Macular Degeneration: A progressive deterioration of the maculae of the retina that can cause blindness.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): Medical imaging based on the resonance of atomic nuclei in a strong magnetic field. Among its advantages are its superior soft-tissue contrast resolution and ability to image in multiple planes. About 15% of patients require some form of a sedative to overcome claustrophobia during the procedure.
Major Medical Insurance: Insurance coverage designed to offset the costs of prolonged or catastrophic illness and injury.
Malabsorption: Impaired absorption of nutrients from the GI tract. It occurs in celiac disease, sprue, dysentery, diarrhea, inflammatory bowel disease, and other disorders.
Malfeasance: Performance of an unlawful or wrongful act.
Malignant: Tending to become worse and to cause death. Describing a cancer: anaplastic, invasive, and metastatic. Also virulent.
Malingering: Willful and deliberate feigning of the symptoms of a disease or injury to gain some consciously desired result.
Malnutrition: Any disorder of nutrition. It may result from an unbalanced, insufficient, or excessive diet or from impaired absorption, assimilation, or inadequate ingestion of foods.
Malpractice: In law, this refers to professional negligence that is the proximate cause of an injury or harm to a patient, resulting from a lack of professional knowledge, experience, or skill that can be expected from others similarly situated in the profession. If a medical practitioner holds himself out as an expert or specialist in a particular field, he or she will be held to the standards of the specialists in that field.
Managed Care: A health care system in which there is administrative and central control over primary health care services in a medical group practice setting. The intention is to eliminate redundant facilities and services and to reduce costs. Health education and preventive medicine are emphasized. HMOs (Health maintenance organizations) are a form of managed care.
Mastectomy: The surgical removal of one or both breasts, most commonly performed to remove a malignant tumor.
Material Fact: In law this refers to a fact that establishes or refutes an element essential to the complaint, charge, or defense.
Melanomas: Highly malignant skin tumors that readily metastasize. The incidence of Melanomas increase with age. Mortality rates among elderly men are high, likely due to delayed diagnosis. Suspicious lesions should be evaluated by a dermatologist.
Median: Number representing the middle value of the scores in a sample.
Median Nerve: One of the terminal branches of the brachial plexus, which extends along the radial parts of the forearm and the hand and supplies various muscles and the skin of these parts.
Mediate: To settle a dispute, as in collective bargaining process, or alternative dispute resolution.
Medicaid: A federally funded state operated program of medical assistance to people with low incomes, authorized by Title XIX of the Social Security Act. Under broad federal guidelines the individual states determine benefits, eligibility, rates of payment, and methods of administration.
Medical Diagnosis: The determination of the cause of a patient’s illness.
Medical Director: A physician who is usually employed by a hospital to serve in a medical and administrative capacity as head of the organized medical staff.
Medicare: A federally funded national health insurance program in the United States for people over 65 years of age.
Medication Error: Any incorrect or wrongful administration of a medication, such as a mistake in dosage or route of administration, failure to prescribe or administer the correct drug or formulation for a particular disease of condition, use of outdated drugs, failure to observe the correct time for administration of the drug, or lack of awareness of adverse effects of certain drug combinations.
MEDLINE: National Library of Medicine computer data base that covers approximately 600,000 references to biomedical journal articles published currently and in the 2 preceding years.
Metabolic Acidosis: Acidosis in which excess acid is added to the body fluids or bicarbonate is lost from them. Acidosis is indicated by a pH of blood below 7.4. Severe diarrhea, renal failure, and lactic acidosis also may result in metabolic acidosis. Hyperkalemia may accompany the condition.
Metabolism (change): The aggregate of all chemical processes that take place in living organisms, resulting in growth, generation of energy, elimination of wastes, and other body functions as they relate to the distribution of nutrients in the blood after digestion. Metabolism takes place in two steps: anabolism, the constructive phase, in which smaller molecules (such as amino acids) are converted to larger molecules such as proteins); and catabolism, the destructive phase, in which larger molecules (such as glycogen) are converted to smaller molecules (such as glucose).
Morbid Obesity: An excess of body fat that threatens necessary body functions such as respiration.
Moribund: Near death or in the act of dying.
Mucositis: Any inflammation of a mucous membrane, such as the lining of the mouth and throat.
Mucus: The viscous, slippery secretions of mucous membranes and glands, containing mucin, white blood cells, water, inorganic salts, and exfoliated cells.
Muscle: A kind of tissue composed of fibers or cells that are able to contract, causing movement of body parts and organs. Muscle fibers are richly vascular, excitable, conductive, and elastic.
Muscle Guarding: A protective response in muscle that results from pain or fear of movement.
Myasthenia Gravis: An abnormal condition characterized by chronic fatigue and muscle weakness, especially in
the face and throat, as a result of a defect in the conduction of nerve impulses at the neuromuscular junction.
Mycetoma: A severe fungal infection involving skin, subcutaneous tissue, fascia, and bone.
Myelitis: Inflammation of the spinal cord with associated motor or sensory dysfunction.
Myelogram: An x-ray film taken after the injection of a radiopaque medium into the subarachnoid space to demonstrate any distortions of the spinal cord, spinal nerve roots, and subarachnoid space.
Myocardium: A thick contractile middle layer of uniquely constructed and arranged muscle cells that forms the bulk of the heart wall.
Myopathy: An abnormal condition of skeletal muscle characterized by muscle weakness, wasting, and histologic changes within muscle tissue, as seen in any of the muscular dystrophies.
Narcotic: Narcotic analgesics, derived from opium or produced synthetically, that alter perception of pain.
Nasogastric: Pertaining to the nose and stomach.
Nasogastric Intubation: the placement of a nasogastric tube through the nose into the stomach to relieve gastric tension by removing gas, gastric secretions, or food; to instill medication, food, or fluids.
National Bureau of Standards (NBS): A federal agency in the Department of Commerce that sets accurate measurement standards for commerce, industry, and science in the United States.
National Institute on Aging (NIA): A branch of the (U.S.) National Institutes of Health established in 1974. The NIA supports biomedical, social and behavioral research and education related to aging.
Necrosis: Localized tissue death that occurs in groups of cells in response to disease or injury. Necrosis can result from physical or chemical insults that overwhelm normal cellular processes and cause cell death.
Necrotizing Enteritis: Acute inflammation of the small and large intestine by the bacterium Clostridium perfringens, characterized by severe abdominal pain, bloody diarrhea, and vomiting.
Negligence: In law, the commission of an act that a reasonably prudent person would not have done under the same or similar circumstances.
Negligence per se (in law): A finding of negligence rendered in judgment of a professional action or inaction in violation of a statute or so at odds with common sense that beyond any doubt no prudent person would be guilty of it. The violations of certain statutes that were enacted to protect a specific class of people may give rise to a negligence per se claim.
Neoplasm: Any abnormal growth of new tissue, benign or malignant.
Nephrectomy: The removal of a kidney.
Nephrology: The study of the anatomy, physiology, and pathology of the kidney.
Nephropathy: Any disorder of the kidney.
Nerve Compression: A pathologic event that causes harmful pressure on one or more nerve trunks, resulting in nerve damage and muscle weakness or atrophy. Any nerve that passes over a rigid prominence is vulnerable, and the degree of damage depends on the magnitude and duration of the compressive force.
Nerve Conduction Test: An electrodiagnostic test of the integrity of the peripheral nerves.
Nerve Root Impingement: The abnormal protrusion of body tissue into the space occupied by a spinal nerve root. Causes may include disk herniation, tissue prolapse, and inflammation.
Neurologic Assessment: An evaluation of the patient’s neurologic status and symptoms.
Neurosurgery: Any surgery involving the brain, spinal cord, or peripheral nerves.
Nucleus Pulposus: The central part of each intervertebral disk, consisting of a pulpy elastic substance that loses some of its resiliency with age. The nucleus pulposus may be suddenly compressed and squeeze out through the annular fibrocartilage, causing a herniated disk and extreme pain.
Numbness (loss of feeling): A partial or total lack of sensation in a body part, resulting from any factor that interrupts the transmission of impulses from the sensory nerve fibers. Numbness is often accompanied by tingling.
Nurse: A person educated and licensed in the practice of nursing.
Nurse Practitioner: A registered nurse who has advanced education in nursing and clinical experience in a specialized area of nursing practice. NPs are certified by passing an examination administered by a professional organization such as the American Nurses’ Credentialing Center (ANCC).
Nurse’s Aide: A person who is employed to carry out basic tasks in the care of patients, such as bathing and feeding, making beds, and transporting patients, under the supervision and direction of a registered nurse.
Nurses’ Station: An area in a clinic, unit, or ward in a health care facility that serves as the administrative center for nursing care for a particular group of patients.
Nursing Care Plan: A plan based on a nursing assessment and a nursing diagnosis carried out by a nurse. The nursing care plan is begun when the patient is admitted to the health service, and, after the initial nursing assessment, a diagnosis is formulated and nursing orders are developed. The goal of the process is to ensure
that nursing care is consistent with the patient’s needs and progress toward self-care. A written nursing care plan should be a part of every patient’s chart.
Nursing Director: A nurse whose function is the administrative and clinical leadership of the nursing service of a division of a health care facility.
Nutrient: A chemical substance that provides nourishment and affects the nutritive and metabolic processes of the body.
Nutritional Monitoring: A nursing intervention from the Nursing Interventions Classification (NIC) defined as collection and analysis of patient data to prevent or minimize malnourishment.
Obese: Pertaining to a corpulent or excessively heavy individual. Generally a person is regarded as medically obsese if he or she is 20% above desirable body weight for the person’s age, sex, height, and body build.
Objective Symptom (that which happens): A symptom accompanied by signs that tend to confirm the patient’s physical complaint and enable the examining physician, nurse, or other health care provider to deduce the cause.
Older Americans Act Amended of 1987: federal legislation authorizing support of Title III nutrition services for state and county programs on aging. The services include both congregate and home-delivered meals, with related nutrition education.
Ombudsman: A person who investigates and mediates patient problems and complaints with health care providers. Ombudsman are frequent visitors to nursing homes, as these advocates are frequently first responders to complaints of neglect. Also called a patient representative.
Oncology: The study of cancerous growths.
Onychomycosis: A fungal infection of the skin, caused by dermatophytes, yeast or molds, depending on the patients geographic region. Nails become yellow and thickened, and may separate from the nail bed.
Opium: It is an opioid analgesic, a hypnotic, and an astringent. Opium contains several alkaloids, including codeine, morphine, and papaverine.
Optic Nerve: One of a pair of cranial nerves that transmit visual impulses.
Optic Neuropathy: A disease characterized by dysfunction or destruction of the optic nerve tissues.
Oral Hygiene: The condition or practice of maintaining the tissues and structures of the mouth. Dependent or unconscious patients are assisted in maintaining a healthy oral condition.
Orientation: The awareness of one’s physical environment with regard to time, place, and the identity of other people.
Orthopedics: Branch of health care that is concerned with the prevention and correction of disorders of the musculoskeletal system of the body.
Orthopedic Traction: A procedure in which a patient is maintained in a device attached by ropes and pulleys to weights that pull on an extremity or body part while counteraction is maintained.
Orthopedist: A physical who specializes in orthopedics.
Osmology: The science of the sense of smell.
Osteomyelitis: Local or generalized infection of bone and bone marrow. It is usually caused by bacteria introduced by trauma or surgery, by direct extension from a nearby infection, or via the bloodstream. Staphylococci are the most common causative agents.
Osteopenia: Condition of subnormally mineralized bone, usually the result of a rate of bone lysis that exceeds the rate of bone matrix synthesis.
Osteoporosis: A disorder characterized by abnormal loss of bone density and deterioration of bone tissue, with an increased fracture risk. For about 10 years after menopause, bone loss accelerates by a factor of ten. It is six times more common in women than men.
Ostomy: A surgical procedure in which an opening is made to allow the passage of urine from the bladder or of intestinal contents from the bowel to an incision or stoma surgically created in the wall of the abdomen.
Ostomy Care: The management and support of a patient with a surgical opening created in the bladder, ileum, or colon for the temporary or permanent passage of urine or feces.
Otolaryngology: A branch of medicine dealing with the diagnosis and treatment of diseases and disorders of the ears, nose, and throat.
Outpatient (OP): Patient, not hospitalized, who is being treated in an office, clinic, or other ambulatory care facility.
Oxygen Saturation: The fraction of the hemoglobin molecules in a blood sample that are saturated with oxygen at a given partial pressure of oxygen.