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Medical terminology course

Learning medical terminology is not exactly fun, nor is it easy. It can be tedious and frustrating but it is an essential rite of passage as an anatomy or healthcare student. But why, you might ask? Why do I need to know what ganglioneuralgia or a neuroblastoma is? 

Well, a good understanding of terms such as these promotes efficient and accurate communication within the medical field. A poor understanding results in miscommunication and confusion, which is the last thing any patient or clinician wants. 

This article will provide you with a step-by-step guide on medical and anatomical terminology and dare we say, it might even be fun? Well maybe fun is a bit of stretch, but it certainly won’t be boring!

We will begin with exploring why it is necessary to learn medical terminology before diving into the building blocks (otherwise known as the prefixes, root and suffixes) of medical lingo. We’ll then explore various medical terms throughout the body systems. 

But first, let's watch this video to learn about the "why".

Learning medical terminology is not about memorizing an anatomical dictionary but rather about learning the meaning behind the different roots, prefixes and suffixes that compose these terms. Most medical terms are compound words made up of root words that are combined with prefixes (at the start of a word) and suffixes (at the end of a word), originating from Ancient Greek and Latin. 

These three components (prefix, root, suffix) when pieced together create terms which have new meanings. For example, let’s take a look at the medical term ‘neuroblastoma’: 

  • neuro- means nerve (prefix)
  • 'blast' relates to immature cells (root)
  • -oma means tumor (suffix)

Therefore, after dissecting this term we can see that neuroblastoma refers to a tumor made up of immature nerve cells. Developing an understanding of the meaning behind commonly used prefixes, roots and suffixes is therefore half the battle in becoming a medical terminology whizz. 

Let’s break down a few other medical terms by checking out the video below.

Musculoskeletal system

Now that we are familiar with the formation of medical terms, it's time to take a closer look at some commonly used roots, prefixes and suffixes related to the skeletal and muscular systems. Here we will explore some of the lesser known prefixes and suffixes relating to the bones and muscles of the human body.

So without further ado, let's find out what mentoplasty, arthrodysplasia and rhabdomyosacrcoma is by checking out the videos below.

Cardiovascular system

‘This patient is tachycardic and hypotensive and their ECG shows ventricular dysrhythmia’ 

I’m sure we’ve all heard something similar while watching Gray’s Anatomy, sitting at the edge of our seats as we watch all the doctors frantically run around the emergency room! But do we actually know what those terms mean? Tachycardia, hypotensive or ventricular dysrhythmia…? 

Well, just like other medical terms, the medical terminology of the heart is similarly made up of three elements (prefix, root, suffix) which can easily be broken down! So let’s find out what ventricular dysrhythmia means in the video below.

Nervous system

The nervous system is one of those subjects which is both incredibly interesting and soul-destroying at the same time. Why? Because it’s so complex - perhaps the most complex system of the body!

Mastering the medical terminology of the nervous system will help to make this complex subject a little bit more approachable.

Once we learn the meaning behind the prefixes, roots and suffixes of commonly used terms associated with this system, we’ll be well on our way to becoming neurosurgeons. Well, not quite. But at least we’ll sound like we know what we are talking about. 

Now that your nervous system terminology is on point, why not brush up on your anatomical knowledge of the central and peripheral nervous systems with this article.

Respiratory system

Naso, rhino, pharyngo, laryng, alveol and pulmon are just some of the prefixes that you will come across when you explore the terminology of the respiratory system! 

Find out more about the prefixes, roots and suffixes that form the terminology of this system in the video below.

Digestive system

The digestive system is a complex tubular network of organs.

It stretches from the mouth all the way to the anus and travels through the head and neck, thorax, abdomen and pelvis and perineum.

The terminology for this system is vast: oronasal fistula, stomatology, cardiacachalasia and sialoangitis are just a few examples of terms you might meet as you explore this system! Once we break it down and take a closer look at the meaning behind these complex terms, we’ll be able to grasp it in no time!

Urogenital system

The urogenital system consists of three systems in one: the urinary system, the male reproductive system and the female reproductive system. So as you can imagine, there are lots of terms to learn here such as pharyngomycosis, pleurolith, apnea and pnemothorax (just to name a few)!

The video below will begin with some anatomical terminology before moving on to take a look at the terminology used to describe medical conditions which affect the urogenital system.

Endocrine system

The endocrine system is composed of two main elements: the endocrine glands and the hormones they secrete.

As a result, there are a lot of medical terms to learn about in this system, some of which include: adenectomy, myxedema, epinephros and gynecomastia.

But not to worry, you know the drill, piece together the prefix, root and suffix and you’ll be a walking endocrinology terminology dictionary in no time!

Feeling a bit rusty on your endocrine system knowledge? Feel free to check out the study unit below for all things endocrinology!

Integumentary system

You may be wondering why we use the term ‘integumentary’ when we speak about the anatomy of the skin? Well, the term comes from the Latin word ‘integementum’ which means ‘covering’ or ‘shield’, which makes sense as our skin protects the body from infection, dehydration, UV radiation and injury. In fact, the integumentary system is not just composed of the skin but also includes our hair, nails, and exocrine glands. 

So take those cucumber slices off, pop your moisturizer and SPF on and get ready to learn about the medical terms of the integumentary system! 

Lymphatic system

The last and most forgotten about (or purposefully ignored) system of the human body is the lymphatic system. Many students all around the world, brush past or quickly flick through the lymphatic system chapter in their anatomy textbooks. 

However, let’s not be lymphatic terminology slackers because as a healthcare professional, you might need to know what lymphangiectasis is, and no better place to learn then by watching the video below. 

Feeling a bit unfamiliar with the anatomy and function of the lymphatic system? We've got you covered! Check out the study unit below.

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