Glossary of terms
Below are the medical terms you may hear in relation to the care of children with a liver disease.
The passage of digested food and other substances across the walls of the stomach and intestine.
A sudden and often severe onset of an illness.
One of the major proteins circulating in the bloodstream and only made in the liver. It has a role in fluid distribution in the body.
Alpha fetoprotein (AFP)
This is a protein secreted into the blood by the cells of cancerous tumours.
An enzyme produced mostly in the bile ducts and measured in liver function tests (LFT). The enzyme is also produced by bone cells and therefore, is not a specific test for liver.
An enzyme produced mostly by the liver cells and measured in liver function tests.
The joining of two tubes.
Under general anaesthetic a substance is injected into one of the main arteries. X-rays are then taken which identify the blood distribution from that part of the body.
A substance produced by the body which destroys foreign matter, such as bacteria.
An abnormal collection of fluid in the abdomen. Find out more about ascites.
Aspartate aminotransferase (AST)
An enzyme produced mostly by the liver cells and measured in liver function tests.
Blocked, destroyed, missing.
A condition in which the body's defence system (immune system) targets part of the body for attack.
Treatment of varices by the placing of surgical rubber bands around the varices during endoscopy.
A yellow-green liquid that is excreted from the liver, stored in the gall bladder and passes into the small intestine to aid in the digestion of food by breaking down fat.
Bile acids are produced by the liver and circulated by the blood stream. Bile acids aid fat absorption and adjust cholesterol levels.
A system of tubes which carries bile from the liver cells and gall bladder and drains into the intestine.
This is a breakdown product from old red blood cells. The life of a red blood cell is normally about 4 months in adults, in babies it is 2 - 3 weeks. Unconjugated bilirubin is the first type of bilirubin produced which is changed to the conjugated bilirubin form in the liver and is then excreted in bile.
The removal and examination of a small piece of body tissue.
Body Mass Index (BMI)
Used to calculate body fat to inform for weight management.
A short, soft narrow plastic tube put into a vein and secured there so medicines/fluids/blood etc can be given intravenously (IV), as needed.
Referring to the heart.
The heart and blood vessels which transport nutrients and oxygen to the tissues and the removal of waste products.
A person who may pass on a condition or hereditary characteristic without suffering from it or showing symptoms.
The basic unit of all living things, which can reproduce itself exactly.
Central line (CVL)
A long soft narrow plastic tube put into a larger vein and secured there. Used for giving medicines/fluid/nutrition/blood etc intravenously on a semi permanent basis. It can also be used for taking blood samples for testing.
Inflammation of the bile ducts causing poor bile flow from the liver and may cause damage to the liver cells.
Interrupted bile flow through the biliary system, resulting in reduced amounts of bile reaching the intestine.
Refers to a disease of the liver that is marked by inflammation (hepatitis), persisting for a prolonged period (chronic). The individual cells of the liver are damaged and may be destroyed by inflammation. Causes include viruses, medication and auto-antibodies.
An illness or condition which persists over a period of time, usually with a gradual onset.
Occurs when liver cells are destroyed by disease, poison, drugs, alcohol etc and are replaced by scar tissue. Scarring interferes with blood flow through the liver, causing more cell death and further scarring. The liver becomes smaller and hard. This can result in the liver being unable to function properly, medically referred to as decompensation.
Disruption of the blood clotting process.
Computerised Tomography (CTScan)
Three dimensional x-ray.
A condition that is recognised at birth or that is believed to be present before birth.
Relating to the gall bladder.
A virus belonging to the herpes virus group.
The enlargement or expansion of a hollow organ e.g. blood vessel or intestine.
A person who gives part of their body or blood to help other people.
Device used to draw fluid from an internal body cavity to the surface.
A narrow tube through which fluid can pass from one part of the body to another e.g. bile duct.
Any abnormal development of body tissue or organ.
A scan of the heart using high frequency sound waves, similar to an ultrasound of the abdomen.
Records the electrical activity of the heart.
Records the electrical activity of the brain.
Irritation of the brain often displayed as
tiredness, irritability, lack of concentration and personality changes
and is associated with liver failure. An acute form can progress to
confusion and coma.
Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography (ERCP)
A special X-ray used to examine the bile ducts.This is done under general anaesthetic.
Examination of the inside of the gut using a flexible tube with a camera attached which is passed through the mouth and down the oesophagus.
Epstein Barr Virus (EBV)
The virus which causes glandular fever.
The accumulation of fat within the liver causing abnormal liver function.
The formation of scar tissue to replace normal tissue.
Full Blood Count (FBC)
A blood test which
measures the number of cells in the blood e.g. white cells, red blood
cells (Haemoglobin - Hb), and platelets.
A severe form of acute liver failure.
The small sac which collects and stores bile made by the liver.
Stones which can form from bile and which collect in the gall bladder and bile ducts. They may cause severe pain or pass into the common bile duct and cause obstructive jaundice or cholangitis.
Gamma GT (GGT)
Abbreviation for gamma-glutamyltranspeptidase. An enzyme produced mostly by the bile ducts and measured in the liver function tests.
Study of the digestive system.
Of the stomach and intestines.
The means by which characteristics and diseases carried by parents are passed to their children.
Measurement around the abdomen.
Any organ, tissue, or object used for transplantation.
The part of the red blood cell which carries oxygen.
Refers to the liver.
The blood vessel which brings oxygen to the liver.
The blood vessel by which blood leaves the liver.
Swelling (inflammation) of the liver.
Enlargement of the liver.
The study of the liver.
Of the same or similar nature or kind.
Incomplete or underdeveloped organ or tissue.
Low/high blood pressure.
Something which is of no known cause, also known as cryptogenic.
The body's defence against foreign substances such as bacteria and viruses.
Lowering of the body's natural ability to recognise and attack any foreign substances.
The condition of being protected against a particular disease,
either through natural exposure to the disease or through vaccination.
One of a group of proteins which acts as antibodies
The number of new cases of a disease occurring during a certain period of time in a defined population.
An unhealthy state caused by bacteria, viruses or fungi.
International Normalised Ratio (INR)
A measure of the ability of the blood to clot.
Administered into a vein.
A condition where the eyes and/or skin become yellow due to an abnormally high level of bilirubin in the blood.
Operation to restore bile flow in biliary atresia. Read more about biliary atresia.
Kidney Function Tests
Blood tests which look at how well the kidneys are functioning and measure the salts, minerals and waste products within the blood.
Liver Function Test (LFT)
Range of blood tests which indicate at how well the liver is working.More information is given in CLDF's leaflet, Routine Investigations.
An operation to replace a liver that no longer functions adequately with a donor liver. Find out more about liver transplantation.
A clear watery liquid derived from body tissues which carries white
blood cells and fats. It travels through the lymphatic system of the
Surgical removal of lymph nodes.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
A scan of parts of the body using strong magnets instead of X-rays.
Poor absorption of nutrients from the gut leading to symptoms such as weight loss, weakness, tiredness and loose stools.
Process by which nutrients are broken down and used for body energy and function.
Occurs when some part of the metabolism process does not work correctly.
Scientist who studies organisms too small to be visible to the naked eye e.g. bacteria, some fungi, mycoplasmas, protozoa viruses.
Naso Gastric (NG) Feeding
Feeding directly into the stomach via a tube passed up the nose.
Naso Gastric (NG) Tube
A tube which goes up the nose and down the throat into the stomach used for feeding.
Nasojejunal tube (NJ)
A small tube that is passed up the nose and down the throat, through the stomach, and into the small intestine used for feeding.
Excessive accumulation of fluid in the body tissue.
The functional part of an organ.
Parenteral Nutrition (PN)
Liquid form of food which is given directly into the blood supply (intravenously) via a central venous line.
Transparent sheet of tissue covering the abdominal organs.
A person who takes blood samples for testing.
A substance used in the body for healthy bone formation.
A part of blood important for clotting.
Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR)
A highly sensitive test which detects the presence of tiny amounts of a virus in blood.
High blood pressure in the portal vein which may occur due to scarring of the liver or a blockage of the portal vein. Find out more about portal hypertension.
Main vein carrying blood from the gut to the liver.
Itching thought to be caused by high levels of bile acids in the blood. Find out more about pruritus.
Percutaneous Transhepatic Cholangiography (PTC)
A special X-ray used to examine the bile ducts. This is done under general anaesthetic.
Referring to the lungs.
Attack by the body's immune system against a transplanted organ.
- Acute Rejection - Sudden onset
- Chronic Rejection - Gradual onset, more persistent and often less responsive to treatment
Of the kidneys.
Referring to breathing.
Poor bone development as a result of vitamin D deficiency. This can be due to poor nutrition or poor liver function.
Treatment of varices by the injection of a solution during endoscopy into the varices which blocks them.
Small broken veins on the skin, looking like spiders.
An abdominal organ which filters blood and removes old blood cells. Its blood vessels connect with the liver.
Enlargement of the spleen.
A blood test which measures the conjugated (direct) and unconjugated (indirect) bilirubin levels in the blood.
An artificial means of keeping a tube within the body open.
Medicine to reduce the activity of the body's immune system.
A narrowing of a tube within the body.
An abnormal blood clot in a vein or artery.
An abbreviation for temperature, pulse and respiration.
An abbreviation for 'to take away'/'to take out'. Refers to medicines which are to be taken home.
Ultrasound Scan (USS)
An investigation using high frequency sound waves to give a picture of organs inside the body.
Bleeding from varices.
Veins in the lining of the gut, especially the oesophagus and stomach, which become enlarged and look like varicose veins. Find out more about varices.