Glossary - The Child Having Surgery

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Abdominoscopy - a type of surgery using a laparoscope, which is inserted into one or more small incisions, to examine the abdominal cavity. (See also endoscopy, laparoscopy, or minimally invasive surgery.)

Acute appendicitis - acute inflammation of the appendix due to infection.

Advance directives - legal documents stating a patient's medical preferences in the event the patient should become incapable of voicing his/her opinion. These documents must be completed by any patient 18 years of age and older.

Analgesic - any medication intended to alleviate pain.

Anesthesia - medication administered for the relief of pain and sensation during surgery.

Anesthesiologist - a physician who specializes in administering medications or other agents that prevent or relieve pain, especially during surgery.

Antibiotic - medication used to treat infection.

Anticoagulant - a medication that keeps blood from clotting.

Antiemetic - a medication that helps prevent and control nausea and vomiting.

Antihypertensive - a medication that lowers blood pressure.

Appendectomy - the surgical removal of the appendix.

Arrhythmia (also called dysrhythmia) - a fast, slow, or irregular heartbeat.

Arterioles - small branches of arteries.

Artery - a blood vessel that carries oxygenated blood away from the heart to the body.

Arthroscopy - with the use of an endoscope, surgeons can look at the interior of a joint. This technique is most often used to inspect and repair the inside of the knee joint.

Artificial ventilation - the process of supporting breathing by manual or mechanical means when normal breathing is inefficient or has stopped.

Atrium (atria pl.) - one of two upper chambers in the heart.


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Benign - a term used to describe non-cancerous tumors which tend to grow slowly and do not spread.

Biopsy - a diagnostic test involving the removal of tissue or cells for examination under a microscope.

Blood - the life-maintaining fluid which is made up of plasma, red blood cells (erythrocytes), white blood cells (leukocytes), and platelets; blood circulates through the body's heart, arteries, veins, and capillaries; it carries away waste matter and carbon dioxide, and brings nourishment, electrolytes, hormones, vitamins, antibodies, heat, and oxygen to the tissues.

Blood banking - the process that takes place in the laboratory to ensure that the donated blood or blood products are safe, before they are used in blood transfusions and other medical procedures. Blood banking includes typing and cross matching the blood for transfusion and testing for infectious diseases.

Blood pressure - pressure of blood against the walls of a blood vessel or heart chamber.

Blood pressure cuff - a device usually placed around the upper portion of the arm to measure blood pressure.

Bronchoscopy - the examination of the bronchi (the main airways of the lungs) using a flexible tube (bronchoscope). Bronchoscopy helps to evaluate and diagnose lung problems, assess blockages, obtain samples of tissue and/or fluid, and/or to help remove a foreign body.


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Cardiac - pertaining to the heart.

Cardiac arrest - the stopping of heartbeat.

Cardiologist - a physician who specializes in the medical evaluation and treatment of heart diseases.

Cardiology - the clinical study and practice of treating the heart.

Carotid artery - the major arteries in the neck that supply blood to the brain.

Catheter - a flexible tube used to drain fluid from or inject fluid into the body. The most common catheters are the Foley catheter, used to drain urine from the bladder, and intravenous (IV) catheters inserted into veins to administer fluids.

Cholecystectomy - surgery to remove the gallbladder.

Child life specialist - a hospital staff member who has special training in the growth and development of children. A Child Life Specialist can help your child with play activities, relaxation and pain management skills, and help meet the educational and emotional needs of the entire family.

Circulatory system - pertaining to the heart and blood vessels, and the circulation of blood.

Colectomy - partial or complete removal of the large bowel or colon.

Colonoscopy - a test that uses a long, flexible tube with a light and camera lens at the end (colonoscope) to examine inside the large intestine.

Colposcopy - visual examination of the cervix and vagina using a lighted magnifying instrument (colposcope).

Complete blood count (CBC) - a measurement of size, number, and maturity of different blood cells in a specific volume of blood.

Computed tomography scan (Also called a CT or CAT scan) - a diagnostic imaging procedure that uses a combination of x-rays and computer technology to produce horizontal, or axial, images (often called slices) of the body. A CT scan shows detailed images of any part of the body, including the bones, muscles, fat, and organs. CT scans are more detailed than general x-rays.

Coronary arteries - two arteries that come from the aorta to provide blood to the heart muscle.

Craniectomy - excision of a part of the skull.

Craniofacial - pertaining to the head and face.

Craniotomy - surgical opening of the skull to gain access to the intracranial structures.

Cyanosis - insufficient oxygen in the blood.

Cyanotic - appearing blue, due to insufficient oxygen in the blood.

Cystoscopy - examining the inside of the urethra and bladder cavity with a small, flexible tube with a light and a camera lens at the end (endoscope).


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Debridement - the surgical removal of foreign material and/or dead, damaged, or infected tissue from a wound or burn.

Deep vein thrombosis - blood clotting which occurs within deep-lying veins.

Defibrillator - an electronic device used to establish normal heartbeat.

Diastolic blood pressure - the lowest blood pressure measure in the arteries, which occurs between heartbeats.

Diathermy machine - a piece of equipment used in the operating room to control bleeding.

Diuretic - a medication that helps the kidneys to remove excess fluids from the body, lowering blood pressure as well as decreasing edema (swelling).

Dyspnea - shortness of breath.


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Echocardiogram (echo) - a procedure that evaluates the structure and function of the heart by using sound waves recorded on an electronic sensor which produce a moving picture of the heart and heart valves.

Edema - swelling due to the buildup of fluid.

Elective surgery - an operation the patient (if age 18 years old or older) or the child's parent(s) or legal guardian(s) chooses to have done, which may not be essential to continuation of quality of life. (See also optional surgery.)

Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) - a test that records the electrical activity of the heart, shows abnormal rhythms (arrhythmias or dysrhythmias), and detects heart muscle damage.

Electrocoagulation - electrosurgery which helps harden tissue.

Electrodesiccation - electrosurgery which destroys tissue.

Electrosurgery - surgery which uses electrical instruments.

Emergency surgery - an operation performed immediately as a result of a urgent medical condition. (See also urgent surgery.)

Endoscopy - a procedure that uses a small, flexible tube with a light and a camera lens at the end (endoscope) to examine the inside of part of the digestive tract. Tissue samples from inside the digestive tract may also be taken for examination and testing.

Epidural anesthetic - an anesthetic which is injected into the "epidural space" in the lower back, just outside the spinal space, to numb the lower extremities.

Esophagus - the muscular canal that runs from the throat to the stomach.


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Free skin graft - the detaching of healthy skin from one part of the body to repair areas of lost or damaged skin in another part of the body.


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Gastrectomy - complete or partial removal of the stomach.

Gastroscopy - examining the lining of the stomach with a small, flexible tube with a light and a camera lens at the end (endoscope).

General anesthetic - an anesthetic which causes the patient to become unconscious during surgery.


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Heart rate - the rate at which the heart beats per minute.

Hemorrhage - the medical term for bleeding.

Hypotension - low blood pressure.

Hysteroscopy - a visual inspection of the cervical canal and uterine cavity with an endoscope.


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Imaging studies - methods used to produce a picture of internal body structures. Some imaging methods include x-rays, CT scans, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and ultrasound.

Immunosuppressive medications - medications that suppress the body's immune system; used to minimize rejection of transplanted organs.

Incision - a cut made with a surgical instrument during an operation.

Infection - the invasion of the body by microorganisms that cause disease.

Informed consent form - a form signed prior to surgery by the parent(s) or legal guardian(s) of a child under age 18, or by a patient 18 years of age and older, which explains everything involved in the surgery, including the possible risks.

Inguinal hernias - protrusions of part of the intestine through the muscles of the groin.

Inpatient surgery - surgery which requires the patient to be admitted and stay in the hospital.

Intravenous (IV) line - a thin, plastic tube inserted into a vein (usually in the patient's forearm) through which a volume of fluid is injected into the bloodstream.


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Laparoscopic cholecystectomy - an operation to remove the gallbladder. The physician inserts a laparoscope, and other surgical instruments, through small holes in the abdomen. The camera allows the physician to see the gallbladder on a television screen. The physician removes the gallbladder through the holes.

Laparoscopic lymphadenectomy - the removal of pelvic lymph nodes with a laparoscope done through four small incisions in the lower abdominal region.

Laparoscopy - a procedure that uses a tube with a light and a camera lens at the end (laparoscope) to examine organs, check for abnormalities, or perform minimally invasive surgeries. Laparoscopy is a surgery which avoids making large incisions. Tissue samples may also be taken for examination and testing.

Laryngoscopy - inspecting the larynx (voice box) with a small, flexible tube with a light and a camera lens at the end (endoscope).

Laser surgery - using a device which emits a beam of light radiation, surgeons can cauterize a wound, repair damaged tissue, or cut through tissue.

Lobectomy - removal of a lobe of the lung, for cancer, benign tumors, or infections.

Local anesthesia - anesthetic medicine injected into the site of the operation to temporarily numb that area.

Lumpectomy - a surgical procedure to remove a tumor and surrounding tissue.


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Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) - a diagnostic procedure that uses a combination of large magnets, radiofrequencies, and a computer to produce detailed images of organs and structures within the body.

Minimally invasive surgery - any technique involved in surgery that does not require a large incision. (See also endoscopy, abdominoscopy, or laparoscopy.)


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Needle aspiration - uses a thin needle and syringe to collect tissue or drain a lump after using a local anesthetic.

Nephrectomy - surgical removal of the kidney.

Noninvasive procedure - a diagnostic effort or treatment that does not require entering the body or puncturing the skin.


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Open heart surgery - surgery that involves opening the chest and heart while a heart-lung machine performs for the heart and lungs during the operation.

Open surgery - cutting the skin and tissues during surgery to expose a full view of the structures and organs involved in the procedure.

Optional surgery - an operation the patient (if age 18 years old or older) or the child's parent(s) or legal guardian(s) chooses to have done, which may not be essential to continuation or quality of life. (See also elective surgery.)

Outpatient surgery - surgery which allows the patient to go home the same day.

Oxygen saturation - the extent to which the hemoglobin is saturated with oxygen. (Hemoglobin is an element in the bloodstream that binds with oxygen and carries it to the organs and tissues of the body.) A normal oxygen saturation of the blood leaving the heart to the body is 95 to 100 percent. The oxygen saturation of the blood returning to the heart after delivering oxygen to the body is 75 percent.


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Partial colectomy - the removal of part of the large intestine.

Patent - open.

Peritoneal adhesions - the peritoneum is a two-layered membrane that lines the wall of the abdominal cavity and covers abdominal organs. Sometimes organs begin to stick to the peritoneum, requiring surgery to free the organs again.

Plasma - the watery, straw-colored fluid which carries the cellular elements of the blood through circulation.

Pneumonectomy - removal of an entire lung, for cancer, lung abscesses, bronchiectasis, or extensive tuberculosis.

Post-anesthesia care unit (also called recovery room) - the area a patient is brought to after surgery to recover.

Pulmonary - pertaining to the lungs and respiratory system.


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Regional anesthetic - an anesthetic used to numb a portion of the body.

Renal - pertaining to the kidneys.

Required surgery - an operation which is necessary to continue quality of life. Required surgery may not have to be done immediately, like emergency surgery.


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Saline solution - a solution containing sodium chloride.

Shock - a dangerous reduction of blood flow throughout the body.

Sigmoidoscopy - examination of the rectum and sigmoid colon with a small, flexible tube with a light and a camera lens at the end (endoscope).

Spinal anesthetic - an anesthetic which is injected into the spinal canal fluid for surgery in the lower abdomen, pelvis, rectum, or other lower extremities.

Splenectomy - surgical removal of the spleen.

Stenosis - narrowing or constriction of a blood vessel or valve in the heart.

Stent - a device implanted in a vessel used to help keep it open.

Sternotomy - a surgical incision made in the breastbone.

Sternum - the breastbone.

Stethoscope - an instrument used to listen to the heart and other sounds in the body.

Subclavian - a blood vessel that branches from the aorta and takes oxygen-rich (red) blood to the head and arms.

Subtotal or partial gastrectomy - surgical removal of a portion of the stomach.

Systolic blood pressure - the highest blood pressure measured in the arteries.


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Tachycardia - rapid heartbeat.

Tachypnea - rapid breathing.

Thoracotomy - an incision made on the right or left side of the chest between the ribs, in order to access the heart or lungs during surgery.

Thrombolytic drugs - medication used to dissolve blood clots.

Transplantation - replacing a damaged organ with one from a donor.


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Ultrasound (also called sonography) - a diagnostic imaging technique which uses high-frequency sound waves and a computer to create images of blood vessels, tissues, and organs. Ultrasounds are used to view internal organs as they function, and to assess blood flow through various vessels.

Urgent surgery - an operation performed immediately as a result of an urgent medical condition. (See also emergency surgery.)

Urinary retention - the inability to empty the bladder.


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Vascular - pertaining to blood vessels.

Vasodilator - a medication that dilates or widens the opening in a blood vessel.

Vasopressor - a medication that raises blood pressure.

Vein - a blood vessel that carries blood from the body back into the heart.

Ventricle - one of the two pumping chambers of the heart; right ventricle receives oxygen-poor blood from the right atrium and pumps it to the lungs through the pulmonary artery; left ventricle receives oxygen-rich blood from the left atrium and pumps it to the body through the aorta.


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Wedge resection - a small, localized section of an organ is removed, often for a biopsy.


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X-ray - a diagnostic test which uses invisible electromagnetic energy beams to produce images of internal tissues, bones, and organs onto film.


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