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Dictionary of Medical Terms 4th Ed

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past history


past history / pɑ st h st(ə)ri/ noun records of earlier illnesses He has no past history of renal disease.

pastille / p st(ə)l/ noun 1. a sweet jelly with medication in it, which can be sucked to relieve a sore throat 2. a small paper disc covered with barium platinocyanide, which changes colour when exposed to radiation

pat /p t/ verb to hit someone or something lightly and gently with the palm of the hand or some other flat surface She patted the baby on the back to make it burp.

patch /p tʃ/ noun a piece of sticking plaster with a substance on it, which is stuck to the skin to allow the substance to be gradually absorbed into the system through the skin, e.g. in HRT

COMMENT: Patches are available on prescription for various treatments, especially for administering hormone replacement therapy. They are also used for treating nicotine addiction and can be bought without a prescription.

patch test / p tʃ test/ noun a test for allergies or tuberculosis, where a piece of sticking plaster containing an allergic substance or tuberculin is stuck to the skin to see if there is a reaction

patella /pə telə/ noun the small bone in front of the knee joint. Also called kneecap

patellar /pə telə/ adjective referring to the kneecap

patellar reflex /pə telə ri fleks/ noun the jerk made as a reflex action by the knee, when the legs are crossed and the patellar tendon is tapped sharply. Also called knee jerk patellar tendon /pə telə tendən/ noun a tendon just below the kneecap patellectomy / p tə lektəmi/ noun a surgical operation to remove the kneecap patency / pe tənsi/ noun the condition of being wide open A salpingostomy was performed to restore the patency of the Fallopian tube.

patent / pe tənt, p tənt/ adjective open, exposed The presence of a pulse shows that the main blood vessels from the heart to the site of the pulse are patent.

patent ductus arteriosus / pe təntd"ktəs ɑ t əri əυsəs/ noun a congenital

condition in which the ductus arteriosus does not close, allowing blood into the circulation without having passed through the lungs patent medicine / pe tənt med(ə)s n/ noun a medicinal preparation which is made and sold under a trade name and is protected by law from being copied or sold by other manufacturers for a certain length of time after its invention. proprietary medicine

paternity /pə t! n ti/ noun 1. the fact of being or becoming a father paternity leave Compare maternity 2. the identity of a father

paternity test /pə t! n ti test/ noun a test such as blood grouping which makes it possible to determine the identity of the father of a child

COMMENT: DNA fingerprinting may be required in order to identify a man who might be the father according to his blood group and that of the child, but is not in fact the father.

path- /p θ/, patho- / p θəυ/ prefix referring to disease

pathogen / p θəd ən/ noun a microorganism which causes a disease

pathogenesis / p θə d enəs s/ noun the origin, production and development of a mor-

bid or diseased condition

pathogenetic / p θəd ə net k/ adjective referring to pathogenesis

pathogenic /p θə d en k/ adjective causing or producing a disease

pathogenicity / p θəd ə n s ti/ noun the

ability of a pathogen to cause a disease pathognomonic / p θə&nəυ mɒn k/ ad-

jective referring to a symptom which is typical and characteristic, and which indicates that

someone has a particular disease

pathological / p θə lɒd k(ə)l/, pathologic / p θə lɒd k/ adjective 1. referring to a

disease, or caused by a disease 2. indicating a disease

pathological depression / p θəlɒd k(ə)l d preʃ(ə)n/ noun an unusually se-

vere state of depression, possibly leading to


pathological dislocation / p θəlɒd k(ə)ld slə ke ʃ(ə)n/ noun the dislocation of a dis-

eased joint

pathological fracture / p θə lɒd k(ə)l

fr ktʃə/ noun a fracture of a diseased bone pathologist /pə θɒləd st/ noun 1. a doctor

who specialises in the study of diseases and the changes in the body caused by disease, examining tissue specimens from patients and reporting on the presence or absence of disease in them 2. a doctor who examines dead bodies

in order to find out the cause of death pathology /pə θɒləd i/ noun the study of

diseases and the changes in structure and function which diseases cause in the body. Also

called morbid anatomy

pathology report /pə θɒləd i r pɔ t/ noun a report on tests carried out to find the cause of a disease

pathophysiology / p θəυf zi ɒləd i/ noun the study of unusual or diseased organs pathway / pɑ θwe / noun a series of linked neurones along which nerve impulses travel -pathy /pəθi/ suffix 1. disease 2. treatment of a disease

patient / pe ʃ(ə)nt/ adjective being able to wait a long time without becoming annoyed

You will have to be patient if you are waiting for treatment – the doctor is late with his ap-



pointments. noun a person who is in hospital or who is being treated by a doctor The patients are all asleep in their beds. The doctor

is taking the patient’s temperature.

patient allocation / pe ʃ(ə)nt lə ke ʃ(ə)n/ noun a system of assigning each patient to a particular nurse for all their care


patient identifier / pe ʃ(ə)nt a dent fa ə/ noun a code of letters and numbers attached to the patient’s medical records by which all information concerning the patient can be tracked, e.g. cause of death

patulous / p tjυləs/ adjective stretched open, patent

Paul–Bunnell reaction / pɔ l b"n(ə)l rkʃən/, Paul–Bunnell test / pɔ l b"n(ə)ltest/ noun a blood test to see if someone has

glandular fever, where the person’s blood is tested against a solution containing glandular fever bacilli [Described 1932. After John Rodman Paul (b. 1893), US physician; Walls Willard Bunnell (1902–66), US physician.]

Paul’s tube / pɔ lz tju b/ noun a glass tube used to remove the contents of the bowel after an opening has been made between the intestine and the abdominal wall [Described 1891. After Frank Thomas Paul (1851–1941), British


pavement epithelium / pe vmənt ep

θi liəm/ noun same as squamous epithelium

Pavlov’s method / p vlɒvz meθəd/ noun a set of procedures for the study or production

of conditioned reflexes

PBI test / pi bi a test/ noun same as pro- tein-bound iodine test

p.c. / pi si / adverb (used on prescriptions) after food. Full form post cibum

PCC abbr Professional Conduct Committee PCG abbr primary care group

PCOD abbr polycystic ovary disease PCOS abbr polycystic ovary syndrome PCP abbr pneumocystis carinii pneumonia PCR abbr polymerase chain reaction PCT abbr primary care trust

p.d.1 adverb (used on prescriptions) per day. Full form per diem

p.d.2 abbr per diem

PE abbr pulmonary embolism peak /pi k/ noun the highest point

peak expiratory flow rate / pi k kspa ərət(ə)ri fləυ re t/ noun the rate at

which someone can expel air from their lungs when they are full and with no time limit. Abbr


peak period / pi k p əriəd/ noun the time of the day, days of the month or months of the year, during which something such as a fever, tiredness, infectious disease or cold reaches its highest point or occurs most frequently in a population

peaky / pi ki/ adjective thin, pale, and sickly in appearance (informal)

pearl /p! l/ Bohn’s nodules

Pearson bed / p əs(ə)n bed/ noun a type of bed with a Balkan frame, a rectangular frame attached to and overhanging the bed, used mainly for people with splints

peau d’orange / pəυ dɒ rɑ n / noun thickened skin with many little depressions caused by lymphoedema which forms over a breast tumour or in elephantiasis (NOTE: From the

French phrase meaning ‘orange peel’.) pecten / pektən/ noun 1. the middle section

of the wall of the anal passage 2. a hard ridge

on the pubis

pectineal /pek t niəl/ adjective 1. referring to the pecten of the pubis 2. referring to a structure with ridges like a comb

pectoral / pekt(ə)rəl/ noun 1. a therapeutic substance which has a good effect on respiratory disease 2. same as pectoral muscle ad-

jective referring to the chest

pectoral girdle / pekt(ə)rəl &! d(ə)l/ noun the shoulder bones, the scapulae and clavicles, to which the upper arm bones are attached.

Also called shoulder girdle

pectoralis / pektə re l s/ noun a chest mus-


pectoralis major /pektə re l s me d ə/ noun a large chest muscle which pulls the arm

forward or rotates it

pectoralis minor /pektə re l s ma nə/ noun a small chest muscle which allows the

shoulder to be depressed

pectoral muscle / pekt(ə)rəl m"s(ə)l/ noun one of two muscles which lie across the chest and control movements of the shoulder

and arm. Also called chest muscle

pectus / pektəs/ noun the anterior part of the


pectus carinatum / pektəs k r nɑ təm/ noun a condition in which the sternum is unu-

sually prominent. Also called pigeon breast pectus excavatum / pektəs ekskə

ve təm/ noun a congenital condition, in which the chest is depressed in the centre because the lower part of the breastbone is curved backwards. Also called funnel chest pedes / pi diz/ plural of pes

pediatrics / pi di tr ks/ noun US same as paediatrics

pedicle / ped k(ə)l/ noun 1. a long thin piece of skin which attaches a skin graft to the place where it was growing originally 2. a piece of tissue which connects a tumour to healthy tissue 3. a bridge which connects the lamina of a vertebra to the body

pediculicide /p d kjυl sa d/ noun a chemical substance that kills lice

pediculosis /p d kjυ ləυs s/ noun a skin disease caused by being infested with lice



Pediculus /p d kjυləs/ noun same as louse

(NOTE: The plural is Pediculi.)

Pediculus capitis /p d kjυləs kə pa t s/ noun same as head louse

pedo- /pi d/ prefix same as paedo- pedodontia / pi də dɒnʃə/ noun the study of children’s teeth

pedodontist / pi də dɒnt st/ noun a dentist who specialises in the treatment of children’s teeth

peduncle /p d"ŋkəl/ noun a stem or stalk pedunculate /p d"ŋkjule t/ adjective hav-

ing a stem or stalk. Opposite sessile pee /pi / verb same as urinate (informal)

peel /pi l/ verb 1. to take the skin off a fruit or vegetable 2. (of skin) to come off in pieces

After getting sunburnt, his skin began to peel.

PEEP abbr positive end-expiratory pressure peer review / p ə r vju / noun an assessment of a piece of someone’s work by people who are experts on the subject

PEFR abbr peak expiratory flow rate

Pel–Ebstein fever / pel ebsta n fi və/ noun a fever associated with Hodgkin’s disease which recurs regularly [Described 1885. After Pieter Klaases Pel (1852–1919), Professor of Medicine in Amsterdam, Netherlands; Wilhelm Ebstein (1836–1912), Professor of Medicine at Göttingen, Germany.]

pellagra /pə l &rə/ noun a disease caused by a deficiency of nicotinic acid, riboflavine and pyridoxine from the vitamin B complex, where patches of skin become inflamed, and the person has anorexia, nausea and diarrhoea

COMMENT: In some cases of pellagra the patient’s mental faculties can be affected, with depression, headaches and numbness of the extremities. Treatment is by improving the patient’s diet.

Pellegrini–Stieda’s disease /pelə &ri ni sti dəz d zi z/ noun a disease where an inju-

ry to the knee causes the ligament to become calcified [Described 1905. After Augusto Pelligrini, surgeon in Florence, Italy; Alfred Stieda (1869–1945), Professor of Surgery at Königsberg, Germany.]

pellet / pel t/ noun 1. a small rodor ovalshaped pill of steroid hormone, usually either oestrogen or testosterone, that is implanted under the skin for slow absorption 2. solid sediment at the base of a container after centrifuging

pellicle / pel k(ə)l/ noun a thin layer of skin tissue

pellucida /p lu s də/ zona pellucida pelves / pelvi z/ plural of pelvis

pelvic / pelv k/ adjective referring to the pelvis

pelvic brim / pelv k br m/ noun a line on the ilium which separates the false pelvis from the true pelvis

pelvic cavity / pelv k k v ti/ noun a space

below the abdominal cavity, above the pelvis pelvic colon / pelv k kəυlɒn/ noun same as

sigmoid colon

pelvic diaphragm / pelv k da əfr m/ noun a sheet of muscle between the pelvic cav-

ity and the peritoneum

pelvic floor / pelv k flɔ / noun the lower part of the space beneath the pelvic girdle,

formed of muscle

pelvic fracture / pelv k fr ktʃə/ noun a

fracture of the pelvis

pelvic girdle / pelv k &! d(ə)l/ noun the ring formed by the two hip bones to which the thigh bones are attached. Also called hip girdle

pelvic inflammatory disease / pelv k n fl mət(ə)ri d zi z/ noun an inflammation of

a woman’s reproductive organs in the pelvic

area, which can cause infertility

pelvic outlet / pelv k aυtlet/ noun an open-

ing at the base of the pelvis

pelvic version / pelv k v! ʃ(ə)n/ noun turning a fetus around in the uterus by moving the buttocks of the fetus

pelvimeter /pel v m tə/ noun an instrument to measure the diameter and capacity of the pelvis

pelvimetry /pel v m tri/ noun the act of measuring the pelvis, especially to see if the internal ring is wide enough for a baby to pass

through in childbirth

pelvis / pelv s/ noun 1. the strong basinshaped ring of bone near the bottom of the spine, formed of the hip bones at the front and sides and the sacrum and coccyx at the back 2. the internal space inside the pelvic girdle

(NOTE: [all senses] The plural is pelvises or pelves.)

COMMENT: The hip bones are each in three sections: the ilium, the ischium and the pubis and are linked in front by the pubic symphysis. The pelvic girdle is shaped in a different way in men and women, the internal space being wider in women. The top part of the pelvis, which does not form a complete ring, is called the ‘false pelvis’; the lower part is the ‘true pelvis’.

pelvis of the kidney / pelv s əv ðə k dni/ noun same as renal pelvis. See illustration at

KIDNEY in Supplement (NOTE: For other terms referring to the pelvis of the kidney, see words beginning with pyel-, pyelo-.)

pemphigoid / pemf &ɔ d/ noun a skin disease which is similar to pemphigus adjective referring to a skin disease similar to pemphigus

pemphigus / pemf &əs/ noun a rare disease where large blisters form inside the skin pendulous / pendjυləs/ adjective referring to an object or body part which hangs loosely

or swings freely

penes / pi niz/ plural of penis


percutaneous angioplasty

penetrate / pen tre t/ verb to go through or into something The end of the broken bone has penetrated the liver. The ulcer burst, penetrating the wall of the duodenum. penetration / pen tre ʃ(ə)n/ noun the act of penetrating the penetration of the vagina by the penis penetration of an ovum by a spermatozoon

-penia /pi niə/ suffix meaning a deficiency or not enough of something

penicillamine / pen s ləmi n/ noun a chelating agent which is used to help the body get rid of toxic metals

penicillin / pen s l n/ noun a common antibiotic originally produced from a fungus

(NOTE: Penicillin drugs have names ending in - cillin: amoxicillin.)

COMMENT: Penicillin is effective against many microbial diseases, but some people can be allergic to it, and this fact should be noted on medical record cards.

penicillinase / pen s l ne z/ noun an enzyme produced by some bacteria that inactivates penicillin, used to treat adverse reactions to penicillin

penicillin resistance / pen s l n r z stəns/ noun the ability of bacteria to resist


Penicillium / pen s liəm/ noun the fungus from which penicillin is derived

penile / pi na l/ adjective referring to the penis

penile urethra / pi na l jυ ri θrə/ noun a tube in the penis through which urine and semen pass

penis / pi n s/ noun the male genital organ, which also passes urine. See illustration at

UROGENITAL SYSTEM (MALE) in Supplement. kraurosis penis

COMMENT: The penis is a mass of tissue containing the urethra. When stimulated the tissue of the penis fills with blood and becomes erect.

pentamidine /pen t m di n/ noun an antibiotic used in the treatment of African sleeping sickness and of pneumonia in people with AIDS

pentazocine /pen t zəsi n/ noun an artificially produced narcotic drug used to reduce pain

pentose / pentəυz/ noun a sugar containing five carbon atoms

pentosuria / pentə sjυəriə/ noun a condi-

tion in which pentose is present in the urine Pentothal / pentəθ l/ a trade name for thio-


Peplau’s model / peplaυz mɒd(ə)l/ noun a model for nursing which describes the individual as a system with physiological, psychological and social components. The nurse and patient work together to define the patient’s problems and to understand their reactions to

one another, and the nurse takes on different roles in each phase of the relationship, such as a teacher, counsellor, leader, and technical expert, until the patient no longer needs their care.

pepsin / peps n/ noun an enzyme in the stomach which breaks down the proteins in food into peptones

pepsinogen /pep s nəd ən/ noun a secretion from the gastric gland which is the inactive form of pepsin

peptic / pept k/ adjective referring to diges-

tion or to the digestive system

peptic ulcer / pept k "lsə/ noun a benign ulcer in the duodenum or in the stomach peptidase / pept de z/ noun an enzyme which breaks down proteins in the intestine

into amino acids

peptide / pepta d/ noun a compound formed of two or more amino acids

peptone / peptəυn/ noun a substance produced by the action of pepsins on proteins in food

peptonuria / peptə njυəriə/ noun a condition in which peptones are present in the urine

per /p! , pə/ preposition 1. out of each ten per thousand 2. by or through per rectum per cent /pə sent/ noun, adjective, adverb in or for every hundred Fifty per cent (50%) of the tests were positive. Seventy-five per cent (75%) of hospital cases remain in hospital for less than four days. there has been a five per cent increase in applications the number of applications has gone up by five in every hundred new cases have decreased twenty per cent this year the number of new cases has gone down by twenty in every hundred percentage /pə sent d / noun the proportion rate in every hundred or for every hundred

What is the percentage of long-stay patients in the hospital?

perception /pə sepʃən/ noun an impression formed in the brain as a result of information about the outside world which is passed back by the senses

perceptive deafness /pe sept v defnəs/ noun same as sensorineural deafness percussion /pə k"ʃ(ə)n/ noun a test, usually on the heart and lungs, in which the doctor taps part of the person’s body and listens to the sound produced

percutaneous / p! kju te niəs/ adjective

through the skin

percutaneous absorption / p! kju te * niəs əb zɔ pʃən/ noun the process of absorb-

ing a substance through the skin

percutaneous angioplasty / p! kju te * niəs nd iəpl sti/ noun the repair of a nar-

rowed artery by passing a balloon into the artery through a catheter and then inflating it. Also called balloon angioplasty

per diem


percutaneous epididymal sperm aspiration / p kju te niəs ep d d m(ə)lsp m sp re ʃ(ə)n/ noun the removal of

sperm from the epididymis by withdrawing it through the skin, usually as part of fertility treatment. Abbr PESA

per diem /p di em/ adverb (written on prescriptions) per day

perennial /pə reniəl/ adjective which continues all the time, for a period of years She has perennial bronchial asthma.

perforate / p fəre t/ verb to make a hole through something The ulcer perforated the duodenum.

perforated eardrum / p fəre t dədr m/ noun an eardrum with a hole in it

perforated ulcer / p fəre t d lsə/ noun an ulcer which has made a hole in the wall of the intestine

perforation / p fə re ʃ(ə)n/ noun a hole through the whole thickness of a tissue or membrane such as the intestine or eardrum

perform /pə fɔ m/ verb 1. to do an operation

A team of three surgeons performed the heart transplant operation. 2. to work The new heart has performed very well. The kidneys are not performing as well as they should. performance /pə fɔ məns/ noun a way in which something works The doctors are not satisfied with the performance of the transplanted heart.

performance indicators /pə fɔ məns n d ke təz/ plural noun statistical information needed for analysis of how effectively health organisations are meeting their objectives, produced by health authorities and sent to the government. Abbr PIs

perfuse /pə fju z/ verb to introduce a liquid into tissue or an organ, especially by circulating it through blood vessels

perfusion /pə fju (ə)n/ noun the process of passing a liquid through vessels, an organ or tissue, e.g. the flow of blood into lung tissue perfusion scan /pə fju (ə)n sk n/ noun a procedure in which radioactive or radiopaque substances are introduced into the body so that the blood supply of an organ can be traced

peri- /peri/ prefix near, around or enclosing periadenitis / periəd na t s/ noun inflammation of tissue around a gland

perianal / peri e n(ə)l/ adjective around the anus

perianal haematoma / perie n(ə)l hi mətəυmə/ noun a small painful swelling outside the anus caused by forcing a bowel movement periarteritis / periɑ tə ra t s/ noun inflammation of the outer coat of an artery and the tissue round it

periarteritis nodosa / periɑ tə ra t s nəυdəυsə/ noun same as polyarteritis nodosa

periarthritis / periɑ θra t s/ noun inflam-

mation of the tissue round a joint

pericard- /perikɑ d/ prefix referring to the


pericardectomy / perikɑ dektəmi/ noun the surgical removal of the pericardium pericardial / peri kɑ diəl/ adjective referring

to the pericardium

pericardial effusion / perikɑ diəlfju (ə)n/ noun an excess of fluid which

forms in the pericardial sac

pericardial friction / perikɑ diəlfr kʃ(ə)n/ noun the rubbing together of the

two parts of the pericardium in pericarditis pericardial sac / perikɑ diəl s k/ noun the

inner part of the pericardium forming a baglike structure or sac which contains fluid to prevent the two parts of the pericardium rub-

bing together

pericardiectomy /perikɑ di ektəmi/ noun

same as pericardectomy pericardiocentesis / peri kɑ diəυsen

ti s s/ noun the puncture of the pericardium to

remove fluid

pericardiorrhaphy / perikɑ di ɔ rəfi/ noun a surgical operation to repair a wound in the


pericardiostomy / perikɑ di ɒstəmi/ noun a surgical operation to open the pericardium

through the thoracic wall to drain off fluid pericardiotomy / perikɑ di ɒtəmi/ noun

same as pericardotomy

pericarditis / perikɑ da t s/ noun inflammation of the pericardium acute pericarditis a sudden attack of fever and pains in the chest, caused by the two parts of the pericar-

dium rubbing together

pericardium / peri kɑ diəm/ noun a mem-

brane which surrounds and supports the heart pericardotomy / perikɑ dɒtəmi/ noun a

surgical operation to open the pericardium perichondritis / perikɒn dra t s/ noun in-

flammation of cartilage, especially in the outer


perichondrium / peri kɒndriəm/ noun the fibrous connective tissue which covers carti-


pericolpitis / perikɒl pa t s/ noun inflammation of the connective tissue round the vagina. Also called paracolpitis

pericranium / peri kre niəm/ noun connec-

tive tissue which covers the surface of the skull pericystitis / perisi sta t s/ noun inflamma-

tion of the structures round the bladder, usually caused by infection in the uterus perifolliculitis / peri fɒl kju la t s/ noun

inflammation of the skin round hair follicles perihepatitis / perihepə ta t s/ noun in-

flammation of the membrane round the liver perilymph / peril mf/ noun a fluid found in

the labyrinth of the inner ear



perimenopause / peri menəpɔ z/ noun the few years before the menopause, in which oestrogen levels start to fall

perimeter /pə r m tə/ noun 1. an instrument to measure the field of vision 2. the length of the outside line around an enclosed area perimetritis / perimə tra t s/ noun inflammation of the perimetrium

perimetrium / peri mi triəm/ noun a membrane round the uterus

perimetry /pə r m tri/ noun a measurement of the field of vision

perimysium / peri ma siəm/ noun a sheath which surrounds a bundle of muscle fibres perinatal / per ne t(ə)l/ adjective referring to the period just before and after childbirth perinatal mortality rate / perine t(ə)l mɔ t l ti re t/ noun the number of babies born dead or who die during the period immediately after childbirth, shown per thousand babies born

perinatal period / peri ne t(ə)l p əriəd/ noun the period of time before and after childbirth, from the 28th week after conception to the first week after delivery

perinatologist / perinə tɒləd st/ noun an obstetrician who is a specialist in perinatology perinatology / perinə tɒləd i/ noun a branch of medicine which studies and treats physiological and pathological conditions affecting the mother and/or infant just before and just after the birth of a baby

perineal / per ni əl/ adjective referring to the perineum

perineal body / per ni əl bɒdi/ noun the mass of muscle and fibres between the anus and the vagina or prostate

perineal muscle / per ni əl m"s(ə)l/ noun one of the muscles which lie in the perineum perineoplasty / peri ni əpl sti/ noun a surgical operation to repair the perineum by grafting tissue

perineorrhaphy / perini ɔ rəfi/ noun a surgical operation to stitch up a perineum which has torn during childbirth

perinephric / peri nefr k/ adjective around the kidney

perinephritis / perin fra t s/ noun inflammation of tissue round the kidney, which spreads from an infected kidney perinephrium / peri nefriəm/ noun the fatty tissue that is around a kidney

perineum / per ni əm/ noun the skin and tissue between the opening of the urethra and the anus

perineurium / peri njυəriəm/ noun connective tissue which surrounds bundles of nerve fibres

periocular / peri ɒkjυlə/ adjective around the eyeball

period / p əriəd/ noun 1. a length of time

The patient regained consciousness after a short period of time. She is allowed out of bed for two periods each day. 2. menstruation or the menses, bleeding from the uterus which occurs in a woman each month when the lining of the uterus is shed because no fertilised egg is present She always has heavy periods. Some women experience abdominal pain during their periods. She has bleeding between periods.

periodic / p əri ɒd k/ adjective occurring from time to time He has periodic attacks of migraine. She has to go to the clinic for periodic checkups.

periodic fever / p əriɒd k fi və/ noun a disease of the kidneys, common in Mediterranean countries

periodicity / p əriə d s ti/ noun the timing of recurrent attacks of a disease

periodic paralysis / p əriɒd k pə r ləs s/ noun recurrent attacks of weakness where the level of potassium in the blood is low

periodontal / periəυ dɒnt(ə)l/, periodontic

/ periəυ dɒnt k/ adjective referring to the area around the teeth

periodontal membrane / periəυ dɒnt(ə)l membre n/, periodontal ligament / periəυdɒnt(ə)l l &əmənt/ noun a ligament which

attaches a tooth to the bone of the jaw

periodontics / periəυ dɒnt ks/, periodontia / periəυ dɒnʃə/ noun the study of diseases

of the periodontal membrane

periodontist / periəυ dɒnt st/ noun a dentist who specialises in the treatment of gum diseases

periodontitis / periəυdɒn ta t s/ noun an infection of the periodontal membrane leading to pyorrhoea, and resulting in the teeth falling out if untreated

periodontium / periəυ dɒnʃiəm/ noun 1. the gums, bone and periodontal membrane around a tooth 2. same as periodontal membrane

perionychia / periəυ n kiə/, perionyxis /

periəυ n ks s/ noun a painful swelling round a fingernail

perionychium / periəυ n kiəm/ noun the skin that is round a fingernail or toenail perioperative / peri ɒp(ə)rət v/ adjective before and after a surgical operation

‘During the perioperative period little attention is given to thermoregulation.’ [British Journal of Nursing]

periorbital / periəυ ɔ b t(ə)l/ adjective around the eye socket

periosteal / peri ɒstiəl/ adjective referring to, or attached to, the periosteum periosteotome /peri ɒstiəυtəυm/ noun a surgical instrument used to cut the periosteum



periosteum / peri ɒstiəm/ noun a dense layer of connective tissue around a bone. See illustration at BONE STRUCTURE in Supplement

periosteum elevator / peri ɒstiəm eləve tə/ noun a surgical instrument used to

remove the periosteum from a bone periostitis / periə sta t s/ noun inflammation of the periosteum

periotic / per ɒt k/ adjective referring to the area around the ear, especially the bones around the inner ear

peripheral /pə r f(ə)r-əl/ adjective at the edge

peripheral nerves /pə r f(ə)rəl n! vz/ plural noun the parts of motor and sensory nerves which branch from the brain and spinal cord

peripheral nervous system /pə r f(ə)rəl n! vəs s stəm/ noun all the nerves in differ-

ent parts of the body which are linked and governed by the central nervous system. Abbr


peripheral resistance /pə r f(ə)rəl r z stəns/ noun the ability of the peripheral

blood vessels to slow down the flow of blood inside them

peripheral vascular disease /pə r f(ə)rəl v skjυlə d ziz z/ noun a disease affecting

the blood vessels which supply the arms and legs

peripheral vasodilator /pə r f(ə)rəlve zəυda le tə/ noun a chemical substance

which acts to widen the blood vessels in the arms and legs and so improves bad circulation

periphery /pə r f(ə)ri/ noun 1. the regions of the body where the nerves end, such as the sense organs or the muscles 2. the surface of something

periphlebitis / per flə ba t s/ noun 1. inflammation of the outer coat of a vein 2. an inflammation of the connective tissue round a vein

periproctitis / periprɒk ta t s/ noun swelling of the tissues around the rectum perisalpingitis / peris lp n d a t s/ noun inflammation of the peritoneum and other parts round a Fallopian tube

perisplenitis / perisplə na t s/ noun inflammation of the peritoneum and other parts round the spleen

peristalsis / per st ls s/ noun the movement, like waves ,produced by alternate contraction and relaxation of muscles along an organ such as the intestine or oesophagus, which pushes the contents of the organ along it. Compare antiperistalsis

peristaltic / per st lt k/ adjective occurring in waves, as in peristalsis peritendinitis /peritendi na t s/ noun same as tenosynovitis

peritomy /pə r təmi/ noun 1. a surgical operation on the eye, where the conjunctiva is cut in a circle round the cornea 2. circumcision peritoneal / per tə ni əl/ adjective referring

to, or belonging to, the peritoneum peritoneal cavity / per tə ni əl k v ti/

noun a space between the layers of the peritoneum, containing the major organs of the ab-


peritoneal dialysis / per tə ni əl daləs s/ noun removing waste matter from someone’s blood by introducing fluid into the peritoneum which then acts as a filter, as opposed to haemodialysis

peritoneoscope / peri təυniəskəυp/ noun same as laparoscope

peritoneoscopy / peritəυni ɒskəpi/ noun same as laparoscopy

peritoneum / per tə ni əm/ noun a membrane which lines the abdominal cavity and covers the organs in it

peritonitis / per tə na t s/ noun inflammation of the peritoneum as a result of bacterial infection

COMMENT: Peritonitis is a serious condition and can have many causes. One of its effects is to stop the peristalsis of the intestine so making it impossible for a person to eat and digest.

peritonsillar / peri tɒns lə/ adjective around the tonsils

peritonsillar abscess / peri tɒns ləbses/ noun same as quinsy

peritrichous /pə r tr kəs/ adjective referring to bacteria where the surface of the cell is covered with flagella

perityphlitis / perit fla t s/ noun swelling

of the tissues around the caecum periumbilical / peri"m b l k(ə)l/ adjective

around the navel

periureteritis / perijυəritə ra t s/ noun inflammation of the tissue round a ureter, usually caused by inflammation of the ureter itself periurethral / perijυə ri θrəl/ adjective around the urethra

PERLA abbreviation Pupils Equal and Reactive to Light and Accommodation

perle /p! l/ noun a soft capsule of medicine perleche /p! leʃ/ noun 1. inflammation, with small cracks, at the corners of the mouth, caused by infection, poor diet, or producing too much saliva 2. candidiasis

permanent / p! mənənt/ adjective always existing The accident left him with a permanent disability.

permanently / p! mənəntli/ adverb always, forever He was permanently disabled by the accident.

permanent teeth / p! mənənt ti θ/ noun the teeth in an adult, which replace the child’s milk teeth during childhood



COMMENT: The permanent teeth consist of eight incisors, four canines, eight premolars and twelve molars, the last four molars (one on each side of the upper and lower jaw) being called the wisdom teeth.

permeability / p! miə b l ti/ noun (of a membrane) the ability to allow some substanc-

es to pass through

permeable membrane / p! miəb(ə)l membre n/ noun a membrane which allows

some substances to pass through it pernicious /pə n ʃəs/ adjective harmful or dangerous, or unusually severe and likely to

end in death

pernicious anaemia /pə n ʃəs ə ni miə/ noun a disease where an inability to absorb vitamin B12 prevents the production of red blood cells and damages the spinal cord. Also called

Addison’s anaemia

perniosis / p! ni əυs s/ noun any condition caused by cold which affects blood vessels in the skin

pero- /perəυ/ prefix malformed or impaired peromelia / perəυ mi liə/ noun a congenital

condition in which the limbs have developed


peroneal / perəυ ni əl/ adjective referring to

the outside of the leg

peroneal muscle / perəυ ni əl m"s(ə)l/, peroneus / perəυ ni əs/ noun one of three

muscles, the peroneus brevis, longus and tertius, on the outside of the lower leg which make the leg turn outwards

peroperative /pə rɒp(ə)rət v/ adjective taking place during a surgical operation peroral /pə rɔ rəl/ adjective through the mouth

per os /pər ɒs/ adverb referring to a drug or other substance to be taken through the mouth persecute / p! s kju t/ verb to make someone suffer all the time In paranoia, the patient feels he is being persecuted. persecution / p! s kju ʃ(ə)n/ noun the act of being made to suffer

perseveration / p! sevə re ʃ(ə)n/ noun the act of repeating actions or words without any stimulus

persist /pə s st/ verb to continue for some time The weakness in the right arm persisted for two weeks.

persistent /pə s stənt/ adjective continuing for some time treatment aimed at the relief of persistent angina She had a persistent cough.

persistent vegetative state /pə s stənt ved tət v ste t/ noun a condition in which

someone is alive and breathes, but shows no brain activity, and will never recover consciousness. Abbr PVS

person / p! s(ə)n/ noun a man or woman personal / p! s(ə)n(ə)l/ adjective referring or belonging to a person Only certain senior

members of staff can consult the personal records of the patients.

personal care / p! s(ə)nəl keə/ noun the act of washing, toileting and dressing someone

who cannot do these things for themselves personal hygiene / p! s(ə)n(ə)l ha d i n/

noun the standards someone has of looking after parts of their body such as hair, skin, teeth and breath, hands and nails, and keeping them clean

personality / p! sə n l ti/ noun all the characteristics which are typical of one particular person and the way he or she thinks and behaves, and which make him or her different from other people

‘Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive disorder which sees a gradual decline in intellectual functioning and deterioration of personality and physical coordina-

tion and activity’ [Nursing Times]

personality disorder / p! sə n l ti d sɔ də/ noun a disorder which affects the way a person behaves, especially in relation to other people

personnel / p! sə nel/ noun members of staff All hospital personnel must be immunised against hepatitis. Only senior personnel can inspect the patients’ medical records.

(NOTE: Personnel is singular.)

perspiration / p! spə re ʃ(ə)n/ noun sweat or the action of sweating Perspiration broke out on her forehead.

COMMENT: Perspiration is formed in the sweat glands under the epidermis and cools the body as the moisture evaporates from the skin. Sweat contains salt, and in hot countries it may be necessary to take salt tablets to replace the salt lost through perspiration.

perspire /pə spa ə/ verb to produce moisture

through the sweat glands

Perthes’ disease / p! ti z d zi z/, Perthes’ hip / p! ti z h p/ noun a disease found in young boys, in which the upper end of the femur degenerates and does not develop as expected, sometimes resulting in a permanent limp

pertussis /pə t"s s/ noun same as whooping cough

perversion /pə v! ʃ(ə)n/ noun a form of behaviour which is thought to be unnatural, dangerous or disgusting He is suffering from a form of sexual perversion.

pes /pes/ noun a foot

PESA abbr percutaneous epididymal sperm


pes cavus /pes ke vəs/ noun same as claw foot

pes planus /pes ple nəs/ noun same as flat


pessary / pesəri/ noun 1. a drug in soluble material which is pushed into the vagina and absorbed into the blood there. Also called vaginal suppository 2. a contraceptive device worn inside the vagina to prevent spermatozoa



entering 3. a device like a ring, which is put into the vagina as treatment for prolapse of the uterus

pest /pest/ noun an animal which carries disease, attacks plants and animals and harms or kills them a spray to remove insect pests pesticide / pest sa d/ noun a substance which kills pests

PET abbr positron-emission tomography petechia /pe ti kiə/ noun a small red spot which does not go white when pressed, caused by bleeding under the skin (NOTE: The plural is petechiae.)

pethidine / peθ di n/ noun a synthetically produced narcotic drug, used to reduce pain and as a sedative

petit mal / peti m l/ noun a less severe form of epilepsy, where loss of consciousness attacks last only a few seconds and the person appears simply to be thinking deeply. Com-

pare grand mal

Petri dish / pi tri d ʃ/ noun a small glass or plastic dish with a lid, in which a culture is grown

petrissage / petr sɑ / noun an action used

in massaging the muscles

petrosal /pə trəυs(ə)l/ adjective referring to

the petrous part of the temporal bone petrositis / petrəυ sa t s/ noun inflamma-

tion of the petrous part of the temporal bone petrous / petrəs/ adjective 1. like stone 2.


petrous bone / petrəs bəυn/ noun the part of the temporal bone which forms the base of

the skull and the inner and middle ears

PET scan / pet sk n/ noun an image of a cross-section, usually of the brain, that shows

metabolic processes

-pexy /peksi/ suffix referring to fixation of an

organ by surgery

Peyer’s patches / pa əz p tʃ z/ plural noun patches of lymphoid tissue on the mucous membrane of the small intestine [Described 1677. After Johann Conrad Peyer

(1653–1712), Swiss anatomist.]

Peyronie’s disease / perəni z d zi z/ noun a condition associated with Dupuytren’s contracture in which hard fibre develops in the penis which becomes painful when erect [Described 1743. After François de la Peyronie (1678–1747), Surgeon to Louis XV in Paris, France.]

PGEA abbr postgraduate education allowance pH / pi e tʃ/ noun the concentration of hydrogen ions in a solution, which determines its acidity

COMMENT: The pH factor is shown as a number: pH 7 is neutral, pH 8 and above show that the solution is alkaline and pH 6 and below show that the solution is acid.

phaco- /f kəυ/ prefix referring to the lens of the eye

phacoemulsification / f kəυ m"ls f ke ʃ(ə)n/ noun an ultrasonic technique which turns a cataract in the eye into liquid. It is then removed by suction and a plastic lens is put

into the eye.

phaeochromocytoma / fi əυ krəυməυsa təυmə/ noun a tumour of the adrenal glands

which affects the secretion of hormones such as adrenaline, which in turn results in hypertension and hyperglycaemia

phag- /f &/ prefix same as phago- (used before vowels)

phage /fe d / noun same as bacteriophage

-phage /fe d / suffix referring to something which eats

phagedaena / f d ə di nə/ noun an ulcer that spreads rapidly

-phagia /fe d ə/ suffix referring to eating phago- /f &əυ/ prefix referring to eating phagocyte / f &əυ sa t/ noun a cell, especially a white blood cell, which can surround and destroy other cells such as bacteria cells phagocytic / f &ə s t k/ adjective 1. referring to phagocytes Monocytes become phagocytic during infection. 2. destroying


phagocytosis / f &əυsa təυs s/ noun destruction of bacteria cells and foreign bodies by phagocytes

phakic / f k k/ adjective referring to an eye which has its natural lens

phako- /f kəυ/ prefix same as phaco- phalangeal /fə l nd iəl/ adjective referring to the phalanges

phalanges /fə l nd i z/ plural of phalanx phalangitis / f lən d a t s/ noun inflammation of the fingers or toes caused by infection of tissue

phalanx / f l ŋks/ noun a bone in a finger or toe. See illustration at HAND in Supplement, FOOT in Supplement

COMMENT: The fingers and toes have three phalanges each, except the thumb and big toe, which have only two.

phalloplasty / f ləυpl sti/ noun a surgical operation to repair a damaged or deformed pe-


phantom / f ntəm/ noun 1. a model of the whole body or part of the body, used to practise or demonstrate surgical operations 2. an image not brought about by actual stimuli, something which is not there but seems to be there

phantom limb / f ntəm l m/ noun a condition in which someone seems to feel sensations in a limb which has been amputated

phantom pregnancy / f ntəm pre&nənsi/ noun same as pseudocyesis

phantom tumour / f ntəm tju mə/ noun a condition in which a swelling occurs which imitates a swelling caused by a tumour

/ fɑ məkə lɒd k(ə)l/



Pharm. abbr 1. pharmacopoeia 2. pharmacy 3. pharmaceutical

pharmaceutical / fɑ mə sju t k(ə)l/ adjective referring to pharmacy or drugs

pharmaceutical products / fɑ məsju t k(ə)l prɒd"kts/ plural noun medicines,

pills, lozenges or creams which are sold in chemists’ shops

pharmaceuticals / fɑ mə sju t k(ə)lz/ plural noun drugs prescribed as medicines

Pharmaceutical Society / fɑ mə sju t k(ə)l sə sa əti/ noun a professional as-

sociation for pharmacists

pharmaceutics / fɑ mə sju t ks/ noun the science of the preparation and dispensing of prescribed drugs plural noun drugs prescribed as medicines

pharmacist / fɑ məs st/ noun a trained person who is qualified to prepare medicines according to the instructions on a doctor’s prescription

COMMENT: In the UK, qualified pharmacists must be registered by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain before they can practise.

pharmaco- / məkəυ/ prefix referring to


pharmacodynamic / fɑ məkəυda n m k/ adjective referring to a property of a

drug which affects the part where it is applied pharmacodynamics / fɑ məkəυda

n m ks/ plural noun the study of the effects of drugs on living organisms, and especially of how much the body’s response changes when you increase the dose of a drug. Compare pharmacokinetics (NOTE: Takes a singular


pharmacogenomics / fɑ məkəυd i nɒm ks/ plural noun the study of the relationship between a person’s genetic makeup and response to drug treatments (NOTE: Takes a sin-

gular verb.)

pharmacokinetic / fɑ məkəυka net k/ adjective referring to a property of a drug

which has an effect over a period of time pharmacokinetics / fɑ məkəυka net ks/

plural noun 1. the study of how the body reacts to drugs over a period of time. Compare pharmacodynamics (NOTE: Takes a singular verb.)

2. the way in which a drug interacts with the body


adjective referring to pharmacology pharmacologist / fɑ mə kɒləd st/ noun a

scientist who specialises in the study of drugs pharmacology / fɑ mə kɒləd i/ noun the

study of drugs or medicines, and their actions, properties and characteristics pharmacopoeia / fɑ məkə pi ə/ noun an official list of drugs, their methods of preparation, dosages and the ways in which they should be used

COMMENT: The British Pharmocopoeia is the official list of drugs used in the UK The drugs listed in it have the letters BP after their name. In the US the official list is the United States Pharmacopeia or USP.

pharmacotherapy / fɑ məkəυ θerəpi/ noun the use of drugs to treat conditions, especially psychiatric disorders

pharmacy / fɑ məsi/ noun 1. the study of the making and dispensing of drugs He has a qualification in pharmacy. 2. a shop or department in a hospital where drugs are prepared

Pharmacy Act / fɑ məsi kt/ noun in the UK, one of several Acts of Parliament which regulate the making, prescribing and selling of drugs, e.g. the Pharmacy and Poisons Act 1933, the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and the Poisons Act 1972

pharyng- /f r nd / prefix same as pharyngo- (used before vowels)

pharyngeal / f r n d i əl/ adjective referring to the pharynx

pharyngeal pouch / f r nd i əl paυtʃ/ noun one of the pouches on each side of the throat of an embryo. Also called visceral


pharyngeal tonsils / f r nd i əl

tɒns(ə)lz/ plural noun same as adenoids pharyngectomy / f r n d ektəmi/ noun

the surgical removal of part of the pharynx, especially in cases of cancer of the pharynx

pharynges /fə r nd i z/ plural of pharynx

pharyngismus / f r n d zməs/, pharyngism / f r nd z(ə)m/ noun a spasm which

contracts the muscles of the pharynx pharyngitis / f r n d a t s/ noun inflammation of the pharynx

pharyngo- /fər ŋ&əυ/ prefix referring to the pharynx

pharyngocele /fə r ŋ&əυsi l/ noun 1. a cyst which opens off the pharynx 2. a hernia of part of the pharynx

pharyngolaryngeal /fə r ŋ&əυlə r nd iəl/ adjective referring to the pharynx and the larynx

pharyngology / f r n &ɒləd i/ noun the specialty in medicine that deals with the throat, its diseases and their treatment pharyngoscope /fə r ŋ&əυskəυp/ noun an instrument with a light attached, used by a

doctor to examine the pharynx

pharyngotympanic tube /fə r ŋ&əυt mp n k tju b/ noun one of two tubes which

connect the back of the throat to the middle ear. Also called Eustachian tube

pharynx / f r ŋks/ noun a muscular passage leading from the back of the mouth to the oesophagus (NOTE: The plural is pharynges or pharynxes.)

COMMENT: The nasal cavity (or nasopharynx) leads to the back of the mouth (or oropharynx) and then into the pharynx itself, which in turn

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