Medical Term Notes

Introduction to Health Careers
Unit 4 – Medical Terminology
Main Idea: Understanding and correctly using
medical terminology is essential to your career in health
care. Medical Terminology is used during conversations
with other health professionals, in medical charting and
documentation and in professional journals. It adds
necessary preciseness to professional communication.
I. The Building Blocks of Medical Language – medical terms
are composed of several elements that has its own meaning
and location in the term. These elements can be combined
to create thousands of different words
A. Roots and Combining Forms
1. The root is the part of the medical term that gives
the main meaning. It usually, but not always, refers
to the structure or function of the body. All medical
terms have at least one root.
2. Combining forms consist of the root plus a
vowel, usually the letter “o”, separated by a slash
a. the combining vowel links the root to the
next element and makes the word easier to say.
If the next element in the term starts with a
consonant you need the combining vowel
or if the root is being combined with a
second root, but you do not use the
combining vowel if the next element starts
with a vowel.
EX. Gastritis (no “o” because –itis starts with a vowel)
Gastroenterology (has “o” because enter is
another root.
B. Suffixes – word elements attached to the end of roots
and combining forms to add to or change their
meaning. ALL medical terms have a suffix.
1. The combining form is used when the suffix
begins with a consonant (ex. Cardiomegaly) but the
root is used when the suffix begins with a vowel
(ex. Gastritis)
2. Each suffix can be added to many different roots,
so knowing the meaning of a suffix can help to learn
many different terms
EX: -itis means inflammation
Appendicitis – inflammation of the appendix
Arthritis – inflammation of the joint
Gastritis – inflammation of the stomach
-ectomy means removal
Appendectomy – removal of the appendix
Gastrectomy - removal of all or part of the
Lumpectomy – removal of a lump
C. Prefixes – Word elements that are attached to the
beginning of roots to add to or change their meaning.
Many, but not all medical terms have a prefix
1. Each prefix can be added to many different roots,
so knowing the meaning of a prefix can help to
learn many different terms
EX: hyper- means increased or excessive
Hyperacid – excessively acidic
Hypertension – high blood pressure
poly- means many
Polyglandular- affecting many glands
Polyatomic – made of many atoms
**SPELLING is very important in medical terminology –
often times changing even 1 letter can drastically change the
meaning of a word
EX. ilium – part of the hipbone
ileum – part of the intestine