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.

If there is a word you couldn't find or you have a suggestion, please send an email to @email

Thank you!

cadaveric transplant

type of kidney transplant in which a kidney is donated from someone who has died. Also called deceased donor transplant or non-living donor transplant


a build up of calcium. This makes tissue in the body get hard

Canadian Triage Acuity Score (CTAS)

Canadian Triage Acuity Score is a tool that helps Emergency Departments and Urgent Care Centres to prioritize or rank patient care needs. It helps to make sure that the sickest patients are seen first, especially when it is busy.


size, amount something holds, space



very small blood vessels


foods that have starch or sugar and give your body energy


causes cancer




heart doctor


medical department that treats heart problems


your heart is larger than it should be


any disease that affects and weakens your heart muscle

cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)

things that happen when trying to save your life in an emergency

a medical procedure where someone repeats compressions of a patient's chest. It is used to try to restore the blood flow and breathing when someone's heart stops

an emergency procedure that combines chest compressions often with artificial ventilation in an effort to manually preserve intact brain function until further measures are taken to restore spontaneous blood circulation and breathing in a person who is in cardiac arrest.


having to do with your heart and blood vessels

cardiovascular lab (CV Lab)

where imaging of your heart or blood supply is done to monitor your heart. It uses motion studies and sometimes placing devices within the heart or blood vessels for diagnosis and repair.

specialty area where procedures such as angiogram, cardioversion, and device implantation occurs.

carotid artery (arteries)

big blood vessels in your neck, arteries in your neck

carotid doppler

ultrasound of the arteries in your neck

carpal tunnel syndrome

a condition caused by pressure on the nerve that passes through your wrist to your hand


someone who is sick and can make other people sick


eye disease

clouding of your eye that makes it hard for you to see



hollow tube used to move fluids into or out of your body


to put a tube into part of your body

cauda equina syndrome

a condition where your spine puts pressure on the nerve roots at the bottom of your spinal cord


to burn a piece of skin or tissue (usually to help it stop bleeding)


a skin infection

common bacterial skin infection. Cellulitis may first appear as a red, swollen area that feels hot and tender to the touch. The redness and swelling often spread rapidly. Cellulitis is usually painful

central Line

a long, thin, flexible tube that is put into a large vein of your arm,  neck, chest or groin. It can be used to give you fluids, medications, nutrition or blood.

central nervous system (CNS)

brain and spinal cord

the central nervous system (CNS) is made up of the brain, the spinal cord, and the optic nerves. The central nervous system controls the way we think, guides how we move, and registers sensations  (like pain) throughout our body.

central venous catheter (central line or CVC)

a long, thin, flexible tube that may be put into your arm or chest under your skin. It is used to give medications, fluids, nutrients, or blood products over a long period of time.

a catheter is often inserted in the arm or chest through the skin into a large vein. The catheter is threaded through this vein until it reaches a large vein near the heart.


a part of your brain that controls balance and coordination of muscle movements such as walking


about the brain

cerebral contusion

bruise to your brain

cerebral hemisphere

one side of your brain

cerebral hemorrhage

stroke, bleeding into your brain

cerebral vascular disease (event)

stroke, brain attack

cervical (spine)

the seven neck bones at the top of your spine

cervical (uterus)

about the lower part of your uterus (cervix)

cervical ripening

the process that gets your cervix ready for labour. It makes your cervix soft and thin. Cervical ripening either happens naturally or can be done artificially using medications.


a medication used to ripen or soften the cervix before labour is induced.


lower part of your uterus (womb)

cesarean section (C-section)

baby born through surgery, cut in your abdomen to get your baby out

A surgical procedure in which a baby is delivered through a cut in the abdomen and uterus. Used when a woman can't give birth vaginally


stopping, quitting


mark, trait, feature

chemical irritant

chemical that causes swelling (inflammation)


cancer medication, cancer treatment, cancer drug

chest x-ray (CXR)

a picture of the inside of your chest

chest x-ray produces pictures of the heart, lungs, airways, blood vessels and the bones of the spine and chest. An x-ray  is a noninvasive medical test that helps doctors diagnose and treat medical conditions


types of fat found in your body

Chrohn's disease

problems with your bowels, digestive disease

an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). It causes inflammation of your digestive tract, which can lead to abdominal pain, severe diarrhea, fatigue, weight loss and malnutrition


constant, never ending, does not go away, long term

chronic cough

coughing that lasts for more than 3 months

chronic health conditon

constant health problem, a health problem that lasts for a long time

chronic kidney disease (CKD)

when your kidneys stop working slowly, over a long time

kidney function which is less than normal and will never get better.  This condition might be mild and might only need to be watched by your doctor(usually stage 1 or stage 2).  Or it might be slowly getting worse and will need to be watched more carefully to avoid symptoms and complications.  Stage 5 CKD is also called end-stage renal disease (ESRD), end stage kidney disease or end stage kidney failure.  This is when you need dialysis or a transplant to continue to live.

chronic kidney disease-mineral and bone disorder (CKD-MBD)

a complication of chronic kidney disease

the disordered balance of minerals (phosphate and calcium), parathyroid hormone and activated vitamin D often associated with chronic kidney disease.  May lead to abnormalities in bone structure and calcification (hardening ) of blood vessels and soft tissue.

chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

lung disease

a lung disease that includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema.


blood flow

blood flow through your body

circulatory system (vascular system)

the blood vessels and fluids in your body


when your foreskin is removed,  the skin covering the tip of your penis

circumflex (circ)

an artery in your heart


collar bone

cleft lip and/or palate

birth defect that affects the upper lip and the roof of your mouth



work or studies in a medical setting that involves patients

clinical trial

medical research study


other illnesses or diseases that you have


clot, clump together




a snail-shaped organ in the inner ear that helps you hear

cochlear implant

device put into the inner part of your ear to help you hear

cognition (cognitive)

learning or thinking

cognitive impairment

a problem with your brain that makes it hard to think clearly 


aware, know about, think of


stomach pain

sick, fussy baby


work together, help each other


part of your bowel

large intestine

colon cancer screening, colorectal screening

medical test for tumours or cancer in your colon or rectum 


check of your colon, look inside your intestine

an exam used to detect changes or abnormalities in your bowels (large intestine and rectum). During a colonoscopy, a long, flexible tube is inserted into your rectum. A tiny video camera at the tip of the tube allows the doctor to view the inside.

colorectal surgery

an operation on your colon or rectum


The thin, sticky, yellow fluid secreted by a woman's breasts before the production of true breast milk. Colostrum is rich in fats, protein, and antibodies. Some women notice small amounts of colostrum during and toward the end of pregnancy.


when someone is unconscious (unable to wake up)

a state of unconsciousness in which a person cannot be awakened; fails to respond normally to painful stimuli, light, or sound; lacks a normal wake-sleep cycle; and does not initiate voluntary actions


in a coma


joining, mixing together

commode chair

chair with the bottom cut out that is used as a portable toilet


catching, can be spread


a group of people who live in the same area, or who share the same beliefs or customs


able, capable

complete blood count (CBC)

blood test that looks at your red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. It may help detect infection or anemia.

compliance (comply)

follow, stick to



composite or composite filling

tooth coloured filling




complete, covers everything, thorough, all


squeeze, press down on

compression stockings

special socks that you wear to help stop swelling or blood clots. They improve blood flow by gently squeezing your legs. This helps to move the blood up your legs


to push down on something, putting pressure on something

chest compressions pump the heart, moving blood and oxygen already in your body


to be made up of, include


weaken, damage


want, urge, desire

computed tomography (CT scan)

a special x-ray test. It can give clear pictures of the inside of your body.

Imaging of body regions and parts in a variety of different planes using x-rays.


become pregnant

imagine, think up, create





about, for, on


end, finish, judge


definite, final, last


physical training, training your body, fitness


do, carry on, run, lead


private, not to be told to others


born with, there at birth

congestive heart failure (CHF)

when your heart isn't pumping hard enough

when your heart isn't able to pump blood normally. When you have CHF there isn't enough blood flow to supply your body's organs with oxygen and nutrients. "Heart failure" doesn't mean that your heart stops beating, but that your heart isn't working properly.


eye infection, pink eye, swelling and redness around your eyes

consent directive (lock)

your instruction to block or allow access to your personal health information

a consent directive allows you to control the collection, use and disclosure of personal health information

for more information go to 


stays the same


combine, join, put together


plain to see, easy to see


unable to have a bowel movement


made of, form, make up


narrow, tighten


talk with, ask, discuss


eat, drink, use up


talk to, get in touch, call

touch, touching


illness that spreads to others, disease that you can give to other people


have, keep together, hold


harmful ingredient, pollution, poison, harmful chemical


infect, spoil

continence (continent)

when you can control your bladder or bowels

continuous ambulatory peritoneal dialysis (CAPD)

form of peritoneal dialysis in which dialysis fluid is exchanged at regular intervals throughout the 24 hour day

continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP)

a face mask attached to a machine that blows air into your airway

also called a  sleep apnea machine, breathing machine

a treatment that uses mild air pressure to keep the airways open to help a person with apnea sleep better



continuous resynchronization therapy (CRT)

therapy that involves putting a small device into your heart, to manage heart failure symptoms. It helps your heart work by sending tiny electrical impulses to your heart muscle. This may help your heart pump blood through your body.


birth control


tightening, flexing, tensing

The strong, rhythmic tightening of your uterus during labour. Regular strong and painful contractions dilate the cervix and push the baby through the birth canal.


a condition where your muscles, tendons, or other tissues get short and hard. This causes your joints to be stiff and twisted.


not recommended, can cause a bad reaction, not allowed

contrast medium

dye, x-ray dye

A type of fluid which is injected or swallowed during x-ray procedures to outline structures and/or function of a body organ or blood vessels. Note: Contrast media can also be used in MRI examinations, but consist of different chemistry than x-ray contrast media.


manage, be in charge of

controlled trial

a study that compares one treatment to another treatment




a time of rest to heal after an illness, injury or operation

convulsion (seizure)

when your body shakes, muscles tighten and jerk

spasm, shaking


about the blood vessels that bring blood to your heart

coronary artery bypass graft (CABG)

open heart surgery

coronary artery disease (CAD)

heart disease, disease of the blood vessels that bring blood to your heart

a build-up of plaque in your coronary arteries that occurs over time

coronary thrombosis

blood clot in a blood vessel in your heart

corrected age (adjusted age)

a baby's age based on his/her due date. For example, if a baby is 6 months old but was born 2 months early, his corrected age is 4 months

The number of weeks since the baby was born minus the number of weeks the baby was born prior to term. Used to determine developmental levels in preterm infants.


asthma medication, mediation used to lower swelling of your airways


to force air from your lungs with a sudden short sound

cough etiquette

how to cough or sneeze without spreading germs

cranium (skull)

the bones that make up your head and hold your brain

creatinine (serum creatinine level)

blood test to see how well your kidneys are working

blood test to measure your level of creatinine, which is a waste product of muscle activity.  As kidney function decreases, the serum creatinine level increases.

crib death

sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)

unexplained death, usually during sleep, of a seemingly healthy baby less than a year old


rules, standards

Crohn's disease

a disease that causes inflammation (swelling) in the lining of your small intestine and/or your colon.



cap that covers a tooth

the area at the upper back of the skull


healing, healthful

something that can cure, heal or make better


heal, fix, make better


a medical procedure that's used to scrape tissue out of a body cavity, such as the inside of the uterus

Cushing's syndrome

a condition that happens when your body is making too much of the hormone called cortisol


about your skin, on the surface of your skin


blue colour to your skin when you don't get enough oxygen


pus under your skin, boil

cystic fibrosis

a disease passed down from your parents that causes a thick liquid to build up in parts of the body, including your lungs. It usually starts by age 2 years


bladder infection


when a tiny camera is used to look into your bladder and urine tubes.

it is to check for stones or tumours in your bladder. It is also used to look for infection or a urinary tract disorder

cytotoxic antibody

what we can test for to see if your body would reject a kidney transplant

substance in your blood (antibody) designed to kill the antigen. This usually means that your body would reject a transplanted kidney