Glossary of Terms

This glossary of terms is meant to help everyone understand medical words. It is a place to quickly find information on medical words.

To find a word or term begin by clicking on a letter in the A-Z list. Then you can browse down the list to find the word you want. You can also type your medical word in the search box in the upper right corner and then click on the little magnifying glass.

This glossary is for information only. It should never be used instead of advice from a healthcare provider.

If you have questions or comments about the Glossary of Terms please let us know.

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B-cells (B lymphocytes)

cells that help protect you from germs


germs or "bugs"

micro-organism that can cause infection in humans: can also be protective which is known as normal flora

bare metal stent (BMS)

a mesh-like tube of thin wire used to open a blocked blood vessel in your heart

bariatric surgery, gastric bypass surgery

weight loss surgery

Barrett's esophagus

a condition in which your esophagus is damaged by your stomach acid


a cell that helps protect you from germs

behaviour modification

changing what you do, stopping habits

Bell's palsy

a nerve condition where there is sudden muscle weakness on one side of your face, making it appear to droop


doing something good, kindness, or charity,


good, good for, helpful, useful


someone who receives or is given something


help, aid, an advantage


harmless, not a danger


grief after a loss or death, sadness, mourning

best possible medication history (BPMH)

A "snapshot" of all of your medication use. We do this by interviewing you or your family, because the medication you are taking may be different than what is in your medical record.

The systemic process of interviewing the patient/family and reviewing at least another reliable source of information to verify the patient's complete medication use.

beta blocker

medication to lower your blood pressure

medication that may help angina symptoms or slow down fast heart beats

bicarbonate (HCO3)

a chemical in your blood


teeth in your upper and lower jaw


twice a day


on both sides

bile duct

at tube that carries bile from your liver to your small intestine

bilevel positive airway pressure (BiPAP)

a mask you wear that is attached to a machine that can help you breathe easier

a machine that uses airway pressure to treat breathing problems. The machine gives you 2 levels of air pressure. The air pressure is high when you inhale and low when you exhale.

The air is given to you through 1 of the following:

• a mask over your nose
• a mask over your nose and mouth
• a tube under your nose and into your nostrils



about the fluids (bile) made by your liver


A brownish yellow substance that is released from your old red blood cells when they are naturally broken down by your liver.  Bilirubin is found in bile. It is removed from the body through your stool (feces). Too much bilirubin in your bloodstream can cause jaundice.  Jaundice will show as yellow coloring in your skin.

bilogical agent

disease, poison, germ, virus, fungus

biophysical profile

A test to check on how the baby is doing while inside the uterus. Using ultrasound, this test assesses fetal breathing, fetal movement, fetal tone, and amniotic fluid volume.


take tissue, usually to test

a medical test commonly performed by a surgeon, or an interventional radiologist, to remove cells or tissues for testing. This is done to help determine the presence or extent of a disease. The tissue is generally examined under a microscope by a pathologist.

bipolar disorder

illness that causes extreme mood swings, from restless highs (mania) to depression

blood glucose

sugar in your blood

a blood test to find out the amount of sugar that is in the blood.

blood pressure (BP)

the force of blood pushing out on your artery walls

the pressure of the blood within the arteries. A blood pressure cuff is used to measure this pressure which is produced primarily by the contraction of the heart muscle. Its measurement is recorded by two numbers -  the first (systolic pressure) is measured after the heart contracts and is highest and the second (diastolic pressure) is measured before the heart contracts and is the lowest. High blood pressure is called "hypertension".

blood transfusion

blood from a donor is given to someone who is ill or who has lost too much blood

body mass index (BMI)

how much fat someone has

a calculation using a simple formula based on a someone's height and weight. This can be used to find out if someone is overweight, underweight, or at a healthy weight

bone density test (Bone Mineral Densitometry)

bone strength test, a test done in the x-ray department of how solid and how strong your bones are

Imaging of the mineral content of bone using low density x-rays, primarily to assess patients with suspected low calcium/phosphorus content or osteoporosis.

bone marrow

the space inside your bones where blood cells are made

booster shots

a needle (shot) you get months or years after your vaccination, to keep you safe from disease

brachial neuritis

swelling of the nerves in your arms


slow heartbeat

heart rate of less than 100 bpm, may be happen with apnea or colour change.


slow breathing

Braxton Hicks contractions

Irregular or "practice" contractions starting around the eighth month that prepare your uterus for labour. Unlike true labour, Braxton Hicks contractions aren't painful and don't get stronger and closer over time.

breast pump

machine designed to remove milk from a woman's breasts.


air that goes in and out of your body through your nose and mouth


to take air in and out of your body

breech birth

a baby born feet or rear-end first


a lung disease that affects your airways (tubes that carry air in and out of the lungs). They become stretched or wider and damaged.


small breathing tubes in your lungs


swelling of the breathing tubes in your lungs


when the breathing tubes in your lungs get narrow


medication, drug, that helps you breathe easier

bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD)

premature infant's chronic lung disease usually caused by mechanical ventilation and lung infections.


a test to see inside your airways

a tool called a bronchoscope is put into your nose or mouth.  This lets the doctor see your airways. They look for things such as foreign bodies, bleeding, tumors, or inflammation. A specimen may also be taken from inside your lungs for testing.


tightening of the small breathing tubes in your lungs


a sudden, strong muscle tightening and opening of the airways in your lungs, that makes you cough

bronchus (bronchi) (bronchial tube)

the tubes that let air go in and out of your lungs


swooshing sound in a blood vessel

you can hear the bruit or swooshing sound in you dialysis fistula or graft by putting your arm up to your ear or by using a stethoscope


clinching or grinding your teeth


side of your mouth, inside of your cheek

bundle branch block (BBB)

when your heart's electrical system doesn't work the way it should

a condition in which there's a delay or obstruction along the pathway that electrical impulses travel to make your heart beat


a bony bump that forms where your big toe attaches to the rest of your foot


tiny pillow-like sac filled with fluid in your joints

thin, lubricated cushion located at points of friction between a bone and the surrounding soft tissue, such as skin, muscles, ligaments and tendons


swollen, painful joints, condition that causes joint pain


backside, rear end, bottom