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Home Information Medical stuff Glossary of terms

Glossary of terms

Below are the medical terms you may hear in relation to the care of children with a liver disease.

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

 

Absorption

The passage of digested food and other substances across the walls of the stomach and intestine.

Acute

A sudden and often severe onset of an illness.

Albumin

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.

Alkaline-phosphatase (ALP/ALK-PHOS)

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.

Alanine-aminotransferase (ALT)

An enzyme produced mostly by the liver cells and measured in liver function tests.

Anastamosis

The joining of two tubes.

Angiogram

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.

Antibody

A substance produced by the body which destroys foreign matter, such as bacteria.

Ascites

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.

Atresia

Blocked, destroyed, missing.

Autoimmune

A condition in which the body's defence system (immune system) targets part of the body for attack.

Banding

Treatment of varices by the placing of surgical rubber bands around the varices during endoscopy.

Bile

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

Bile acids are produced by the liver and circulated by the blood stream. Bile acids aid fat absorption and adjust cholesterol levels.

Biliary tract

A system of tubes which carries bile from the liver cells and gall bladder and drains into the intestine.

Bilirubin

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.

Biopsy

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.

Cannula

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.

Cardiac

Referring to the heart.

Cardiovascular System

The heart and blood vessels which transport nutrients and oxygen to the tissues and the removal of waste products.

Carrier

A person who may pass on a condition or hereditary characteristic without suffering from it or showing symptoms.

Cell

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.

Cholangitis

Inflammation of the bile ducts causing poor bile flow from the liver and may cause damage to the liver cells.

Cholestasis

Interrupted bile flow through the biliary system, resulting in reduced amounts of bile reaching the intestine.

Chronic Hepatitis

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.

Chronic

An illness or condition which persists over a period of time, usually with a gradual onset.

Cirrhosis

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.

Coagulopathy

Disruption of the blood clotting process.

Computerised Tomography (CTScan)

Three dimensional x-ray.

Congenital

A condition that is recognised at birth or that is believed to be present before birth.

Cryptogenic

See idiopathic.

Cystic

Relating to the gall bladder.

Cytomegalovirus (CMV)

A virus belonging to the herpes virus group.

Dilation

The enlargement or expansion of a hollow organ e.g. blood vessel or intestine.

Distension

Expansion, enlargement.

Donor

A person who gives part of their body or blood to help other people.

Drain

Device used to draw fluid from an internal body cavity to the surface.

Duct

A narrow tube through which fluid can pass from one part of the body to another e.g. bile duct.

Dysplasia

Any abnormal development of body tissue or organ.

Echocardiogram (ECG)

A scan of the heart using high frequency sound waves, similar to an ultrasound of the abdomen.

Electrocardiogram (ECG)

Records the electrical activity of the heart.

Electroencephalogram (EEG)

Records the electrical activity of the brain.

Encephalopathy

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.

Endoscopy

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.

Faeces

Stool. Poo.

Fatty liver

The accumulation of fat within the liver causing abnormal liver function.

Fibrosis

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.

Fulminant

A severe form of acute liver failure.

Gall bladder

The small sac which collects and stores bile made by the liver.

Gall stones

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.

Gastroenterology

Study of the digestive system.

Gastro-intestinal (GI)

Of the stomach and intestines.

Genes

The means by which characteristics and diseases carried by parents are passed to their children.

Girth

Measurement around the abdomen.

Graft

Any organ, tissue, or object used for transplantation.

Haematemesis

Vomiting blood.

Haemoglobin

The part of the red blood cell which carries oxygen.

Hepatic

Refers to the liver.

Hepatic Artery

The blood vessel which brings oxygen to the liver.

Hepatic Vein

The blood vessel by which blood leaves the liver.

Hepatitis

Swelling (inflammation) of the liver.

Hepatomegaly

Enlargement of the liver.

Hepatology

The study of the liver.

Homogenous

Of the same or similar nature or kind.

Hypoplasia

Incomplete or underdeveloped organ or tissue.

Hypo/Hypertension

Low/high blood pressure.

Idiopathic

Something which is of no known cause, also known as cryptogenic.

Immune System

The body's defence against foreign substances such as bacteria and viruses.

Immunosuppression

Lowering of the body's natural ability to recognise and attack any foreign substances.

Immunity

The condition of being protected against a particular disease, either through natural exposure to the disease or through vaccination.

Immunoglobin

One of a group of proteins which acts as antibodies

Incidence

The number of new cases of a disease occurring during a certain period of time in a defined population.

Infection

An unhealthy state caused by bacteria, viruses or fungi.

International Normalised Ratio (INR)

A measure of the ability of the blood to clot.

Intravenous (IV)

Administered into a vein.

Jaundice

A condition where the eyes and/or skin become yellow due to an abnormally high level of bilirubin in the blood.

Kasai Portoenterostomy

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.

Liver Transplant

An operation to replace a liver that no longer functions adequately with a donor liver. Find out more about liver transplantation.

Lymph

A clear watery liquid derived from body tissues which carries white blood cells and fats. It travels through the lymphatic system of the body.

Lymphadenectomy

Surgical removal of lymph nodes.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

A scan of parts of the body using strong magnets instead of X-rays.

Malabsorption

Poor absorption of nutrients from the gut leading to symptoms such as weight loss, weakness, tiredness and loose stools.

Metabolism

Process by which nutrients are broken down and used for body energy and function.

Metabolic Disorder

Occurs when some part of the metabolism process does not work correctly.

Microbiologist

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.

Oedema

Excessive accumulation of fluid in the body tissue.

Parenchyma

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.

Peritoneum

Transparent sheet of tissue covering the abdominal organs.

Phlebotomist

A person who takes blood samples for testing.

Phosphate

A substance used in the body for healthy bone formation.

Platelets

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.

Portal Hypertension

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.

Portal Vein

Main vein carrying blood from the gut to the liver.

Pruritus

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.

Pulmonary

Referring to the lungs.

Rejection

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

 

Renal

Of the kidneys.

Respiratory

Referring to breathing.

Rickets

Poor bone development as a result of vitamin D deficiency. This can be due to poor nutrition or poor liver function.

Sclerotherapy

Treatment of varices by the injection of a solution during endoscopy into the varices which blocks them.

Spider Naevi

Small broken veins on the skin, looking like spiders.

Spleen

An abdominal organ which filters blood and removes old blood cells. Its blood vessels connect with the liver.

Splenomegaly

Enlargement of the spleen.

Split Bilirubin

A blood test which measures the conjugated (direct) and unconjugated (indirect) bilirubin levels in the blood.

Stent

An artificial means of keeping a tube within the body open.

Steroid

Medicine to reduce the activity of the body's immune system.

Stricture/Stenosis

A narrowing of a tube within the body.

Thrombosis

An abnormal blood clot in a vein or artery.

TPR

An abbreviation for temperature, pulse and respiration.

TTA/TTO

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.

Variceal Bleed

Bleeding from varices.

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.

The information on this site is for guidance only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care by a qualified doctor or other health care professional. ALWAYS check with your medical team if you have any concerns about your condition or treatment. CLDF is not responsible or liable, directly or indirectly, for any form of damages resulting from the use (or misuse) of information contained in or implied by the information on this site.