Selick maneuver, this is a technique that involves the application of pressure to the cricoid cartilage at the neck to reduce the risk of regurgitation during endotracheal intubation. The pressure applied to the right area of the neck occludes the esophagus directly behind the trachea.endotracheal intubation. The pressure applied to the right area of the neck occludes the esophagus directly behind the trachea.

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Dressing - A medical dressing is a sterile compress or pad that covers a wound to protect it from further damage and to promote heat. Dressings are used for a number of purposes including to stem bleeding, to prevent infection and to soak up fluid from the site. Covering a wound can also reduce psychological stress and ease the pain.

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Electrolyte imbalance - Electrolytes regulate different systems including the heart, neurological function, oxygen delivery and acid-base balance. A disturbance in the electrolyte balance, in other words, the distribution of electrolytes, can cause physical symptoms such as dizziness, irregular heartbeat and fainting. Most electrolyte imbalances involve the concentrations of sodium, potassium or calcium.

Endotracheal intubation - Endotracheal intubation is an advanced airway management procedure that opens and maintains the airway to prevent suffocation. A flexible tube is inserted into the trachea through the mouth or nose to open the airway while protecting the lungs. Endotracheal intubation, tracheal intubation and intubation are used synonymously

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Field pack - This is the emergency bag EMTs and other first responders carry to the scene of an accident or rescue. The bags vary based on the level of care and need. For example, a basic level EMT might carry a different type field pack than an EMT-P who administers advanced life support. On average, the bag will contain at least dressings, tape, face masks, gloves, Kling roller bandages, cravats, scissors and a penlight. Some packs may include a BVM and stethoscope plus a BP cuff, O2 tank and nasal cannulas. Advanced providers may have medication and IV equipment in their packs, as well.

Foreign body airway obstruction - Refers to a type of choking caused when a foreign body such as food or another kind of material becomes lodged in the trachea, obstructing the airway. This obstruction prevents air flow from the environment into the lungs. The obstruction may be complete or partial. A technique like the Heimlich maneuver is often employed in an attempt to dislodge the object.

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Gauze - A thin, translucent fabric with an open weave that works well as a medical dressing. It is typically made from cotton to allow for better airflow. Some forms of gauze are impregnated with antimicrobials or a soothing formula to make the patient more comfortable and protect the open wound.

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Heartsaver - Heartsaver is the brand name for courses offered online by various organizations like the American Heart Association. These are self-directed courses that include basic first aid, CPR and the use of an AED. They are designed for lay people with little to no medical training and come with certifications that last for two years. The course is required by OSHA for some types of employment.

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Intraosseous infusion - Intraosseous infusion refers to injections directly into bone marrow in order to establish an entry point to the systemic venous system. This technique is sometimes chosen over an intravenous delivery system for fluids and medication when IV is not possible or the best option. It is used in cases of burns, obesity, edema and seizure or when a rapid high-volume infusion is necessary to save the patient’s life. Since this method requires injection directly into bone, common delivery sites include that proximal tibia, the distal end of the radial bone, the proximal metaphysis of the humerus, distal tibia, distal femur, sternum and calcaneus.

Isothermal emergency blanket - Sometimes called a space or Mylar blanket, it is a low-weight and low-bulk blanket constructed from a heat-reflective material. The thin material allows for easy transport of the blanket making them an ideal option for emergency use.

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Laryngoscope - A medical device used to perform a direct laryngoscopy in order to view the interior of the larynx via the mouth. A laryngoscopy allows for the visual inspection of the voice box and vocal cords to diagnose voice problems, identify the source of pain and to see injuries to the throat such as strictures or airway blockages.

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Myocardial infarction - What most people refer to as a heart attack. A myocardial infarction occurs when the blood flow to the heart slows or stops completely damaging the cardiac muscle. Symptoms of myocardial infarction include chest pain that may radiate to the shoulder, neck, jaw, arms or back. The patient may be short of breath, vomiting and sweaty. Not everyone has symptoms during a heart attack, either. The most likely cause of a myocardial infarction is coronary artery disease. Risk factors include high blood pressure, smoking, sedate lifestyle, diabetes, obesity, and high blood cholesterol. Poor diet and excessive alcohol can be contributing factors, as well.

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Needle cricothyrotomy - A surgical technique to establish an airway in life-threatening situations. The needle cricothyrotomy is an advanced airway management protocol and should only be attempted by trained first responders or other healthcare professionals. With this procedure, a needle is inserted through the skin and cricothyroid membrane to open up the obstructed trachea and allow respiration.

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Obstetric manikins - Training devices used to simulate various stages of pregnancy and labor as well as childbirth. They simulate a normal vaginal delivery plus possible complications or even multiple births. Most are able to demonstrate various obstetric procedures, as well, such as the episiotomy, intrauterine manipulation and manual positioning of the baby.

Oxygen saturation - Refers to the level of oxygen-saturated hemoglobin relative to the total hemoglobin in the blood presented as a percent. Normal oxygen saturation is between 95 and 100 percent. An oxygen saturation level below 90 percent is hypoxemia and at lower than 80 percent can comprise organ function.

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Pericardiocentesis - A procedure that allows for fluid aspiration from the pericardium -- the sac that surrounds the heart. Fluid build up compresses the heart muscle and interferes with beating. This is a condition known as cardiac tamponade. During a pericardiocentesis, an ultrasound guided syringe punctures the sac and pulls the fluid, usually blood or pus, from it releasing the pressure on the heart and allowing it to beat normally.

Pharmacology - Pharmacology is the study of drug action. In this context, a drug may refer to man-made, natural or endogenous substances. It is a broad term that covers different divisions such as clinical pharmacology, neuropharmacology, psychopharmacology and dental pharmacology. Each classification adds more detail to the specialization. For instance, pharmacoepidemiology is the study of the effect of drugs of large groups of people. Toxicology is another division of pharmacology that studies the adverse effects of drugs and other chemical substances.

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Rescue Randy - Rescue Randy is a lifelike simulation manikin developed for rescue training. There are various versions of this simulator. It comes in both adult and juvenile weights and sizes, for example. It has articulating joints and is designed to simulate an unconscious person. Rescue Randy is a training tool used by the military, fire and rescue services and the police department. The goal is to aid in the training of rescue and extrication scenarios including carry-down protocols.

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Severe choking - One of the levels of severity for choking assessment in foreign object obstruction. The severe choking individual is unable to talk, will grab at his or her neck (universal choking sign), will not be able to produce a forceful cough, may develop a blue tinge on the lips or nails and may lose consciousness. Severe choking is a life-threatening medical emergency that requires immediate first aid using the Heimlich maneuver or the Red Cross’s “Five and Five” approach which calls for five back blows and then five abdominal thrusts until help comes or the object is dislodged.

Shock - Shock is a broad medical term usually associated with low circulatory perfusion. When in shock, the patient’s organs are not getting enough blood oxygen putting them at risk for permanent damage. Common causes of shock include trauma, blood loss, allergic reaction, infection, poisoning, burns or another medical anomaly. The term shock can be broken down further to provide more detail. For example, cardiogenic shock relates to the heart suddenly stopping. Signs of shock include cold, clammy skin, paleness, rapid pulse, rapid breathing, nausea, enlarged pupils, weakness, dizziness and altered mental status. First aid for shock would involve putting the patient into a prone position and elevating the legs slightly, loosening the clothing and providing some kind of cover such as a blanket or jacket. If the heart stops, begin CPR.

Stethoscope - A stethoscope is a medical device used for auscultation. With a stethoscope, it is possible to listen to internal sounds such as a heartbeat, blood flow, lungs filling with air and bowel sounds. There are two types of stethoscopes available. The most common type is the acoustic variety, which transmits sound through air-filled hollow tubes to the ears of the listeners. It consists of a diaphragm that creates acoustic pressure waves. An electronic stethoscope amplifies body sounds electronically.

Synchronized cardioversion - Also called synchronized electrical cardioversion, this is a procedure designed to apply a therapeutic dose of electrical current to the heart at a specific point in the cardiac cycle. The goal is to restore normal activity in the electrical conduction system of the heart. Defibrillation is a similar therapy but it delivers the electrical current at a random moment as opposed to a specific one.

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Tension pneumothorax - A pneumothorax indicates a collection of air in the pleural space resting between the lung and the chest wall. The air interferes with the expansion of the lung. A tension pneumothorax occurs when damage to tissue in the area creates a one-way valve increasing the amount of air in the chest. It is typically caused by either a penetrating chest wound or blunt trauma to the chest. Certain medical procedures can cause this anomaly, as well.

Tracheal intubation - An emergency airway management procedure designed to open and maintain the airway to prevent suffocation. A flexible tube is inserted into the trachea through the mouth or nose to open the airway while protecting the lungs. Endotracheal intubation, tracheal intubation and intubation are used synonymously.

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Venipuncture - Refers to a process of gaining intravenous access for blood sampling or for intravenous therapy. It is a routinely performed procedure by nurses, EMTs, paramedics, medical laboratory scientists, phlebotomists, dialysis technicians and other medical practitioners. The most common reasons for venipuncture include drawing blood for lab tests, for the therapeutic introduction of medications, nutrition or chemotherapy, to remove excess blood or to collect blood for use in a transfusion.

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Wound care - The application of techniques designed to promote healing of wounds to the skin. It typically involves debridement and dressing along with careful positioning of the body to prevent further damage and excess pressure on the wound. The goal is to prevent infection, edema, lymphedema and to maximize blood flow and oxygenation.

Wound care models - Training devices that simulate different types of wounds such as pressure sores and deep tissue injuries.

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