Glossary of Quality and Safety Terms

Review our glossary of terms that are used in our Quality and Safety information. 


Certifying as being competent or authorized to perform a medical service

To insert, introduce or give

The process of giving a patient a medication, liquid or other substance that may be necessary for a procedure. May be injected with a needle and syringe or swallowed by the patient

A word formed by combining the letters of a phrase or series of words to create a new word, such as ECG, which is an acronym of Electro Cardio Gram

The structures within the body that are used to pass air to and from the lungs, including the mouth and/or nose, back of the throat, larynx (the voice box), trachea (tubes connecting the larynx to the bronchi) and bronchi (tubes connecting the trachea to the lungs)

A drug or agent administered for medical or surgical purposes that causes the patient to lose sensation to touch, pain or temperature. May be administered topically, intravenously, intramuscularly, rectally, via the gastrointestinal tract or via inhalation

The condition during which an aneurysm occurs. An aneurysm is an abnormal, blood-filled bulge within the wall of a vein or artery resulting from the weakening of the vein or artery wall

Chest pain caused by a reduction in blood flow to the heart

The largest Artery in the body and the central conduit from the heart to the body. Begins in the heart then branches off into arteries that lead to the head and neck, the arms, the major organs in the chest and abdomen, and the legs

Aortic Valve
A conduit or passageway that controls the flow of blood from the heart into the aorta. Allows blood to be pumped up out of the heart while preventing blood from flowing back into the heart

Arterial Lining
Also known as the endothelium. The thin layer of cells along the interior of an artery

Arterial Wall
The three distinct cellular layers that form the tissue of an artery

An elastic, muscular tube that is the vehicle for transport of oxygen-rich blood away from the heart and to the rest of the body

Artificial Heart
A mechanical pump typically made of molded polyurethane (a type of plastic) used to replace the function of a damaged or failed heart. May be used as a temporary measure or a permanent replacement

To identify a medical symptom or condition or make an evaluation or determination about a medical symptom or condition

A medical condition in which the inner lining of the arteries becomes stiff and inelastic. Caused by the buildup of fatty substances, cholesterol and cellular waste products


A solution containing a chemical element that may be administered to patients receiving Colonoscopies in order to enhance images of the digestive tract

A standard of comparison; a basis to measure or judge merit

Having little or no detrimental or dangerous effect

Blocked Artery
The portion of an artery within the body’s circulatory system where blood flow has been impeded or reduced

Blocked Blood Vessel
The portion of a tube or vessel within the body’s circulatory system where blood flow has been impeded or reduced

Blood Flow
The rate at which blood moves throughout the body

Blood Sample
Blood taken from a needle and syringe or finger prick that is used for a laboratory test

Blood Sugar
The concentration of glucose in the blood

Blood Vessel
An elastic tube or passage within the body through which blood circulates. Blood vessel may refer to an artery, a vein or a capillary

The blood moving through the body’s vessels or circulatory system

Bloodstream Infection
A health condition in which bacteria has entered the circulatory system

Body Cavity
Any fluid-filled space within the body, such as the ventral cavity, which contains the internal organs

Bone Marrow
The soft substance found inside the cavities of bones. Red bone marrow is required to form red blood cells and yellow bone marrow contains fat

Breast Imaging
Also known as Mammography. A method of examining the breasts in which low dose X-rays are used to create high-quality images of the tissues inside the breasts

To avoid or go around


Calcified Plaque
In Heart Disease, a fatty deposit along an arterial wall that has become hardened and solid

Call Button
A switch for activating an intercom system so that patients in hospital rooms may speak to nurses and other hospital personnel without rising from bed

Carbon Dioxide
A colorless, odorless gas that is a byproduct of respiration (breathing). Carbon dioxide is carried by the blood to the lungs and leaves the body during exhalation (breathing out)

Cardiac Nerve
Any of the several cord-like structures by which electrochemical impulses travel between the brain and the heart for the purpose of conveying information about how fast or slowly the heart should be beating

Pertaining to the heart

The branch of medicine concerned with the physiology, health and function of the heart

Pertaining to the circulatory system, including the heart, the bloodstream and the blood vessels

Care Plan
A written agreement between a patient and the patient's healthcare givers detailing the patient's medical needs and specifying ways to meet them

Care Transition
The process of transferring a patient from one caregiver to another. For example, when a patient leaves the hospital and returns home, care may be transferred 

Any medical personnel providing healthcare services to a patient, including physicians, physician’s assistants, nurse practitioners and nurses

Carotid Artery
Either of the two large arteries in the front of the neck that transport blood from the heart to the brain

Cervical Spine
The region of the spine running from the base of the neck to the skull

An acronym for the Clinician and Group Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems Survey, which is a survey of patients regarding their experiences with doctor’s offices (both physicians and office staff) during the previous 12 months

A hollow or recessed area within an enclosed space

A medical procedure used to treat cancer. Involves the intravenous administration of chemical substances (chemotherapeutic agents) that kill cells that are dividing rapidly, which is a hallmark of cancer cells

Of or relating to the movement of blood through the body, which follows a circuit or circular route (starting at one point, moving throughout the body and coming back to the starting point)

Any medical personnel having direct contact with patients, including doctors, physician’s assistants, nurse practitioners and nurses

Colorectal Disease
Any disease affecting the colon or rectum, such as colon or rectal cancer, ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease

Faulty or incomplete. In poor working condition or not functioning optimally

A medical condition or disease that is present at birth

Connective Tissue
Bodily tissue that connects, supports or surrounds other tissues, organs or structures. Includes bone, tendons, ligaments and cartilage

A liquid that may be administered to patients (either swallowed or given intravenously with a needle and syringe) prior to a CAT Scan, MRI or Colonoscopy in order to enhance image quality

Control of Pain
Steps taken to limit or reduce pain or discomfort of patients including via the use of pain-reducing narcotics

Core Stability
The ability of the various muscles and connective tissue within the abdominal region to maintain stability during movement. In this context, core typically refers to the area bounded by the abdominal wall, the pelvis, the lower back and the diaphragm

Coronary Artery Disease
A disease in which the arteries of the heart become narrowed and hardened because of a build-up of plaque, a waxy substance that forms along the arterial walls

An abnormal, closed sac-like structure found within body tissue that contains a liquid, a gas or a semi-solid substance



For the purpose of identifying the cause of a disease, condition or symptom (diagnosing)

Diagnostic Radiology
The branch of medicine concerned with creating images of the interior of the body in order to help diagnose and treat medical conditions and disease

Expanded; made wider or larger

The state of being abnormally stretched or expanded

Donor Heart
A heart of a recently deceased person given (donated) to a patient in need of a heart transplant

Deciding upon or determining the quantity of a medication to be taken at one time

A tube-shaped channel or conduit used as a passageway for a substance, especially for blood, urine, hormones and other bodily fluids


Swelling caused by excess fluid trapped in the body’s tissues

Any substance within the human body that conducts electrical impulses. Electrolytes are important for contracting muscles and creating energy

Any mechanism in which the conduction or transmission of electricity causes a mechanical part to move

Qualified to participate or be chosen

Emergency Department
A separate area within a hospital that is staffed and equipped to provide rapid treatment to patients suffering from serious or traumatic injury or illness that requires immediate medical attention

Pertaining to the system of glands throughout the body that are responsible for the creation and secretion of hormones directly into the blood

A medical instrument consisting of a flexible tube with a light on one end used to examine the interior of a hollow organ or body cavity

Any substance that speeds up the rate of a chemical reaction within the body. Enzymes are important for digestion, for building cells and for transforming energy within the body into a usable form

The muscular tube connecting the mouth to the stomach that is used for transporting food and liquid

Expected Mortality Rate
A measure of the frequency of deaths anticipated to occur based on comparisons with other similar hospitals and the types of patients a region or hospital treats

A part of the body that is farthest from the main part. Typically refers to the arms or legs


Facility Volume
The number of patients who sought services at a particular hospital during a particular period of time

Fallopian Tubes
The ducts or tube-shaped structures leading from the ovaries to the uterus that provide a passageway for sperm to reach the egg and for a fertilized egg to travel to the uterus

A medical condition in which fibrous tissue becomes overgrown and creates an area of dense tissue known as a cyst

First Contact
The moment of the initial (first) encounter between a patient seeking treatment and a nurse, physician or other healthcare provider


The branch of medicine focused on the treatment of disorders of the digestive system including the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, rectum, liver, gallbladder and pancreas

Gastrointestinal Tract
Also known as the digestive tract. The organs and structures responsible for the consumption and digestion of food and the excretion of waste. Includes the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, rectum, liver, gallbladder and pancreas

Excising (cutting out) tissue from one area of the body and surgically attaching it to another in order to complete a medical procedure or replace damaged tissue caused by a wound, burn or infection

Group A Streptococcus Bacteria
A common strain of a type of bacteria that is a frequent cause of strep throat


An acronym for the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems survey, which is a survey of patients regarding their experiences with a recent hospitalization

Heart Chamber
Any of the four cavities within the heart that together perform the function of supplying blood with oxygen and pumping it throughout the body

Heart Defect
A problem or irregularity present in the heart at birth. Typically involves the structure of the heart or the blood vessels and results in obstructed or abnormal blood flow

Heart Murmur
An abnormal sound heard during the heartbeat cycle by your physician that is frequently described as a "whooshing" or "swishing" sound. May be harmless but may also be an indication of heart valve disease

Heart Transplant
A surgical procedure in which a damaged, diseased or failing heart is replaced with the healthy heart of a recently deceased donor

Also known as high blood pressure. A condition in which the force created by blood passing through arteries is abnormally great. May be an indication of damage to blood vessels and/or heart disease 


Any technology used to create images of the interior of the body including Mammograms, MRIs, CAT Scans, X-Rays, Ultrasounds and Colonoscopies

An invasion by and multiplication of microorganisms (bacteria or viruses) not normally present in the body. Frequently results in illness or disease

Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Any of a group of chronic disorders characterized by inflammation of the intestines. Includes Chron's Disease, intestinal ulcers and colon cancer

To fill with air

Institutionally-Credentialed Provider
A physician or other medical personnel such as a physician’s assistant or nurse practitioner acting under the direct supervision of a physician for the purpose of providing healthcare services

In cardiology, a class of medical procedures involving the use of a catheter to treat coronary artery disease, coronary valve disease or congenital cardiac disease

Within or into a vein

Irregular Heartbeat
Also known as arrhythmia. Abrupt or rapid changes in the rate of blood being pumped throughout the body


Any enzyme that helps to break down (metabolize) fats

Lower Chamber
In cardiology, one of the two lowermost hollow areas within the heart whose function is to pump blood out of the heart and to the rest of the body. Also known as ventricle

The surgical removal of a small tumor within the breast

Lymph Node
Any of the small structures found along the vessels of the circulatory system that filter bacteria and other foreign particles from the blood


An unexplained or abnormal swelling or unusual growth within the body

Surgical removal of a breast, sometimes including lymph nodes and muscle tissue

The bones of the skull and face that form the upper jaw, including the bottoms of the eye sockets and the nasal cavity

Median Amount of Time
In statistics, the median is the number appearing in the middle (grouped by length of time) of a selection of samples. For example, among the time intervals of 10 seconds 15 seconds, 30 seconds, 45 seconds and 1 minute, 30 seconds is the median because it is the third-longest time interval among five

A U.S. government program providing medical insurance for citizens aged 65 years and over and for certain disabled citizens under 65 years of age
The website of the U.S. government program that provides medical insurance for citizens aged 65 years and over and for certain disabled citizens under 65 years of age

Memorial Cardiac and Vascular Institute
The facility, personnel and infrastructure located within the Memorial Healthcare System that provides medical services related to the prevention, detection and treatment of cardiovascular disease

Concerning the biochemical process that occurs during the breakdown of food and its transformation into energy

1. The state of being deceased or dead; 2. The number of deaths in a given time or place during a given period

Motor Skill
A function involving the precise movement of muscles to perform a specific, intended act such as standing up, walking or running

Concerning the system of muscles, bones, tendons, ligaments and joints responsible for movement

Myocardial Infarction
A heart attack; a medical condition in which the flow of blood to the heart is diminished or stopped causing damage to the heart muscle


National Benchmark
A standard of comparison or basis to measure or judge merit that has been provided by a nationally-recognized healthcare entity, such as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS)

A medical procedure that does not require entry into the body by puncturing the skin


The bony cavity that contains the eyeball

Organ Donor
A person who has agreed that, upon his or her death, one or more of his or her organs may be transplanted into a patient in need

A patient who enters the hospital for treatment but does not remain in the hospital overnight


Palpable Lump
A raised area beneath the skin that a doctor or other clinician can detect by touch

An acute or chronic condition characterized by inflammation of the pancreas

Patient Base
The population of patients receiving treatment at a particular hospital or within a particular doctor’s practice

Of or relating to the medical care of infants and children age 17 and under

Achieving access to inner organs or tissues through the skin as opposed to via an open incision; the insertion of a medical device into a patient's blood vessel via a needle

In heart disease, a fatty deposit along an arterial wall

An abnormal growth of tissue most commonly seen in the colon, stomach, uterus or nose

The symptoms displayed by a patient and the condition the patient is in upon arriving at a hospital or doctor’s office to seek treatment

A medical course of action taken to address or resolve a medical condition or to investigate or assess the cause of symptoms. May involve surgery, laboratory testing, radiographic imaging or various types of therapies

Prolonged Period
In cardiology, a span of time that is significantly long enough to potentially cause damage to the heart muscle

Any person or entity giving medical care, services or guidance. Typically refers to a medical physician or an institution (a hospital or medical practice) with whom the physician is affiliated

Concerning the lungs or any of the structures found within the lungs


Radiofrequency Pulse
A brief electromagnetic signal used to manipulate the magnetic field in order to create a magnetic resonance image

The branch of medicine concerned with the creation of images of the interior of the body used to assess symptoms or medical conditions, to diagnose disease and to guide treatment of medical conditions or disease

1. To assess or evaluate; 2. The frequency with which something occurs

When a patient is admitted to the hospital after having been recently discharged. Depending upon the condition or disease for which the patient is seeking treatment, recently may be defined as a period of days, weeks, months

To let go or allow to leave. In healthcare, release refers to the moment when a presiding physician deems a patient sufficiently well to leave the hospital

The act of making oneself available. In healthcare, response refers to medical staff (physicians, nurses or orderlies) making themselves available for patients when requested or called




In Emergency Department care, the initial evaluation and assessment of a patient’s symptoms and conditions performed by a qualified medical clinician

Sensory Integration Skill
The ability to use the bodily senses in order to process information from the outside world and respond appropriately

A bacterial infection in the bloodstream or body tissues

The degree of seriousness. In healthcare, severity refers to the likelihood that a medical condition or disease will cause significant health problems

A medical instrument composed of a flexible or rigid tube with a light on one end that is used to examine the rectum or the lower portion of the large intestine

Any of the four air-filled spaces within the skull that surround the nasal cavity. The sinuses perform the function of humidifying (saturating with water) and heating inhaled air and filtering out pollutants

Skeletal Integrity
Concerning the health, strength and alignment of bones, muscles and connective tissue

Society of Thoracic Surgeons
A not-for-profit organization of medical professionals specializing in surgeries of the heart, lung, esophagus and other surgical procedures within the chest who are dedicated to providing the highest quality of surgical cardiovascular care

State Benchmark
A guideline or average within a particular state for a medical category that is used as a standard or reference point

In cardiology, a small tube that is placed into an artery or other blood vessel in order to hold it open or provide it with additional structural strength

Human feces or excrement

A class of bacteria that is comprised of 18 different varieties or sub-groups (Streptococcus A, Streptococcus B, etc...)

Structural Abnormality
An irregularity or unusual feature in the shape or form of a body part or component, as in the bones or organs

Surgical Instrument
Any device, implement or tool used during a surgical procedure

Surgical Procedure
A surgery. A medical process in which a health condition or disease is diagnosed or treated with the use of medical instruments. A surgery may involve a large open incision or the use of very small medical instruments that are introduced beneath the skin

Surgical Site
During a surgical procedure, the location on the body where the physician begins the surgery by making an incision or otherwise causing a break in the skin


Temporary Measure
A short-term approach to alleviate the symptoms or reduce the seriousness of a medical condition

Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ)
The joint located at the junction between the lower and upper jaw that facilitates movement of the lower jaw

Thoracic Surgeons
Medical professionals who specialize in performing surgical procedures on organs or structures contained within the thorax (the area between the upper abdomen and the base of the neck). Common surgeries within the thorax include heart surgery, lung surgery and surgery of the esophagus

A group or layer of cells that together form one of the structural systems within the body, such as muscle tissue or nerve tissue

The tube or passageway extending from the back of the throat (larynx) to the bronchi (entry to the lungs) that performs the function of taking air to and expelling air from the lungs

Performed or introduced via a catheter (a small, hollow plastic tube inserted into the body to facilitate the use of small medical instruments, to withdraw fluid or to introduce fluid)

A substance composed of four molecules that is the dominant form of fat found within body tissue and within the blood

An abnormal mass of tissue exhibiting significant swelling or enlargement and rapid cellular multiplication and growth


A procedure using sound waves to create a live image or a set of still images of the interior of the body

Involving, relating to or occurring on one side only

Upper Chamber
Also known as atria. In cardiology, one of the two uppermost hollow areas within the heart. The function of the right atrium is to receive blood from the circulatory system and pump it to the lungs. The function of the left atrium is to pump blood to the lower chamber (ventricle) where it will be pumped back out into the body

The tube or passageway extending from the bladder to the external urinary opening that performs the function of transporting urine (for both men and women) and transporting semen (for men)

Urinary Tract
The organs of the body that produce, store and discharge urine including the kidney, ureters (the tubes between the kidneys and the bladder), bladder, urethra and external urinary opening. The urinary tract constitutes a continuous passage from the kidney to the urinary opening

Uterine Lining
Also known as the endometrium. The mucosal layer comprising the surface of the inner cavity of the uterus


In Cardiology, one of the four half-moon-shaped structures that together perform the function of regulating blood flow through the heart, to the lungs, back into the heart and throughout the body

Concerning or pertaining to cells or vessels that transport blood throughout the body

Of or relating to one or both of the lower chambers of the heart (ventricles)

A hollow container. In healthcare, vessel usually refers to the hollow tubes that transport blood

Vital Organ
Any of the structures found within the human body that are most necessary to sustaining life, such as the brain, heart, lungs, liver and kidneys


X-ray Image
A picture of a structure within the human body