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  • Abscess

    A collection of pus. It is a defensive reaction of the body to prevent the spread of infectious materials to other parts of the body.

  • Antibiotics

    Medications that kill or inhibit the growth of bacteria. Examples include penicillin, sulfa, and vancomycin, to name a few.

  • Apnea

    Absence of breathing. Someone who is having apneic periods is having periods of not breathing.

  • Arterial lines

    like an IV but goes directly into an artery rather than a vein. Medical staff can obtain multiple blood samples to measure oxygen levels in the blood. Blood pressure can also be monitored with arterial lines.

  • Artery

    Blood vessel that brings blood with nutrients from the heart to other parts of the body.

  • Atrophy

    The decrease in muscle size, due to the muscle not being used. Also referred to as muscle wasting away.

  • Edema

    Swelling in part or all of the body caused by excess fluid.

  • Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG)

    Graph of the electrical activity in the heart.

  • Endocarditis

    Inflammation of the endocardium, a thin, smooth membrane that lines the inside of the heart. The endocardium also forms the surface of the heart valves.

  • Fistula

    A fistula is an abnormal opening or connection between two body parts. For example, there can be a fistula between the vagina and the rectum.

  • Ibuprofen

    A nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) that is given to relieve pain and reduce inflammation and fever. Brand names include Motrin and Advil, among others.

  • Intravenous (IV)

    Fluid that is given to a patient through a small catheter that is placed in the vein.

  • Intubation

    Insertion of a tube into the trachea so a ventilator may breathe for the patient

  • IV bolus

    Administration of large amounts of IV fluid over a short period of time.

  • Jaundice

    Yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes that occurs when there is too much bilirubin in the blood system.

  • Laceration

    A jagged cut or wound.

  • Lactate acid

    Substance formed when sugars in the body are broken down for energy without the presence of oxygen. Usually indicates breathing difficulty.

  • Laparoscopy

    A minimally invasive type of surgery. Unlike traditional surgery, laparascopic surgery is done through tiny incisions through which surgeons insert long instruments and a camera to guide them. Laparoscopies are often done for observation, to see what is happening inside without having to make large incisions.

  • Lethargy

    Fatigue, exhaustion.

  • Nasal canula

    A narrow tube connected to an oxygen supply that rests just under the nose. Used instead of an oxygen mask.

  • Necrosis

    Tissue cell death. Necrotic tissue is no longer living and is usually black. In most cases, necrotic tissue must be removed to prevent further complications.

  • NG (nasogastric) tube

    An NG tube, or nasogastric tube, is a hollow catheter that is inserted through the nose, follows the esophagus (the tube that brings food from your mouth to your stomach), and stops in your stomach. This tube can be used to drain fluids out of your stomach or to give you fluids, such as special nutrition if you cannot eat or drink.

  • Normal saline (NS)

    Water and sodium combination; commonly given by IV

  • Nosocomial infection

    a hospital-acquired infection.

  • Oliguria

    Significant drop in urine production; making less urine than you should.

  • Oncologist

    A medical doctor who has specialized in caring for patients who have cancer.

  • Organ dysfunction

    Body organ that is not working as it should.

  • Organ failure

    Body organ that has stopped working.

  • Perforated bowel

    A perforation (hole, tear, nick) in the bowel that allows the contents of the bowel, or intestine, to leak into the abdominal cavity.

  • Platelets

    Small blood cells that help are essential for blood clotting.

  • Pneumonia

    Infection in the lung or lungs

    To learn more about pneumonia,  hospital-acquired or community-acquired, please visit Sepsis and Pneumonia.

  • Prognosis


  • Protein C

    A substance in your blood that prevents it from clotting.

  • Purpura

    Red and purple tiny dots under the skin that may appear when someone has a low platelet count or “leaky” blood vessels.

  • Radiologist

    A medical doctor who specializes in using imaging (x-rays, etc) to treat and manage certain illnesses, such as cancer.

  • Sepsis

    Toxic response to infection or injury. It is a medical emergency that requires early detection and treatment for survival. (Click for full definition)

  • Septic shock

    Septic shock develops after sepsis has developed beyond severe sepsis and results in organ failure. This is when the blood pressure drops to dangerously low levels.

  • Septicemia

    The old term for sepsis, a life-threatening condition caused by bacteria and their toxins circulating in the blood stream.

  • Severe sepsis

    Severe sepsis occurs when sepsis progressed, affecting more organs, causing organ dysfunction. This is the stage before septic shock.

  • Spleen

    Your spleen is a small fist-sized organ located on the left side, just above your stomach, protected by your ribs on your left side. As part of your lymphatic system, your spleen helps fights infection among its other roles. It is possible to live without your spleen if it needs to be removed due to injury.

  • Sputum

    Phlegm, mucus from the respiratory tract

  • Tachycardia

    Abnormally fast heart rate.

  • Trachea


  • Tracheostomy

    A surgical procedure that creates an opening through the neck into the trachea. Once a tube is placed into the trachea through the opening, air can pass through. This trach tube or tracheostomy tube can be then hooked up to a ventilator.

    Some people have permanent tracheostomies and can breathe through them without the use of a ventilator.

  • Triage

    Assessing patients and sorting them into order of severity, giving priority to more seriously ill or injured patients.

  • Vaccine

    Man-made preparation that when injected or ingested, gives immunity against certain viruses.

  • Vasopressors

    Medications given to patients to raise their blood pressure, given if patients become dangerously hypotensive.

  • Vein

    Blood vessels that bring blood back to the lungs and heart for nourishment.

  • Ventilator

    Machine that breathes for you after you have been intubated.

  • Wound Vac

    A wound vac, or more correctly a V.A.C. (Vacuum Assisted Closure) is a special type of dressing that helps heal deep wounds from the inside out. It requires special equipment and regular dressing changes.

  • Xigris

    Brand name of drotrecogin alfa that was used to treat severe sepsis but was discontinued and removed from the market in October 2011.