Friday, February 5, 2010

That's a Mouth Full!

This week one of my tiniest, sweetest little patients was diagnosed with a problem that is quite a mouth full to pronounce: crycopharyngeal achalasia. Whew! It made me think back-WAY back-to my first medical terminology class. I took it as an undergraduate student at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo. I liked it because it wasn't a course where you had to memorize lists and lists of those mile-long, foreign words. Instead, we were taught how to break down those words in their prefixes, suffixes, roots and parts-dissecting them if you will- and this way found we actually knew the meaning of most of those daunting words, even if we had never heard each one before.

We started with the basic terms we learned in our anatomy classes, words describing parts of the body, organs, etc. Derm refers to the skin, osteo to bone, cerebral to the brain, cephal is the head, coreo is the pupil of the eye, and cardio the heart. Cysto refers to a bladder, renal or nephro to the kidneys and hepatic to the liver. Chol refers to bile or the gall bladder. Ovo refers to the ovaries while orch refers to the testes. I wasn't amused when we learned that the root for uterus was "hystero" because females were considered "hysterical" by their doctors. Wonderful. Metra can also refer to the uterus.

We then learned the prefixes that describe these organs or conditions. "A-" can simply mean without or not. "Neo-" is new or recent. "Bi-" means two or double. "Iso-" means equal or alike. "Endo-" means within. "Pyo-" refers to purulence or pus.

Suffixes might further describe or quantify conditions or situations. "-algia" refers to pain or a painful situation. "-itis" refers to inflammation. "-osis" simply refers to "the disease or condition of." "-lith" refers to a calculus or stone. "-otomy" means to surgically cut into while "-ectomy" means to surgically remove and "-ostomy" means to crate a permanent hole in. "-oma" usually refers to a benign tumor while "sarcoma" refers to their malignant counterparts.

So, let's try out your new skills in medical terminology. Break down the big words into their smaller, more familiar parts and see what you come up with. You will be surprised how easy (and even how fun) it can be!

1) Dermatitis
2) Nephrectomy
3) Pyometra
4) Endocardiosis
5) Cholecystolith
6) Ovariohysterectomy
7) Osteosarcoma
8) Acholiosis
9) Tracheostomy
10) Isocoria

Ok, here are the answers-I'm sure you got all of them right!

1) Derm-skin + itis-inflammation = inflammation of the skin
2) Nephro-kidney + ectomy- surgically remove = to surgically remove the kidney
3) Pyo -pus + metra- uterus = pus in the uterus or a uterine infection
4) Endo-within + card-heart + osis-condition or pathology of = disease inside the heart, actually refers to a disease of the heart valves (which are inside the heart-see how this works?)
5) Chol-bile/gall + cysto-bladder + lith-stone = gall bladder stones
6) Ovario-ovaries + hyster-uterus + ectomy = removal of the uterus and ovaries-in dogs or cats, we call this a spay surgery.
7) Osteo-bone + sarcoma-malignant tumor = bone cancer
8) This one looks hard, but just break it down...a-with out + chol-bile + osis-condition of = the condition of not being able to produce bile.
9) Trache-refers to the trachea + ostomy-to create a permanent hole in = creation of an opening into the trachea.
10) Iso-the same + coria-refering to the pupils of the eye = having pupils that are the same size.

Look at that! I knew you could do it. See? Doctors really aren't all that smart. Using big words just makes them sound that way, and now you know the secret behind doing that, too. And it doesn't even give you cephalgia (a headache) to use those big words, too.