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!


tastes good


roof of your mouth

palliative care

medical care that relieves pain, symptoms and stress caused by a serious illness to improve your quality of life


an approach that focuses on relieving symptoms that you and your family say are troubling. This type of “whole person” care focuses on maintaining and improving your quality of life.

The palliative care team works with you and your family to prevent and relieve symptoms such as pain and other physical symptoms. The team also supports the emotional and spiritual concerns of you and your family.

A palliative care approach works best when started early in your illness journey. Palliative care can be provided by your health care team in the following settings:

  • Home;
  • Inpatient;
  • Outpatient;
  • Family clinic; or
  • A place you choose (retirement home, long term care, hospice, residential, etc.).

Palliative care is not equal to end of life care. End of life care is part of palliative care.


when it feels like your heart is beating too hard, too fast, skipping a beat, or fluttering


inflammation of your pancreas




small red dot on your skin, skin rash

paralysis (paralyzed)

can't move


animal or plant living off another animal or plant


pea-sized glands in your neck that controls how much calcium and phosphorus is in your bones and blood

parenteral nutrition (parenteral feeding)

when nutrition that your body needs are given to you through a tube (IV) directly into your vein

Parkinson's disease (PD)

a brain disease that makes it hard for you to walk, talk, or move because parts of your body shake 

a long-term degenerative disorder of the central nervous system that mainly affects the motor system. The symptoms generally come on slowly over time. Early in the disease, the most obvious are shaking, rigidity, slowness of movement, and difficulty with walking.


germ, virus that causes disease

peak flow

the fastest that you can blow air out

peak flow meter

tool that measures how fast you can blow air out


baby doctor, children's doctor


branch of medicine dealing with children and their diseases

field of medicine that looks after the health of infants, children, and adolescents up to the age of 18



coming, waiting on something


the way our brain figures out what our eyes see


a special stitch placed in the groin to close the puncture site after an angiogram

percutaneous cardiac intervention (PCI)

a non-surgical procedure that uses a catheter (a thin flexible tube) to place a small structure called a stent to open up blood vessels in your heart that have been narrowed by plaque buildup, a condition known as atherosclerosis. This procedure used to be called angioplasty with stent




do, carry out


swelling of your heart


near the time of birth

the time before, during, and immediately following birth.

perinatal death

death before birth, still born

peripheral (periphery)

edge, boundary

peripheral nervous system (PNS)

all of the nerves in your body that aren't in your brain or spinal cord

peripheral neuropathy

a condition where your peripheral nerves are damaged, causing problems such as pain, numbness and weakness 

peripheral vascular disease (PVD)

a disease where you have poor blood flow to your legs and feet

peripherally inserted central catheter (PICC line)

a thin, soft, long catheter (tube) that is inserted into a vein in your arm, leg or neck. The tip of the catheter is positioned in a large vein that carries blood into the heart. The PICC line is used for long-term intravenous (IV) or medications, nutrition and to take blood

a form of intravenous access that can be used for a prolonged period of time (e.g. for long chemotherapy regimens, extended antibiotic therapy, or total parenteral nutrition).

peritoneal cavity


abdominal cavity, which contains your intestines and other internal organs


lining of your stomach, belly, tummy



permanent pacemaker (PPM)

a small, battery-powered device that sends out small electrical impulses to make the heart beat in a regular rhythm and at a normal speed

permit (permission)

let, allow


being stuck on one idea


keep at, last, keep trying


doesn't go away
not giving up, keeps trying

personal protective equipment (PPE)

gowns, masks, gloves, face shields




fitting, important


skin rash

tiny red or purple spot on your skin


Doctor of Pharmacy is a professional doctor degree in pharmacy.

phosphate (phosphorus)

mineral found in food

mineral in many nutritious foods.  The kidneys regulate it in your body fluids.  At normal levels, it keeps your bones strong and healthy.  At high levels, it causes itching, painful joints, and bone disease.

phosphate binder

medication that binds (joins) with phosphate when food is in your stomach and intestine. This makes your body pass the phosphate in your stool instead of letting it get into your blood


when the light hurts your eyes


a rehabilitation doctor

physical examination




physiotherapist (PT)

healthcare provider who helps you improve how you move

healthcare provider with a significant role in health promotion and treatment of injury and disease. They combine their in-depth knowledge of the body and how it works with specialized hands-on clinical skills to assess, diagnose and treat symptoms of illness, injury or disability

physiotherapist assistant (PTA)

a healthcare provider who works with your physiotherapist to help you improve how you move


eating or craving things that aren't food. An example is dirt

picture and archive communications system (PACS)

a system the hospital uses to save all x-ray pictures

This is an acronym used to describe the imaging department's archive (storage) computer network that stores all the images and information associated with those images. Whether your imaging exam was a "plain x-ray" examination or C.T., M.R.I. or ultrasound exam, all of these types of images can be electronically stored on a very large computer archiving network, for the purposes of permanent storage and possible retrieval at a later date for followup examination comparisons, or for other medical reasons.

pitocin, prostaglandins

in order to move the pregnancy along, doctors will use these medications to begin (induce) labour 

pituitary gland

small gland at the bottom of the brain


a pill with no medication in it


organ that attaches the umbilical cord to the inside of your uterus (womb)

A pancake-shaped organ that develops in the uterus and provides nutrients and oxygen for the fetus and eliminates its waste products. The placenta attaches to the uterine wall. The baby is connected to the placenta with the umbilical cord. The expelling of the placenta after the baby is born is called the third stage of labour.

placenta accreta

when the placenta becomes embedded too deeply in the wall of your uterus

A condition in which the placenta invades the muscles of the uterus and becomes firmly attached to the uterine wall, making it difficult to remove after the baby is delivered.

placenta previa

when your placenta is lying unusually low in your uterus, next to or covering your cervix

A condition in which the placenta attaches too low in the uterus, fully or partially covering the cervix. The condition can cause bleeding during pregnancy or make vaginal delivery impossible.

placental abruption

when the placenta begins to separate from the wall of your uterus before your baby is born. Symptoms of an abruption usually include bleeding and abdominal pain.

plain old balloon angioplasty (POBA)

is a way to widen narrowed blood vessels in your heart  

plain old balloon angioplasty

plantar fasciitis

a condition where the band of tissue that extends from the heel to the toes gets weak and swollen 



fatty buildup of cholesterol in your arteries

sticky deposit on teeth


blood clotting cell


when the layer that covers your lungs becomes inflamed


a way to get the two layers of the lung lining (the pleura) to stick together. This helps prevent the build-up of fluid in between the linings of your lungs

a procedure that is performed to prevent recurrence of air or fluid in the pleuro space in your chest. The procedure closes off the space and prevents further fluid or air from accumulating


lung infection

podiatrist (podiatry)

foot doctor

polio (poliomyelitis)

a disease that can make it hard to move

an infectious disease caused by the poliovirus. In some cases there is muscle weakness resulting in an inability to move


yellow powder released from flowers


an extra piece of tissue that grows inside your body and can be found in or on any organ that has blood vessels


when you are taking two or more medications at the same time



port (portacath)

a small chamber with a soft top cover. It is placed under the skin on your chest. The port connects to a long, thin flexible tube that goes into a large vein just above your heart. It allows doctors and nurses to take blood and give intravenous (IV) fluids and medications

a small medical appliance that is installed beneath your skin. A catheter connects the port to a vein. Under the skin, the port has a septum through which drugs can be injected and blood samples can be drawn many times, usually with less discomfort for you than a more typical "needle stick".


piece, part, serving


place, area

job, rank, class

positron emission tomography (PET) scan

a test that uses a camera to show how organs and tissues are working inside your body

a nuclear medicine imaging test that uses a form of radioactive sugar to create images of body function and metabolism

Post anesthesia care unit (PACU), recovery room

a special room where you go after you have surgery or a procedure for which you were given an anesthetic. Nurses and doctors watch you and check your heart rate, blood pressure and breathing until you are awake. Once you are awake and able to leave you will either go home or to an inpatient room in the hospital

post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

an illness or anxiety problem  that happens in someone after seeing or having a shock or trauma


behind, the back of


the time after delivery of your baby (four to six weeks)


following childbirth

postpartum depression

unexplained sadness after having a baby

more severe than the more common baby blues, postpartum depression is characterized by crying, irritability, sleep problems, restlessness, feelings of hopelessness, and the inability to care for the baby. Many women suffering from postpartum depression need professional treatment.


wait, delay

postterm pregnancy (overdue)

pregnancy that lasts 42 weeks or more


a mineral in your body

A mineral in your body fluids that is regulated by your  kidneys.  At normal levels, it  helps your nerves and muscles work well.



strength, power

power of attorney (POA)

when you legally give someone you trust the power to make financial, property and health decisions for you if you aren't able

power of attorney (POA) for personal care

a witnessed signed legal document. In this document:

  • You name a substitute decision maker;
  • You give them the power to make decisions about all aspects of your personal care (when you aren't capable), unless you specify otherwise;
  • You outline their responsibilities to follow through with your wishes.

This includes decisions about your:

  • Health care;
  • Shelter;
  • Clothing;
  • Nutrition;
  • Hygiene; and
  • Personal safety.

This POA for personal care is only used if you become incapable of making a particular decision. You continue to make your own decisions until found incapable.*

*If you don’t have POA for personal care there is a legal way that will decide who should be your SDM.

Outlined in Health Care Consent Act.


guard, care, to be safe


new high blood pressure after 20 weeks of pregnancy, thought to happen when the placenta isn't working properly. It usually goes away after you give birth.

a complication of pregnancy characterized by high blood pressure and protein in the urine after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Symptoms include rapid weight gain and increased swelling. If left untreated, preeclampsia can lead to the more serious eclampsia.

pregnancy discrimination act

law that means you can't be treated differently because you are pregnant or have a baby

federal law barring discrimination against women for conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth

pregnancy-induced hypertension (PIH)

when your blood pressure goes up in the last trimester of your pregnancy


early, not final

premature or preterm baby

baby born before 37 weeks gestation.


before birth.

prenatal care

medical care while you are pregnant


readiness, to be ready


right, choice


medication order


show, send, give

pressure ulcer

a skin injury or sore from staying in one position for too long

sometimes called a bed sore or pressure sore

preterm delivery

birth of a baby before 37 weeks gestation.

preterm labour, premature labour

early labour

labour that begins after 20 weeks and before 37 weeks gestation. Prompt medical treatment can sometimes halt or postpone early labour, improving the baby's chances for survival.

preterm premature rupture of membranes (PPROM)

the bursting of the amniotic sac (membranes) before 37 weeks gestation.


number of sick people


stop, keep from happening


stop, avoid

primary healthcare (team)

care to stay healthy, before you are sick

your doctor or nurse practitioner




signs of a disease


skilled, good at, able


forecast, prediction

long term outlook for recovery


move forward, get worse


ban, forbid, prevent


moving with great force


a condition that causes part of your body to fall out of place or stick out


grow, spread, reproduce


to prevent sickness or pregnancy

birth control


Medication or a treatment designed and used to prevent a disease or unwanted consequence from occurring.


gland in a man's body

prostate-specific antigen test (PSA)

a blood test to check the health of your prostate


infection of the prostate



Provincial Do Not Resuscitate Confirmation Form or DNR

sets out your expressed wishes about resuscitation during transfer between home, hospital and healthcare facilities. =014-4519-45


dry scaly skin rash

psoriatic arthritis

disease with joint swelling and skin rash


mental health doctor


study of mental health


a droopy eyelid

public health

health of the community, everyone's health


to do with your lungs

pulmonary cancer

lung cancer

pulmonary embolism (PE)

blood clot that has traveled to the lungs

when a blood clot breaks loose and travels to the lungs

pulmonary fibrosis

scarring of your lungs

pulmonary toilet & postural drainage

a way to assist in getting rid of mucus from of your  lungs. The respiratory therapists use their hands in a cup-like fashion or use a machine to gently vibrate on your chest


heart beat

throbbing of your arteries as blood is pumped through them, usually felt in the wrists or neck.

pulse ox probe

measure oxygen levels of the blood.

 "red light" - usually taped to your finger or toe connected by a wire to the pulse oximeter - that measures the oxygen levels in your  blood