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!


the large bone at the bottom of your spine, above your tailbone


clean, germ free


clean, wash, make germ-free


how well oxygen is being carried by the red blood cells in your bloodstream

scarlantina (scarlet fever)

an infection that causes fever and a bright red (scarlet) rash




a brain disorder that affects the way people think and act


nerve pain in your back, hip and buttock

seasonal influenza

common flu, winter flu


release, let go



group, community, neighbourhood


giving a medication that makes you calm and sleepy

All patients and especially children who are on a mechanical ventilator to help their breathing require sedation and pain medicine to be comfortable. There are numerous medicines the members of the NICU team can use to ensure a child's comfort. Some children, due to their condition, require a medicine to relax their muscles and keep them from moving. This is called paralysis. Though the term paralysis is frightening and it may be strange to see your child not moving, the effects of the paralytic medicines are short lived.


part, piece


body movements you can't control, fit of uncontrolled movements

seizures happen because nerves in your brain send out the wrong electrical signals



sensory nerve

a nerve that carries information about feeling things to your brain. Examples include feeling cold or touch


your body's response to an infection

a potentially life-threatening complication of an infection. Sepsis occurs when chemicals released into the bloodstream to fight the infection trigger inflammatory responses throughout the body. This inflammation can trigger a cascade of changes that can damage multiple organ systems, causing them to fail


study of blood


a chemical that carries messages between different parts of the brain

Service Ontario Centre

a place in your community where you can apply for a health card


bad, serious, dangerous

sexual assault family violence program (SAFV)

If you are a victim of sexual assault or domestic violence, go to your the emergency department and ask to see the sexual assault family violence (SAFV) nurse. You can find an SAFV nurse on call in the Emergency departments at Kingston General Hospital, Hotel Dieu Hospital in Kingston and Lennox & Addington County General Hospital in Napanee. (If you’re under 16, our services are available in Kingston only.) Ask to see the nurse, who will escort you to our safe, confidential treatment area

SAFV nurses are available in our emergency department for people who have been the victim of sexual abuse or violent behaviour. They are there 24 hours-per-day seven days-per-week. 

sexually transmitted disease (STD), sexually transmitted infection (STI)

an infection you can get through sexual contact with another person


a red. painful rash caused by the same virus that causes chicken pox

shortness of breath (SOB)

problems breathing

side effect

something that happens and wasn't planned, when you take medication


a test that uses a flexible, narrow tube with a light and tiny camera on one end, called a sigmoidoscope or scope, to look inside your rectum and lower, or sigmoid, colon.


big, important




placed, located

sleep apnea

a sleep disorder that causes your breathing to stop and start over and over. Your doctor may have you go to the sleep lab (sleep disorders lab) for testing

social distancing

keeping away from other people

social worker

a professional why can help you find the resources you need

a professional who can identify resources to help individuals, families, groups and communities cope with social and emotional factors affecting their health and well-being


make friends, talk with people


ask for


hurt, pain, ache


sudden, strong muscle jerk


group of plants or animals that are alike

speech-language pathologist (SLP)

Speech-language pathologists are sometimes called speech therapists. When most people think about speech-language pathologists they probably think of someone who helps people who stutter or have a lisp. While it’s true that they do help with those things, they do a lot more. They also check for and treat problems with your speech, language, voice and swallowing.

Speech-language pathologists are skilled, autonomous professionals with specialized knowledge, skills, and clinical training in assessment and management of communication and swallowing disorders.


spinal column (backbone)

the bones, also called vertebrae, that go from your neck to your tailbone, which support your body and protect your spinal cord

spinal stenosis

when the spaces in your spine get smaller and put pressure on your spinal cord and nerves


breathing test

tool to measure how strong your breath is


the spleen is the part of your body that helps fight germs and infections

it is above your belly and under your ribs in the left side of your body

spontaneous labour

labour that happens on it's own

labour that begins on its own without any medical augmentation. During the first phase of labour, the cervix dilates and thins out and contractions begin, usually lasting 30 to 45 seconds each with five to 20 minutes between them.

squamous cell carcinoma (SCC)

skin cancer 

the second most common form of skin cancer. It's usually found on areas of the body damaged by the sun. These areas include the head, neck, ears, lips, arms legs and hands. 

ST elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI)

heart attack

stages of labour

labour has 3 stages

labour is divided into three stages. The first stage begins at the onset of contractions and ends when the cervix is completely dilated. The second stage is the delivery of the baby. The third stage is delivery of the placenta.



state of readiness

ready, prepared



stem cell

a cell that can change into another type of cell


a small mesh tube that's used to treat narrow or weak arteries

a tube like device that is inserted into a blocked vessel during an angiogram 

in some cases of bowel blockage, a doctor puts expandable metal tubes called stents in your large intestine. A stent holds your intestine open to allow its contents to move forward. This helps your bowels to work better.

stent insertion

the doctor will insert a tiny, flexible plastic tube called a catheter through an artery in our groin, leg, or arm. A special dye is injected so blood flow through the arteries is visible on the TV monitors. The doctor moves a balloon catheter, and then a stent, to the site of the blockage. The balloon is inflated and stretched wide against the artery walls, which opens the blockage.  Then the balloon is deflated and taken out, leaving the stent in place.

sternal precautions

after open heart surgery there are things that pull on your incision that you shouldn't do. Following sternal precautions will give your breastbone time to heal. 


breastbone, chest area


medication to lessen swelling

medication which lowers inflammation and affects the immune system.   

you may have heard of anabolic steroids sometimes used by athletes. Anabolic steroids can be harmful. These are not the same.




excite, stir up


kind, type of germ

injure, hurt, pull

filter, sift, screen


worry, pressure, trouble


strict, controlled, tight


Relating to conditions that are between serious and chronic and require less intensive care than acute care.

subclavian vein(s)

one of two veins on either side of your body. They bring blood from your arms to your heart

blood vessel located underneath your collarbones. It can sometimes be used in hemodialysis. 



a partial dislocation of a joint


next, later, following


chemical, material, stuff

substitute decision maker (SDM)

 this is a person you ask to make healthcare decisions for you in case you aren't able to

is someone who can legally make decisions for you when you aren’t able to make them for yourself (i.e., not capable). This is a person you trust and know very well. It’s someone who will honour your values and wishes concerning your care. You can choose to appoint anyone who is willing and able to act on your behalf to be your substitute decision maker except:

  • Someone who is paid to provide you with personal care;
  • Your health care provider;
  • Someone who is under the age of 16 years; or
  • Someone who is mentally incapable. (This means they can’t understand the information they need to make the decision or what may happen as a result of the decision).
sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)

unexplained death, usually during sleep of a child under one year of age, also known as "crib death"




choke, smother, not able to breathe

sundowning (sundowning syndrome)

increased confusion and restlessness in someone with delirium or dementia. This often happens as the sun is setting (at sundown) or in the early evening. 


surface, outer, outside

shallow, slight


add to, in addition to

additive, vitamins


hold back, slow down, stop


lung substance that coats the lungs to allow easy flow of air




watch, keep an eye on, monitor


liable to, prone to, inclined to, given to, at risk of

open to, an easy target for



swell (swelling)

expand, bulge, grow, increase, get bigger


sign of a disease or sickness

symptom directed management

This means that your care will be aimed at making your symptoms better. It will not treat the disease or condition that is causing your symptoms. It aims to identify your symptoms and pick treatments (actions or medications) for the best quality of life possible.


illness, sickness, signs that often go together


blend, combine, form


planned out, orderly, regular


all through your body

systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) (lupus)

immune system disease

a chronic inflammatory disease that occurs when your body's immune system attacks your own tissues and organs. Inflammation caused by lupus can affect many different body systems — including your joints, skin, kidneys, blood cells, brain, heart and lungs

systolic blood pressure

a measure of how hard your blood pushes against your arteries when your heart is pumping or squeezing

of the two numbers that measure blood pressure, the systolic is the top number in the measurement.

here is an example:

120   - systolic blood pressure