Glossary of Common Terms


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    Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) – Breathing difficulty from a condition that causes the lungs to stiffen.

    Advanced directives – Preplanned directions to a family and the medical team about life-support wishes such as the use of artificial supportive measures at the end of life (similar to a Living Will).

    Anesthesiologist - A physician trained in the care and management of the patient undergoing local or general anesthesia. They have expertise in airway management.

    Anoxia – Lack of oxygen.

    Arrhythmia/Dysrhythmia – Abnormal heart beat or rhythm.

    Arterial Blood Gas (ABG, Blood Gas) – A blood test that determines the amount of oxygen and other chemicals in the blood. Results are used to guide therapy. 

    Arterial Line (A-Line) – A flexible plastic tube that is placed into a patient’s artery and is connected to a cardiac monitor to measure blood pressure; it also allows blood samples to be taken easily.

    Brain death – The point at which all functions of the brain stop working and will never work again.  

    Cardiac monitor – An electronic device that is used by the staff to watch the electrical activity of the heart as well as blood pressures.

    Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) – Emergency treatments to restore breathing and/or heartbeat, which may include artificial resuscitation and pressure to the chest, and/or the use of electrical shock, intravenous medications and a ventilator.

    Central line (CVP, Triple Lumen Catheter, Cordis) – A flexible plastic tube that is inserted into the neck, shoulder or groin, which allows a route for blood, fluids and medications to be given. It also measures pressures of the heart and allows blood samples to be taken easily.

    Cervical Collar (C-Collar) – A brace placed around the patient’s neck to prevent movement.

    Chest tube – A tube inserted into the chest, between the ribs, to drain air and/or fluid from around the lungs.

    Closed head injury – A condition caused by a blow to the head, sudden movement or lack of oxygen to the brain.

    Collapsed lung – A condition caused by fluid, blood or air collecting around the lung or from the lung not being filled with air. Also called a pneumothorax (if the collapse is from air) or a hemothorax (if the collapse is from blood).

    Coma – A condition of deep unconsciousness.

    Computerized Axial Tomography (CT Scan, CAT Scan) – A two-dimensional X-ray test used to diagnose many conditions, and which can be used to examine almost any part of the body.  

    Concussion – A temporary loss of consciousness due to an injury to the head.

    Contusion – A bruise.

    Dialysis (CVVHD, CRRT) – A mechanical method of removing fluid and chemicals from the blood of patients whose kidneys are not functioning properly.

    Echocardiogram (ECHO) – An ultrasound test that provides a moving picture of the heart to assess how well it is functioning.

    Electrocardiogram (EKG) – A machine that traces electrical activity of the heart and is used to check if it has been damaged. It is sometimes called an ECG.

    Electroencephalogram (EEG) – A machine that traces the electrical activity of the brain, and which is used to check whether or not the brain is functioning normally.

    Endotracheal Tube (ET Tube) – A plastic tube inserted through the mouth or nose into the windpipe to help with breathing by delivering oxygen or by helping to remove secretions from the lungs. A person with an endotracheal tube in place is described as 'intubated.'

    Epidural/Spinal catheter – A catheter that is inserted into the epidural/spinal space in the back for the injection/infusion of pain medications.

    Exploratory Laparotomy (E-Lap) – A surgical operation used to identify and repair internal injuries to organs such as the kidneys, liver, spleen, stomach or intestines. Sometimes, a diagnostic laparoscopy may be done to rule out injuries to organs.

    Extubate – To remove a breathing tube.

    Feeding Tube – A soft plastic tube placed in the nose or mouth that supplies liquid nourishment directly to a patient’s stomach.

    Foley / Urinary Catheter – A soft plastic tube inserted into the bladder to drain urine.

    Fracture – A broken bone.

    Gastrostomy tube (PEG) – A soft plastic tube inserted into the stomach to deliver liquid nourishment.

    Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) – A scoring system that describes the level of consciousness of a patient.

    Halo – A metal ring used to prevent head movement in patients with neck injuries.

    Hematoma – A collection of blood resulting from broken blood vessels. May consist of many sizes.

    Intensive Care Unit or ICU- A specialized area of the hospital where critically ill patients can be closely monitored by specially trained staff. 

    Intermediate Care Unit or ICR - A patient care area where patients who require close monitoring, or medical and nursing care can be treated.  

    Intracranial Pressure (ICP) – Pressure in the head (within the cranial cavity).

    Intracranial Pressure Monitor (Bolt, ICP monitor, Ventric, Ventriculostomy) –A device inserted through the skull to monitor the pressure in the brain or to drain extra fluid/blood.

    Intubate – To insert a tube that can be used to assist the patient with his or her breathing.

    Liver – A body organ, located on the right side of the body under the rib cage. Its main functions relate to metabolism, the immune system and blood clotting.

    Living Will – A legal document listing a patient’s wishes to receive or refuse medical treatments (similar to Advanced Directives).

    Multi-Trauma - An injury to more than one body system.

    Myocardial Infarction (MI) – Heart attack.

    Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) – A test that can provide images of a bone or a body area, by using magnets rather than x-rays or radioactive materials.

    Nasogastric/Orogastric Tube (NG, OG) – Small plastic tubing inserted through the nose or mouth to deliver nourishment to or remove fluid or air from the stomach.

    Neurologic – Anything having to do with the brain, spinal cord or nerves.

    Neurosurgeon - A physician trained in the surgical care of the brain and spinal cord. 

    OMFS - Oral-Maxillo Facial Surgeons are trained in the care and treatment of facial injury.

    Orthopaedic Surgeon - A physician trained in the surgical and non surgical management of fractures of the limbs, pelvis and spine.

    Oximeter (Pulse-OX) – A device that measures blood oxygen levels through the skin.

    Oxygen (O2) – A molecule necessary for breathing and healing. The amount may need to be increased for patients with specific injuries.

    Paralysis – A patient’s inability to move voluntarily, either completely or partially; can be temporary or permanent.

    Parenteral Nutrition (TPN) – An intravenous solution of calories, protein, vitamins and minerals, given when the intestinal tract cannot be used for nourishment.

    Patient Controlled Analgesia (PCA) – A device allowing patients to administer the amount of pain medication they want to receive.

    Pneumonia – An infection of the lungs, usually resulting from bacteria, that causes fluid to collect.

    Pneumothorax (pneumo) – A collection of air in the space surrounding the lungs.

    Quadriplegia / Tetraplegia (Quad) – Paralysis of the entire body, caused by injury to the spinal cord.

    Radiologist - A physician trained in the utilization and interpretation of invasive and non invasive radiologic studies.

    Rehabilitation (rehab) – A course of treatment that is aimed at helping patients reach their highest possible level of functioning.

    Renal failure/Kidney failure – The inability of the kidneys to perform their essential function, which is to cleanse the blood of chemicals or fluids.

    Rounds – Scheduled visits by the trauma team to discuss the condition and plans for an individual patient. Rounds are typically not the best time to talk with the trauma team. It is often better to make a plan to meet with a doctor after rounds are completed.

    Sepsis – Severe infection by bacteria or other organisms present in the blood or body tissues.

    Sequential Compression Device (SCDs) – Stocking-like leg covers that inflate and deflate, which are used to improve circulation and prevent blood clots.

    Spleen – An organ located under the rib cage on the left side of the body. Its main function relates to the immune system. The spleen has a large blood supply and can be easily injured after trauma.

    Splint – A rigid device used to prevent movement in an injured area; usually used for fractures.

    Specialists - Physicians with additional training in a particular area, who may be called in to help manage a patient's treatment plan.

    Spinal cord injury (SCI) – An injury to the spine that may cause paralysis; because it interferes with messages between the brain and the body.

    Suction – The removal of air/fluid.

    Tracheostomy (Trach) – An operative procedure that places a tube in a patient’s windpipe through a hole in the neck, so an endotracheal tube in the mouth can be removed.

    Traction – Weights and pressure used to hold fractured bones in the proper position for healing. Traction is usually temporary until an operation can be safely done.

    Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) – Damage to the brain from an injury.

    Ventilator (Vent, Respirator) – A machine that is attached to an endotracheal tube or tracheostomy tube that delivers oxygen to a patient’s lungs in order to help with breathing.

    Vital Signs – A patient’s temperature, rate of breathing, heart rate and blood pressure.

    Weaning – The gradual removal of treatment and/or medication as a patient’s condition improves.

    X-ray - A test producing a one-dimensional picture of the body, used to diagnose structural injury.