Sometimes it seems as if medical professionals speak an entirely different language from the rest of us. Just like other professions, the medical field has jargon all its own. The language can be intimidating, but never be afraid to ask questions of your provider if you don’t understand something. It is your right as a patient to be informed and take an active role in your healthcare.

A responsible provider will not be irritated by your questions and should answer them willingly. Here are some definitions that you may find helpful. Consult a medical dictionary for a more complete listing of terms.

Advance Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) – is a nurse with post graduate education in nursing. APRNs are prepared with advanced didactic and clinical education, knowledge, skills, and scope of practice in nursing. Nurses practicing at this level are educationally prepared at the post graduate level and may work in either a specialist or generalist capacity. APRN’s, whether they are nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, nurse anesthetists, or nurse midwives, play a pivotal role in the future of health care. APRNs are often primary care providers and are at the forefront of providing preventative
care to the public.

Anesthesiologist – is a nurse or physician trained in anesthesia and perioperative medicine.
Basic Metabolic Panel (BMP) – is a frequently ordered panel of lab tests that gives your doctor information about the current state of your kidneys, blood sugar, electrolytes and acid/base balance in your body.

Bronchoscopy – is a procedure in which a lighted cylindrical fiberoptic scope is inserted into the airways which permits the doctor to visually examine the lungs.

Cholesterol – is a waxy substance that’s found in the fats (lipids) in your blood.

Colonoscopy – is a medical procedure where a long, flexible tubular instrument called a colonoscope is used to view and examine the entire inner lining of the colon (large intestine) and the rectum.

Colposcopy – is a medical procedure that allows a physician to take a closer look at a woman’s cervix and vagina using a special instrument called a colposcope. It is used to check for precancerous or abnormal areas.

Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) – is a group of diverse medical and health care systems, practices, and products that are not presently considered to be part of conventional or Western medicine. Complementary medicine is used together with conventional medicine; alternative medicine is used in place of conventional medicine.

Complete Blood Count (CBC) – is a blood test used to evaluate your overall health and detect a wide range of disorders. The test measures several components of your blood including red blood cells, white blood cells, hematocrit and platelets.
Comprehensive Metabolic Panel (CMP) – the comprehensive metabolic panel (Chem 12; Chemistry screen; SMA 12) is a frequently ordered panel of tests that gives your doctor important information about the current status of
your kidneys, liver and electrolyte and acid/base balance as well as your blood surge and blood proteins.

COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) – is a lung disease characterized by chronic obstruction of lung airflow that interferes with normal breathing and is not fully reversible. COPD is group of chronic obstructive
lung diseases which include emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and asthmatic bronchitis.

CT Scan of CAT Scan (Computerized Tomography) – is a diagnostic tool using special three-dimensional X-rays which create a cross-sectional picture of any part of the body. This X-ray can distinguish among tissue, fluid, fat, and bone. It shows soft tissues much better than conventional X-rays.

Dermatologist – is a medical specialty physician devoted to the diagnosis and treatment of the skin.

Dexa Scan (dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry) – is an X-ray imagining system to measure the bone mineral density. A DEXA scan is an accurate test for bone density and assists your doctor in determining a patient’s risk of osteoporosis.

Doctor of Osteopathy/Osteopathic Medicine (DO) – is a physician licensed to practice medicine, perform surgery, and prescribe medication. D.O.s are dedicated to treating and healing the patient as a whole, rather than focusing
on one system or body part. An osteopathic physician will often use a treatment method called osteopathic manipulative treatment (also called OMT or manipulation) — a hands-on approach to make sure that the body is moving freely.

Dyslipidemia – is an abnormal amount of lipids (fat and/or cholesterol) in the blood.

Electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG) – is a simple non-invasive procedure that records the electrical activity of the heart.

Electroencephalogram (EEG) – a neurological test that uses an electronic monitoring device to measure and record electrical activity in the brain.

Endoscopy – is an examination of the inside of the body by using a lighted, flexible instrument called an endoscope. An endoscope is introduced into the body through a natural opening such as the mouth or anus and can include examination of other organs. The most common endoscopic procedures evaluate the esophagus, stomach, and portions of the intestine.

ENT (Ear, Nose & Throat) – is a medical specialty physician devoted to the diagnosis and treatment of the head and neck, particularly the ears, nose, and throat.

Family Medicine (Family Practice) – is a medical specialty physician devoted to comprehensive health care for people of all ages, genders, diseases and parts of the body.

Gastroenterologist – is a medical specialty physician devoted to the diagnosis and treatment of the digestive system.
Gynecologist – is a medical specialty physician devoted to the diagnosis and treatment of the female reproductive system.

HDL (High Density Lipoprotein) – HDL cholesterol is the well-behaved “good cholesterol.”

Health Care Representative – is a person that has been assigned in a medical power of attorney to make health care decisions on behalf of someone else.

Hospitalist – is a medical specialty physician devoted to the diagnosis and treatment of patients in the hospital. Most hospitalists are board-certified internal medicine physicians.

Incontinence – is the inability to control the function of the bladder or bowel.

Internal Medicine – is a medical specialty physician devoted to the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of adult diseases.

Laparoscopy – is a surgery that uses a thin, lighted tube put through a cut (incision) in the belly to look at the abdominal organs or the female pelvic organs.

LDL (Low Density Lipoprotein) – LDL is the “Bad Cholesterol” and collects in the walls of blood vessels, causing the blockages of atherosclerosis.

Mammogram – is a diagnostic screening procedure using low energy X-ray to examine the human breast.

MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) – is a test that uses a magnetic field and pulses of radio wave energy to make pictures of organs and structures inside the body.

Neurologist – is a medical specialty physician devoted to disorders of the nervous system.

Neurosurgeon – is a surgeon who specializes in operating on the brain, head, neck, and spinal cord.

Nurse Practitioner (NP) – is registered nurse with advanced education and training for providing primary health care, and treats patients of all ages depending on their specialty (family, pediatrics, geriatrics, etc.). Nurse practitioners treat both physical and mental conditions through comprehensive history taking, physical exams, and ordering tests for interpretation. NP’s can provide a diagnosis and recommendations for a wide range of acute and chronic diseases (within their scope of practice) and provide appropriate treatment for patients, including prescribing medications in some states.

Obstetrician – is a medical specialty physician devoted to the branch of medicine concerned with pregnancy and childbirth.

Ophthalmologist – is a medical specialty physician devoted to the anatomy, physiology and diseases of the eye.

Optometrist – is a Doctor of Optometry, an O.D. (not to be confused with a Doctor of Medicine or an MD) who is licensed to provide primary eye care services.

Orthopedist (Orthopedic Surgeon) – is a medical specialty physician devoted to the diagnosis, treatment, and correction of congenital or functional abnormalities of the bones using surgical, casting and bracing procedures.

Occupational Therapist (OT) – is a health care professional that use treatments to develop, recover, or maintain the daily living and work skills of their patients with a physical, mental or developmental condition.

PAP Test/Smear (Papanicolaou Test) – The Pap test or Pap smear, checks for changes in the cells of the cervix. The cervix is the lower part of the uterus (womb) that opens into the vagina (birth canal).

Physician Assistant (PA) – is a licensed health care professional devoted to preventing, maintaining, and treating human illness and injury by providing a broad range of health care services that were traditionally performed by a physician. Physician Assistants perform physical exams, diagnose and treat illnesses, order and interpret tests, counsel on preventive health care, assist in surgery, give medical orders and write prescriptions

Pediatrician – is a medical specialty physician devoted to the medical care of infants, children, and adolescents.

Physical Therapist (PT) – is a health care professional primarily concerned with the treatment of impairments and disabilities and the improvement of mobility, functional ability, quality of life and movement potential through examination, evaluation, diagnosis and physical intervention.

Physiatrist/Rehabilitation Physician – is a medical specialty physician devoted to the diagnosis and treatment of any disability resulting from disease, illness or injury.

Podiatrist – is a medical specialty physician devoted to the diagnosis and treatment of disorders of the foot, ankle, and lower extremity.

Primary Care – is a physician who provides the primary care and treatment for a person with an undiagnosed health concern as well as continuing care of varied medical conditions which are not limited by cause, organ system, or
diagnosis.

Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA)/Prostate Screening – the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) combined with a digital rectal exam assist the physician in the diagnosis and treatment of prostate cancer.

Speech and Language Pathologist/Speech Therapist (SLP) – is a health care professional who specializes in communication disorders as well as swallowing disorders. Speech services may include an initial screening for communication and swallowing disorders and continue with assessment, diagnosis, and consultation for the management, intervention and treatment, of these disorders.

Triglycerides – is the major form of fat stored in the body and comes from the food we eat as well as from being produced in the body.

Ultrasound – Diagnostic ultrasound, also called sonography or diagnostic medical sonography, is an imaging method that uses high-frequency sound waves to produce relatively precise images of structures within your body. The images produced during an ultrasound examination often provide the physician with valuable information for diagnosing and treating a variety of diseases and conditions.