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EMT Glosary


Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm An out-pouching of the descending abdominal aorta
Abbreviation Shortened medical terms.
Abdominal Cavity Also known as the abdomen, this cavity is separated from the thoracic cavity by the diaphragm. It contains the stomach, liver, spleen, gallbladder and parts of the pancreas, as well as the small and large intestines.
Abrasion An open injury caused by rubbing or scraping of the skin.
Absence Seizure Brief generalized seizures in which the patient suddenly loses consciousness without further muscle activity. These attacks end abruptly, and the patient resumes their activities
Absent Used to describe when a provider hears no breath sounds upon auscultating the lungs
Acceptance 1. The act of being received as adequate. 2. One of the five stages of death and dying created by medical ethicist Elizabeth Kübler-Ross.
Accessory Muscles The muscles of the sternocleidomastoid and scalenes, which the body employs to increase tidal volume when the respiratory rate is not sufficient to correct hypoxemia.
Acromegaly Abnormal growth of parts of the body due to over-production of growth hormone
Action The action of a medication is its desired therapeutic effect on the body. For example, the action of epinephrine is to stimulate the “fight or flight” response by increasing the heart rate, contracting the blood vessels, and dilating the lower airway.
Acute Arterial Occlusion A clot that lodges in a major peripheral artery
Acute Coronary Syndrome Conditions caused by complete or incomplete blockage of a coronary artery
Acute Hypertensive Pulmonary Edema A heart failure condition that occurs when pressure in the lung’s capillary beds increases rapidly, due to either fluid volume overload or the left ventricle’s failure to contract efficiently
Acute Radiation Syndrome May include signs of nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and dehydration. In severe exposure cases, altered mental status, cerebral edema, and seizures may result.
Adenosine Triphosphate Oxygen and glucose are absorbed by cells, and interact with each other to produce the fuel known as adenosine triphosphate, or ATP.
Adrenal Gland The adrenal glands are part of the endocrine system, located above the kidneys. They are chiefly responsible for secreting the hormones norepinephrine and epinephrine in response to stress.
Adrenal Insufficiency Crisis A potentially life-threatening condition that can occur in individuals whose adrenal glands produce an insufficient amount of steroid hormones
Advanced Directive An advanced directive is a written document that clearly specifies what actions a health care provider should, or should not perform in life-or-death situations. A common example of an advanced directive is a “Do Not Resuscitate” or DNR order.
Adventitious Unusual breath sounds
Adverse Side Effect An adverse side effect is an untoward change of health in a patient who has received a medication. For example, epinephrine raises the blood pressure, which could be a problem for some patients.
Afferent Spinal Nerve Afferent spinal nerves move information from the body to the brain for processing.
Afterload The static pressure within the vascular system itself that keeps the aortic valve shut
Albumin The substance in plasma that regulates fluid balance between blood and tissue
Alveolus These small pockets of the alveolar ducts and sacs and terminal bronchioles through whose walls the exchange of carbon dioxide and oxygen takes place between the alveolar air and capillary blood.
Amniotic Sac A protective enclosure filled with fluid that surrounds a fetus
Amputation A partial or complete loss of an appendage
Anaphylactic Shock A condition in which blood pressure falls to dangerously low levels after a severe allergic reaction causes the arteries to dilate tremendously, while the arterial walls become porous, allowing plasma to leak out into the surrounding tissue.
Anaphylaxis A life threatening type of allergic reaction that occurs because large amounts of histamine have been released by the hypersensitive mast cells. It is the most severe and fatal type of allergic reaction
Anatomic Position The position used as a reference in describing the relation of body parts to one another: standing erect, facing forward, with arms at the sides and palms turned forward.
Anatomy The study of the structures that make up the body, including their forms and how they are organized.
Anemia A blood disorder characterized by an inadequate number of red blood cells
Aneurysm An out-pouching of the arterial wall, which is usually due to weakening of the arteries due to cardiovascular disease
Anger One of the five stages of death and dying created by medical ethicist Elizabeth Kübler-Ross. Anger often comes after denial. The patient thinks, “Why me?” This patient can be difficult to care for due to misplaced feelings of rage and envy.
Angina One of the five stages of death and dying created by medical ethicist Elizabeth Kübler-Ross. Anger often comes after denial. The patient thinks, “Why me?” This patient can be difficult to care for due to misplaced feelings of rage and envy.
Angioedema Large areas of swelling under the skin
Anisocoria Unequal puils
Antecubital The inner elbow of the arm
Anterior Also known as the ventral side, this anatomy term is used to refer to the front of the body.
Antigen A substance found on the red blood cell’s surface that causes antibodies to form and attack when exposed to a red blood cell that is different from itself.
Antisocial Personality Disorder A personality disorder marked by impulsive behavior and an indifference for social rules and the rights and feelings of others
Anxiety Disorder A condition marked with an excessive, irrational dread of everyday activities
Aorta The largest and strongest of the arteries as it is the vessel receiving blood, during systole, at the greatest pressure after it leaves the left ventricle of the heart
Aortic Dissection A separation of the arterial layers of the ascending and descending aorta
Appendicitis Inflammation of the soft tissue lining the appendix
Arachnoid Mater The arachnoid mater is the fine, delicate membrane in the middle of the three layers of membranes that surround and protect the brain and spinal cord.
Arterial Bleed A damaged artery will tend to bleed quickly. When it first begins, the bleeding may be pulsating or spurting out of the wound. If bleeding is not controlled, the pressure inside the arteries will decrease. The color of arterial blood is bright red
Arteriole When arteries branch out to supply blood to different parts of the body, they subdivide and become smaller, eventually becoming arterioles which bring blood to the tissues.
Arteriosclerosis A condition in which the inner lining of large and medium arteries becomes narrow and thick.
Artery Arteries have the ability to stretch under a wave of blood, and “snap” back, much like an elastic band, to help move blood through the arterial side of the vasculature.
Aspiration The inhalation of foreign bodies into the airway.
Assault Causing a patient to feel afraid that you might cause harm is known as assault.
Asthma The most common type of reactive airway disorders, marked by spasms in the bronchi of the lungs, causing difficulty in breathing
Asystole When the heart has no contractions due to a lack of electrical impulses. Characterized by the lack of a heartbeat, which creates a flat line on a heart monitor. Colloquially called a flatline.
Atlas The first cervical vertebra that supports the weight of the head.
Atrial Fibrillation An irregularly irregular heart rhythm
Atrium Either of the two upper chambers of the heart that squeeze blood into the lower chambers (ventricles). The right atrium receives deoxygenated blood, whereas the left atrium receives oxygenated blood.
Auscultate The act of listening to lung sounds for the presence of uneven breath sounds, wheezing, or crackles.
Automated External Defibrillator A device that can be used to analyze the patient’s heart rhythm and deliver a counter-shock
AVPU Scale An acronym for a scale used during the primary assessment to quickly identify the patient’s level of consciousness by determining how a patient responds to some form of stimulus. AVPU stands for alert, verbal, pain and unresponsive
Avulsion This open injury occurs when a flap of skin is partially or completely torn off. Bleeding may be significant, depending on the amount of area involved and depth of the avulsion. Because of the loss of skin, the risk of infection is significant
Axial Portion Anatomically, the body is divided into two portions: axial and appendicular. The axial portion includes the head, neck and trunk. Within the axial portion, there are several cavities: cranial, vertebral, thoracic, abdominal, pelvic, and retroperitoneal.
Backboard A flat device used in spinal immobilization to which the patient is placed and secured with straps and a head immobilization device. Pads are used to fill the voids.
Bag-Valve Mask A common hand-held artificial ventilation device that's used to deliver positive pressure ventilations.
Bargaining One of the five stages of death and dying created by medical ethicist Elizabeth Kübler-Ross. This stage involves the hope that the individual can somehow postpone or delay death.
Base Station A fixed radio that is used to maintain communication with a fleet of EMS vehicles and personnel that are using portable hand-held or mobile radios
Baroreceptor A receptor that measures pressure within the artery
Baseline The set of vital signs that indicates a starting set for comparison
Battery Actually placing your hands on a patient without consent is termed battery. For example, not gaining consent prior to performing a hands-on assessment may be a battery case.
Battle's Sign Bruising behind the ears, a finding that develops slowly and indicates a basal skull fracture.
Bilateral An anatomy term used to refer to paired structures, one on each side of the midline.
Bile An alkaline digestive fluid that is secreted by the liver and stored in the gallbladder.
Bladder The urinary bladder is a hollow organ located within the pelvis, that expands as it collects urine from the kidneys. The urine is stored there until excretion.
Blood Blood consists mostly of water containing nutrients, wastes, and specialized blood cells. Blood travels through the vascular system, carrying oxygen toward and carbon dioxide away from the tissues of the body.
Blood Pressure The pressure of the blood in the circulatory system
Blunt Trauma The injuries of blunt trauma result when tissues undergo compression, deceleration, acceleration, and sheer forces, a lateral force that stretches tissues as one structure changes speed at a different rate than an adjacent structure.
Body Substance Isolation Precautions that regard all body fluids as potentially infectious
Body Surface Area The total surface area of the human body, often used as a tool to determine the amount of skin that has been burned.
Bowel Obstruction Unresolved constipation that causes a blockage and the tissue at the site of obstruction is denied circulation. Presents long enough, the tissue will become ischemic and infarct, rendering that part of the bowel ineffective at moving waste products.
Bradycardia A heart rate that is too slow to maintain perfusion
Bradypnea A ventilatory rate of less than 12 respirations per minute in adults.
Brainstem . It controls most of the major autonomic functions of the body, including heart rate, breathing rate and the contraction and relaxation of the vasculature.
Bronchiole The bronchi continue to divide again and again into numerous bronchioles. Each of these bronchioles can expand or constrict depending upon the needs of the body for air exchange as well as reacting to certain substances
Bronchiolitis A lower respiratory infection in infants younger than 1 year of age
Bronchus Either of the two main airway branches that begin at the trachea before dividing into the left and right bronchi, which enter the lungs. The bronchi continue to divide again and again into numerous bronchioles.
Capillary Any of the very thin-walled blood vessels that form a network between the smallest arterioles and tributaries.
Capillary Bed An immense network of capillaries whose walls are one cell thin, allowing oxygen and carbon dioxide to diffuse easily across the membrane between the blood and cell.
Capillary Bleed Bleeding from capillary beds tends to ooze, and the blood tends to be darker in color.
Cardiac Arrest When the heart beats poorly or not at all
Cardiac Muscle Cardiac muscle has both the properties of skeletal and smooth muscle, and is found only in the heart. Its unique properties allow the heart to contract continuously without prolonged rest.
Cardiogenic Shock If enough cardiac tissue becomes injured or infarcted, especially in the left ventricle, the heart will not be able to move enough blood into the systemic circulation and blood pressure begins to fall.
Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation A procedure for treatment of sudden cardiac arrest that consists of compressing the chest and providing artificial ventilation.
Cardiovascular System A complex system of organs that work together to transport and supply oxygen and nutrients to the tissues and remove wastes.
Carina The structure where the trachea divides, or bifurcates, into left and right main stem bronchi. The carina is located near the junction of the fourth and fifth thoracic vertebra.
Central Nervous System The central nervous system is the division of the nervous system that involves the brain and spinal cord.
Central Pulses These are found toward the body’s core. They include the femoral and carotid arteries.
Created by: 4resh