Surgical Terms

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A brief glossary of surgical terms, helpful for medical terminology courses and surgical clerkships

Abscess

Localized collection of pus, surrounded by inflamed tissues

Achlorhydria

Abscence of hydrochloric acid in the stomach

Acholic stool

Light-colored stool as a result of decreased bile content

Adeno-

Prefix denoting gland(s)

Adhesion

Union of two normally separate surfaces, often refers to a painful post-surgical internal scar tissue what fuses abdominal viscera

Adnexa

Adjoining parts; usually means ovary/fallopian tube

Adventitia

Outer coat of the wall of a vein or artery, composed of loose connective tissue

Afferent

Toward (as in sensory nerves which carry signals toward the brain)

-algia

Suffix denoting pain

Amaurosis fugax

Transient visual loss in one eye

Ampulla

Enlarged or dilated ending of a tube or canal

Analgesic

Drug that prevents pain

Anastomosis

Connection between two tubular organs or parts

Anergy

Lack of response to a specific antigen

Angio-

Prefix denoting blood or lymph vessels

Anomaly

Any deviation from the normal (congenital or developmental defect)

Apnea

Cessation of breathing

Atelectasis

Collapse of alveoli

Bariatric

Weight reduction

Beta

B-HCG (pregnancy test)

Bifurcation

Point at which division into two branches occurs

Bile salts

Alkaline salts of bile necessary for the emulsification of fats

Bili-

Prefix denoting bile

Boil

Tender inflamed area of the skin containing pus

Bovie

Electrocautery tool

Calculus

Stone

Carbuncle

A large collection of boils (furuncle) with multiple drainage channels

Cauterization

Destruction of tissue using heat

Celiotomy

Surgical incision into the peritoneal cavity (same as laparotomy)

Cephal-

Prefix denoting the head

Chole-

Prefix denoting bile

Cholecyst-

Prefix denoting gallbladder

Choledocho-

Prefix denoting the common bile duct (CBD)

Chyme

Bolus of food that passes from stomach to duodenum

Cleido-

Prefix denoting the clavicle

Colic

Intermittent abdominal pain usually indicating pathology in the bowels

Colloid

Serum proteins, albumin

Colonoscopy

Endoscopic examination of the colon

Colostomy

Surgical operation in which part of the colon is brought through the abdominal wall

Constipation

Infrequent or difficult passage of stool

Cor pulmonale

Enlargement of the right ventricle caused by lung disease and resultant pulmonary hypertension

Curettage

Scraping of the internal surface of an organ or body cavity by means of a spoon-shaped instrument

Direct bilirubin

Conjugated bilirubin (has been processed by the liver, is water soluble and can be excreted in the urine)

-dynia

Suffix denoting pain

Dys-

Prefix: difficult/painful/abnormal

Dyspareunia

Painful sexual intercourse

Dysphagia

Difficulty swallowing

Ecchymosis

Bruise

-ectomy

Suffix denoting surgical removal

Efferent

Away from, as in motor neurons carrying impulses away from the brain toward the muscles

Endarterectomy

Surgical removal of an atheroma and the inner part of the vessel wall to relieve an obstructed vessel

CEA

Carotid endarterectomy

Enteritis

Inflammation of the small intestine, usually causing diarrhea

Enterolysis

Lysis of peritoneal adhesions; not to be confused with enteroclysis, which is a contrast study of the small bowel

Enteroclysis

Contrast study of the small bowel

Eschar

Scab produced by the action of heat or a corrosive substance on the skin

Excisional biopsy

Biopsy with removal of entire tumor

Fascia

Sheet of strong connective tissue

Fistula

Abnormal communication between two hollow, epithelialized organs, or between one such organ and the exterior of the skin

Foley

Bladder catheter

Frequency

Usually denotes abnormally increased frequency (i.e. urinary)

Furuncle

One boil, a small subcutaneous staphylococcal infection of a follicle

Gastropexy

Surgical attachment of the stomach to the abdominal wall

Hemangioma

Benign tumor of blood vessels

Hematemesis

Vomitting of blood

Hematoma

Accumulation of blood within the tissues, which clots to form a solid swelling

Hemoptysis

Coughing up blood

Hemothorax

Blood in the pleural cavity

Hepato-

Prefix denoting the liver

Herniorrhaphy

Surgical repair of a hernia

Hesitancy

Difficulty initiating urination

Hiatus

Opening or aperture

Hidradenitis

Inflammation of the apocrine glands, usually cause by blockage

Icterus

Jaundice

Ileostomy

Surgical connection between the lumen of the ileum and the skin of the abdominal wall

Ileus

Abnormal intestinal motility (usually paralytic)

Induration

Abnormal hardening of a tissue or organ

Inspissated

Hard

Intussusception

Telescoping of one part of the bowel into another

-itis

Suffix denoting inflammation of an organ or tissue

Leiomyoma

Benign tumor of smooth muscle

Leiomyosarcoma

Malignant tumor of smooth muscle

Lieno-

Denoting the spleen

Melena

Black tarry stool (melenic)

Necrotic

Dead

Obstipation

Failure to pass flatus or stool

Odynophagia

Painful swallowing

-orraphy

Surgical repair

-ostomy

General term referring to any operation in which an artificial opening is created between two hollow organs, or through the abdominal wall for drainage (colostomy) or feeding (gastrostomy)

-otomy

Suffix denoting surgical incision into an organ

Percutaneous

Performed through the skin

-pexy

Suffix denoting fixation

Phleb-

Prefix denoting vein

Phlebolith

Calcification in a vein

Phlegmon

Diffuse inflammation of soft tissue resulting in a swollen mass (often seen in pancreatic tissue)

Plica

Fold or ridge

Plicae circulares

Circular folds in the lumen of the small intestine (A.K.A. valvulae conniventes)

Plicae semilunares

Semicircular folds into lumen of the large intesting

Pneumaturia

Passage of urine containing air

Pneumothorax

Collapse of lung with air in pleural space

Pseudocyst

Fluid-filled cavity resembling a true cyst, but not lined with epithelium

Pus

Liquid product of inflammation, consisting of dying leukocytes and other fluids from the inflammatory response

Rubor

Redness; a classic sign of inflammation

Steatorrhea

Fatty stools as a result of decreased fat absorption

Stenosis

Abnormal narrowing of a passage or opening

Sterile field

Area covered by sterile drapes or prepped in sterile fashion using antiseptics such as Betadine

Succus

Fluid (succus entericus = fluid from the bowel lumen)

Tenesmus

Urge to defecate with ineffectual and often painful straining

Thoracotomy

Surgical opening of the chest cavity

Transect

To divide transversely (to cut in half)

Trendelenburg

Patient posture with pelvis higher than the head, inclined about 45 degrees

Urgency

Sudden strong urge to urinate; often seen with UTI

Wet-to-dry dressing

Damp gauze dressing placed on a wound and removed after the dressing dries to the wound, providing microdebridement

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