Glossary of Terms

Please click on the appropriate letters to view a definition of a particular term, or browse through our complete list of terms.

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Abscess: A localized collection of pus in a cavity formed by the disintegration of tissues.

Anesthetic: Substances that cause loss of feeling or awareness. Local anesthetics cause loss of feeling in a part of the body. General anesthetics put the person to sleep.

Angiogram: An x-ray of blood vessels; the person receives an injection of dye to outline the vessels on the x-ray.

Angiography: A procedure to x-ray blood vessels. The blood vessels can be seen because of an injection of a dye that shows up in the x-ray pictures.

Arteriogram: An x-ray of arteries; the person receives an injection of a dye that outlines the vessels on an x-ray.

Aspirate: Fluid withdrawn from a lump, often a cyst.

Aspiration: Removal of fluid from a lump, often a cyst, with a needle and a syringe.

Arthrography: Roentgenography of a joint after injection of opaque contrast material.

Barium enema: A series of x-rays of the lower intestine. The x-ray pictures are taken after the person is given an enema with a white, chalky solution that contains barium. The barium outlines the intestines on the x-rays.

Barium solution: A liquid containing barium sulfate that is used in x-rays to highlight parts of the digestive system.

Barium swallow: A series of x-rays of the esophagus. The x-ray pictures are taken after the person drinks a solution that contains barium. The barium coats and outlines the esophagus on the x-ray. Also called an esophagram.

Biopsy: The removal of cells or tissues for examination under a microscope. When only a sample of tissue is removed, the procedure is called an incisional biopsy or core biopsy. When the whole tumor is removed, the procedure is called an excisional biopsy. When a sample of tissue or fluid is removed with a needle, the procedure is called a needle biopsy or fine-needle aspiration.


Capitation: The annual fee paid to a physician or group of physicians by each participant in a health plan.

Colon: The long, coiled, tubelike organ that removes water from digested food. The remaining material, solid waste called stool, moves through the colon to the rectum and leaves the body through the anus.

Computerized tomography: A series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body; the pictures are created by a computer linked to an x-ray machine. Also called computed tomography (CT) scan or computed axial tomography (CAT) scan.

Contrast or contrast media: Comparison in order to distinguish differences. In radiology, the visual differentiability of variations in photographic or film density produced on a radiograph by the structural composition of the object or objects radiographed.

Cyst: A sac or capsule filled with fluid.

Diagnosis: The process of identifying a disease by the signs and symptoms.

Doppler: The relationship of the apparent frequency of waves, as of sound, light, and radio waves, to the relative motion of the source of the waves and the observer, the frequency increasing as the two approach each other and decreasing as they move apart.

Dye (contrast): Any of various colored substances that contain auxochromes and thus are capable of coloring substances to which they are applied.


Echocardiography: A procedure that uses ultrasonic waves directed over the chest wall to obtain a graphic record of the heart's position, motion of the walls, or internal parts such as the valves.

Fallopian tube: Part of the female reproductive tract. The long slender tubes that connect the ovaries to the uterus.


Gallbladder: The pear-shaped organ that sits below the liver. Bile is stored in the gallbladder.

Histology: That department of anatomy which deals with the minute structure, composition, and function of the tissues.


Infusion: The introduction of a fluid, including drugs, into the blood stream. Also called intravenous infusion.

Intern: A physician in his or her first year of training.

I.V. / intravenous: IV. Injected into a blood vessel.


Currently there are not terms in this category.


Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): A procedure in which a magnet linked to a computer is used to create detailed pictures of areas inside the body.

Mammogram: An x-ray of the breast.

Mammography: An x-ray study of the breast.

Medicaid: A program administered by the Social Security Administration which provides for state health insurance plans for those individuals with limited incomes.

Medicare: A program administered by the Social Security Administration which provides medical care for the aged.

Millirad: A unit of measuring radiation dose equal to one thousandth of a RAD.

Myelogram: An x-ray of the spinal cord following an injection of dye into the space between the lining of the spinal cord and brain.

NSAID: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. A group of drugs that decrease swelling, pain, and redness.


Pyelogram, IV Urogram, IVP: A roentgenogram of the kidney and ureter, especially showing the pelvis of the kidney.


RAD: An acronym for Radiation Absorbed Dose.

Radiation Therapy: Radiation therapy (also called radiotherapy) uses high-energy radiation from x-rays, neutrons, and other sources to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Radiation may come from a machine outside the body (external-beam radiation therapy) or from materials (radioisotopes) that produce radiation that are placed in or near the tumor or in the area where the cancer cells are found (internal radiation therapy, implant radiation, or brachytherapy). Systemic radiation therapy involves giving a radioactive substance, such as a radiolabeled monoclonal antibody, that circulates throughout the body.

Radiology technologist: A specialist trained in the technique of producing an image from x-rays.

Radiologist: A doctor who specializes in creating and interpreting pictures of areas inside the body. The pictures are produced with x-rays, sound waves, or other types of energy.

Radiopaque: Anything that does not allow the penetration of X-rays.

REM: An acronym for Roentgen Equivalent Man.

Roentgen, Wilhem Conrad: German physicist who discovered roentgen rays in 1895; received a Noble prize in 1901.


Scans: Pictures of structures inside the body. Scans often used in diagnosing, staging, and monitoring people include liver scans, bone scans, and computed Tomography (CT) or computed axial tomography (CAT) scans and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans. In liver scanning and bone scanning, radioactive substances that are injected into the bloodstream collect in these organs. A scanner that detects the radiation is used to create pictures. In CT scanning, an x-ray machine linked to a computer is used to produce detailed pictures of organs inside the body. MRI scans use a large magnet connected to a computer to create pictures of areas inside the body.

SPECT: An acronym for Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography.

Stereotactic radiosurgery: A radiation therapy technique involving a rigid head frame that is attached to the skull; high-dose radiation is administered through openings in the head frame to the tumor while decreasing the amount of radiation given to normal brain tissue. This procedure does not involve surgery. Also called stereotactic radiation therapy.

Titration: Determination of a given component in solution by addition of a liquid reagent of known strength until a given endpoint is reached.

Transducer: A device that translates one form of energy to another.


Ultrasound test: A test that bounces sound waves off tissues and internal organs and changes the echoes into pictures (sonograms).

Upper GI Series: A series of x-rays of the upper digestive system that are taken after a person drinks a barium solution, which outlines the digestive organs on the x-rays.


Vascular: Referring to a person's system of blood vessels: arteries, veins, and capillaries.

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