Medical Terms

MEDICAL TERMS USED IN THE EMERGENCY DEPARTMENT

ABG

Arterial blood gases. A test where blood is drawn and measured for oxygen content. The ABG tells the physician whether or not the patient is getting enough oxygen into the bloodstream. An ABG is frequently used for cases of asthma, COPD, or chest trauma.

Adenosine

A drug used to treat certain heart arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats) by helping to stabilize heart rhythm. (see IV push)

AMA

Against Medical Advice. A term used with a patient who checks himself out of a hospital against the advice of a person's doctor. While it may not be medically wise for the person to leave early, in most cases the wishes of the patient are considered first. The patient is usually asked to sign a form stating that he is aware that he or she is leaving the facility against medical advice, and the AMA term is used on reports concerning the patient. This is for legal reasons in case there are complications to limit liability on the part of the medical facility.

Angioplasty

A surgical procedure in which a small catheter with a balloon tip is threaded into the coronary artery. The balloon is then blown up to re-expand the clotted artery.

Appendectomy

Operation where the infected appendix will be removed.

Arrhythmia

Occurs when the beat of the heart is no longer originating from the sinus node, and the rhythm is abnormal.

Asystole

Is a state of no cardiac electrical activity, hence no contractions of the myocardium and no cardiac output or blood flow. Asystole is one of the conditions required for a medical practitioner to certify death.

Atropine

A drug used to speed up the heart rate.

AZT

An antiviral drug prescribed for the treatment of AIDS.

Bagging

A procedure in which a bag is attached outside the mouth so that breathing can be done mechanically for the patient.

Betablocker

Medicine that controls the blood pressure.

BP

Abbreviation for blood pressure.

Blood Culture

A test where blood is drawn and cultured for bacteria. It is usually ordered when someone has a high fever, particularly a young child, to identify the organism causing the disease and treat it with the proper antibiotic.

Blood Gases

A test that determines the oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in the blood, as well as the pH.

Brady Cardia

Very slow heart rate.

Bradying Down

Heart rate is dropping.

Cardiac Enzymes

A damaged heart muscle releases enzymes over a period of time and, by drawing cardiac enzymes, it is possible to confirm that a heart attack has taken place. (see coag panel)

Cath Lab

Short for catheterization laboratory, where a cardiologist performs angioplasty.

CBC

Abbreviation for Complete Blood Count.

CC

Abbreviation for Chief complaint.

Chem 7

A blood test that measures the basic electrolytes in blood: sodium, chloride, potassium, carbon dioxide, blood urea nitrogen (BUN), creatinine, and glucose. A chem 7 is useful in the assessment of many diseases, as derangement of these elements can be fatal. (see coag panel)

Chest

Short for chest X ray, typically done when the doctor suspects pneumonia or to rule out pneumonia.

CHF

Abbreviation for Congestive Heart Failure.

C-Section

Shorthand for cesarean section, which is the surgical delivery of a baby through the abdominal wall.

Coag Panel

An assessment of how well the blood is coagulating.

CPR

Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation

Crike

When the throat is cut to insert a direct tube for breathing when an intubation is not possible due to blockage of the throat.

Crit (hematocrit)

A test to measure the number of red blood cells in the blood - the level of which typically decreases when a person has been bleeding or has anemia. (see platelets)

Diaphoresis

Sweaty skin associated with an MI.

Dopamine

A drug that makes the heart pump more strongly.

DNR

Abbreviation for do not resuscitate; often requested or ordered for terminally ill patients.

Edema

Excessive accumulation of fluid.

EKG (ECG)

Abbreviation for electrocardiogram; measures heart activity.

EMT

Abbreviation for Emergency Medical Technician.

Endotracheal Tube

An instrument inserted into the trachea through the mouth to facilitate breathing.

Gastric Lavage

Method used to pump stomachs after drug overdose.

GCS

Glascow Coma Score: Indicating the level of consciousness of a patient

Hematuria

Blood in urine

Hemorrhage

A dramatic and sudden loss of blood.

Hyperkalemia

An elevated blood level (above 5.0 mmol/L) of the electrolyte potassium. Extreme degrees of hyperkalemia are considered a medical emergency due to the risk of potentially fatal arrhythmias.

Hyper-resonant

When percussing (thumping) a patient's back and listening for breath sounds, the doctor will hear hyper-resonant, or increased, vibrations that are indicative of a pneumothorax. (see tension pneumo)

Hypertension

High blood pressure.

Hypotension

Low blood pressure.

Intubation

The procedure of inserting a tube into the trachea of a patient who is not breathing.

Intubation Tray

A tray that contains various instruments used to intubate a patient who is not breathing: a laryngoscope, which is an instrument for opening the larynx; and an endotracheal tube, which is inserted into the trachea through the mouth to facilitate breathing. A bag is attached outside the mouth so that breathing can be done mechanically for the patient - in a procedure known as "bagging."

IV Push

When a drug is put directly into the IV all at once.

Large-bore IV

An IV with a large needle used to transfuse fluids - either saline or blood - very quickly, particularly in trauma cases, where a patient may have lost a lot of blood.

Laryngoscope

An instrument for opening the larynx.

Lavage

Washing out.

Lidocaine

An Anti-Arrythmic drug used to help stop an arrythmia.

LOC

Abbreviation for Level of consciousness or loss of consciousness.

LP

A lumbar puncture, sometimes called a spinal tap, is a procedure in which a small amount of the fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord, called the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), is removed and examined.

MI

Abbreviation for Myocardial infarction (heart attack).

MVA

Abbreviation for Motor Vehicle Accident.

Normal Saline

Saline solution that has the same balance as the fluids in the body. Saline is administered when the patient requires fluids due to dehydration or when nothing may be taken by mouth because of the possibility of impending surgery.

Pericardiocentisis

A procedure where they insert a syringe into the chest and drain the fluid from the pericardium.

Peritoneal Lavage

A procedure done to check for internal bleeding in the abdomen following a trauma.

Platelets

The factors in the blood that cause clotting.

Pulmonary Edema

Fluid in the lungs.

Pulse Oximetry ("pulse ox")

A non-invasive and painless way to measure the oxygen saturation of arterial blood. Also an indicator of how well someone's breathing; healthy range is between about 96 and 100.

PVC (Premature Ventricular Contraction)

One of the most common arrhythmias

Rape Kit

A package containing envelopes for the collection of hair, sperm, and blood samples of a rape victims, as well as the official reporting forms.

Saline Solution

A blood volume substitute made of salt and water, a temporary substitute for lost blood.

Sinus Rhythm

Normal heartbeat.

ST Wave

On a heart monitor, one heartbeat is reflected as a PQRST wave. A segment of the wave is the ST.

Stat

Slang expression for hurry up.

STD

Abbreviation for sexually transmitted disease.

SVT

Supra Ventricular Tachycardia - A cardiac arrythmia.

Tachycardia (Tachy)

Rapid heart rate.

Tamponade

The compression of the heart caused by blood or fluid accumulation in the space between the myocardium (the muscle of the heart) and the pericardium (the outer covering sac of the heart).

Tension Pneumo

Short for tension pneumothorax. It is a collapsed lung where air escapes into the chest every time the patient breathes, as if through a one-way valve. A tension pneumo can cause pressure on the heart and is a serious emergency.

Thoracotomy

A procedure done by opening the chest using a rib spreader to have direct access to the heart if the patient is in asytole, (flat line on the monitor). Then they will do internal cardiac massage, which is rubbing the heart. Because you never defibrillate Asytole.

Throat Swab

A throat swab is the same as a throat culture and is used to test for Streptococcus.

Tox Screen/RUDS

Blood test to determine what drugs are in a patient's system. RUDS is short for Random Urine Drug Screen.

Triage

The system of prioritizing patients in an emergency situation in which there are a great number of injured or ill.

TPA

A powerful drug used to dissolve a blood clot in the coronary artery that is causing a heart attack. (see angioplasty)

V-fib

Ventricular Fibrillation, one of the dangerous cardiac arrhythmias.

V-tach

When the heart is beating at an abnormally high rate.

White Count

A test to measure the number of white blood cells in the blood. The white cells are the blood cells that fight infection, and an increased count usually indicates the presence of an infection. (see platelets)