Glossary of terms



Acute: used to describe a disorder or symptom that comes on suddenly and needs urgent treatment.
AIDS: Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome - the result of a virus transmitted in sexual fluids and blood.
Ambulatory: referring to patients who are able to walk to appointments etc.
Angiography: special type of x-ray used to look at blood flow.
ARF: acute renal failure, occurs in previously normal kidneys following events such as crush injuries, heart failure or infection, and is usually reversible.


BMA: British Medical Association - the professional association of doctors.


Cancer: the general term used to describe a tumour which could be in many different parts of the body.
CAPD: Continuous Ambulatory Peritoneal Dialysis, where a fluid exchange lasting 30 - 40 minutes is carried out via the peritoneal cavity (abdomen) three or four times a day.
Cardiac: to do with the heart.
Cardiac arrest: heart failure.
Carotid: relating to the two main arteries carrying blood to the head and neck.
CHD: Coronary Heart Disease: a general term to describe diseases of the heart.
Chemotherapy: the use of chemicals to destroy cancer cells or slow down cancer growth.
Community care: health or social care and treatment outside of hospital. It can take place in clinics, non-acute hospitals or in people's homes.
Consultant: a senior doctor who takes full responsibility for the clinical care of patients. Most head a team of junior doctors.


Dermatology: medical treatments concerned with the skin and skin conditions.
Dialysis: purification or filtering of the blood to remove harmful elements when kidneys, which normally perform this function, have failed.


Elective: used to describe operations, procedures or treatments that are planned rather than carried out in an emergency.
Embolisation: the formation of a blood clot, an air bubble, a fatty deposit or other object obstructing a blood vessel.
Endoscopy: the insertion of a tube-shaped instrument called an endoscope into a body cavity, to investigate or treat various medical problems.
ENT: stands for ear, nose and throat, and relates to their treatment.


Fistula: the joining of an artery and a vein, usually in the arm, as a suitable, permanent access point for haemodialysis (haemodialysis is the removal of waste products or poisons from the blood using dialysis).


GUM: Genito Urinary Medicine: usually used as the name of a clinic treating sexually transmitted diseases.
GMC: General Medical Council: the organisation that licenses doctors to practice medicine in the UK.
GP: General Practioner: a doctor providing primary care services, usually providing the first point of contact for NHS patients.
Gynaecology: healthcare that focuses on women's reproductive systems.


HC: Healthcare Commission: the government organisation set up to improve the quality of patient care.
Hotel: used in a hospital context to mean non-clinical services such as bed linen and food.


Interventional radiology services: services that use x-ray and other imaging technology when doctors insert small pieces of equipment that allow blood to keep circulation through arteries or veins which are narrowed, swollen or leaking.
IVF: In Vitro Fertilisation: the procees by which an egg is fertilised in a test tube before inplantation in the mother's womb.


Low-risk: often applied to maternity services and means that a normal birth with no complications for mother or baby are expected.


MIU: Minor Injuries Unit: a somewhat misleading name because a minor injuries unit can treat the results of most accidents and emergencies.
MRI: Magnetic resonance imaging: scanners used primarily to detect cancer.
Neonatal: to do with newborn babies, up to the age of four weeks.


Neoplasm: any abnormal new growth of tissue or tumour.
Nephrology: the early detection and diagnosis of renal (kidney) disease and the long-term management of its complications.
Neurology: study and treatment of nerve systems.
NHS Direct: A 24-hour telephone helpline for people with health concerns - 0845 46 47
NHS trusts: set up to deliver NHS healthcare - the term can relate to organisations providing primary, secondary or community care.
NICE: National Institute of Clinical Excellence: set up by the government to advise of effectiveness of healthcare and treatments.
NSF: National Service Frameworks - guidance on how services should be provided across the country.


Pharmacists: people who are qualified to dispense medicines on prescription and advise people about over-the-counter medical products.
Primary Care: the first stage of treatment when you are ill and usually provided by your GP or at a community clinic - see also secondary care and tertiary care.
Pulmonary: to do with the lungs.


Radiology: the use of Xrays and radioactive substances for diagnosis and treatment of disease.
Radiotherapy: the use of high-energy radio-waves to destroy or shrink cancer tumours. Also known as teletherapy.
Renal: to do with the kidneys.
Rotas: working schedules for groups of clinicians, making sure expertise is available 24 hours and 7 days a week.
Royal College of Nursing: the professional association of nurses.


Secondary care: the second stage of treatment when you are ill and usually provided by a hospital. See also primary care and tertiary care.
Stroke: the interruption of blood flow to an area of the brain caused by a blood clot blocking a blood vessel or artery or a blood vessel breaking.


Telemedicine: the use of communication systems, such as television screens, to help provide diagnosis and medical advice when the patient doctor are not in the same place.
Teletherapy: see radiotherapy
Tertiary care: the third and highly specialised stage of treatment, usually provided in a hospital centre which may not be local. See also primary care and secondary care.
Thrombolysis: the dissolving of a blood clot.
Trauma: the effect on the body of a wound or violent impact.
Triage: a system which sorts medical cases in order of urgency to determine how quickly patients receive treatment, for instance in accident and emergency departments.


Urology: Medical treatment that concerns the urinary system.


Vascular: to do with the ateries and veins carrying blood around the body.


X-ray: part of a group of technologies collectively known as radiology. Used to produce images from inside the human body.