Guide to Acute Care Terminology
An abnormal increase in the acidity of blood plasma, caused either by accumulation of acids or by depletion of bicarbonates.
Pain relief, which may be administered through an intravenous line, oral medication, or a topical solution.
Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS)
A potentially life-threatening lung condition that often occurs in critically ill patients, or in cases of serious injury. Abnormal amounts of fluid leak from the blood vessels in the lung into the air sacs and impair the lungs from properly filling and moving enough oxygen into the bloodstream.
Arterial Blood Gas (ABG)
A test measuring the pH, oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in a blood sample drawn from an artery. It is used to measure how well the lungs are moving oxygen into the blood and removing carbon dioxide from the blood.
A medical procedure performed to restore a normal heart rhythm in cases of a rapid or abnormal, but not life-threatening, heart rhythm. Cardioversion is done two ways: using an electrical procedure or using medicines. For the electrical procedure, the heart is given low-energy shocks to trigger a normal rhythm while the patient is temporarily put to sleep. Using medicines to correct arrhythmias also is a form of cardioversion, and can be done in a hospital, at home or in a doctor's office.
A hollow flexible tube for insertion into a body cavity, duct, or vessel to allow the passage of fluids or expand a passageway.
Decreased oxygen supply to the brain, even though there is adequate blood flow. This is serious because brain cells are very sensitive to decreased oxygen levels, and begin to die within five minutes of oxygen deprivation.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) may refer to a number of chronic lung disorders that obstruct the passage of air in and out of the lungs. The most common form of COPD is a combination of chronic bronchitis and emphysema.
Critical care is the multidisciplinary healthcare specialty that cares for patients with acute, life-threatening illness or injury.
Critical care team
A group of health care professionals from a variety of disciplines who care for critically ill and injured patients. The critical care team includes predominantly the critical care intensivist and the critical care nurse. Other healthcare professional such as physiotherapists, pharmacist, technicians, social workers and clergy may also participate as members of the critical care team.
A computed tomography (CT) scan, sometimes called a CAT scan, is a medical imaging method used to create a three-dimensional image of a patient’s internal structures, from a large series of two-dimensional X-ray images.
An emergency procedure performed to correct life-threatening, rapid and irregular heart rhythm. An electrical device, called a defibrillator, sends an electric shock to the heart through paddles which are placed on the patient’s chest. Defibrillation is done only on patients who are unconscious and do not have a pulse.
Endoscopy is a minimally invasive diagnostic medical procedure used to assess the interior surfaces of an organ by inserting a tube into the body.
A medical procedure performed to open the airway in order to provide oxygen, assist breathing or administer medication. A tube is placed in the trachea through the mouth, particularly in emergency situations, or the nose.
Gastrointestinal bleeding describes any form of bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract, encompassing the mouth, throat, esophagus, stomach, small intestines, large intestines, rectum, and anus.
This is a machine that acts to replace kidney function. It removes blood from a vein through a tube then pumps it through a filter to remove excess fluid and waste products. Once the waste products are cleaned out of the blood, replacement fluid is added and the blood is returned to the patient
Intensive Care Unit
Intensive care units (ICUs) are specialist hospital wards that provide comprehensive treatment and monitoring for people in a critically ill or unstable condition.
A method to mechanically assist critically ill patients breathe when they are unable to breathe sufficiently on their own. A machine, called a ventilator or respirator, is connected to an endotracheal tube and cycles automatically to inhale and exhale for the patient.
A medical emergency caused by an overwhelming bacterial, fungal and rarely, a viral infection, which results in life-threatening low blood pressure and damage to the heart, brain, kidneys, liver and intestines.
A surgical procedure performed to create an opening in the trachea, or windpipe. It may be performed in an emergency situation of severe blockage or narrowing of the upper airway, part of surgery to remove the larynx because of cancer, and in cases of patients who require long-term ventilator support.
Glossary of ICU Terminology. Intensive Care Society. 2015. [Accessed June 10 2015]. http://www.ics.ac.uk/icf/patients-and-relatives/glossary-of-icu-terminology/
Gromisch M. Medical Terms Used in Acute Care. [Accessed June 10 2015]. http://www.empowher.com/lung-conditions/content/medical-terms-used-acute-care