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Glossary - Urology

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Analgesic - drug intended to alleviate pain.

Anus - opening at the end of the digestive tract where bowel contents leave the body.


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Balloon urethroplasty - a thin tube with a balloon is inserted into the opening of the penis and guided to the narrowed portion of the urethra, where the balloon is inflated to widen the urethra and ease the flow of urine.

Benign prostatic hyperplasia (also called BPH or benign prostatic hypertrophy) - an enlargement of the prostate caused by disease or inflammation, or more commonly related to aging. It is not cancer, but its symptoms are often similar to those of prostate cancer.

Biopsy - a procedure in which tissue samples are removed (with a needle or during surgery) from the body for examination under a microscope to determine if cancer or other abnormal cells are present.

Bladder - a triangle-shaped, hollow organ located in the lower abdomen that holds urine. It is held in place by ligaments that are attached to other organs and the pelvic bones. The bladder's walls relax and expand to store urine, and contract and flatten to empty urine through the urethra.

Bladder instillation (also called a bladder wash or bath) - the bladder is filled with a solution that is held for varying periods of time, from a few seconds to 15 minutes, before being drained through a catheter.


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Computed tomography scan (also called a CT or CAT scan) - a diagnostic imaging procedure that uses a combination of X-rays and computer technology to produce horizontal, or axial, images (often called slices) of the body. A CT scan shows detailed images of any part of the body, including the bones, muscles, fat, and organs. CT scans are more detailed than general X-rays and deliver more radiation.

Cystocele - a hernia-like disorder in women that occurs when the wall between the bladder and the vagina weakens, causing the bladder to drop or sag into the vagina.

Cystoscopy (also called cystourethroscopy) - an examination in which a scope, a flexible tube and viewing device, is inserted through the urethra to examine the bladder and urinary tract for structural abnormalities or obstructions, such as tumors or stones.

Cystourethrogram (also called a voiding cystogram) - a specific X-ray that examines the urinary tract. A catheter (hollow tube) is placed in the urethra (tube that drains urine from the bladder to the outside of the body) and the bladder is filled with a liquid dye. X-ray images will be taken as the bladder fills and empties. The images will show if there is any reverse flow of urine into the ureters and kidneys.


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Dialysis - a medical procedure to remove wastes and additional fluid from the blood after the kidneys have stopped functioning.

Digital rectal exam (DRE) - a procedure in which the doctor inserts a gloved finger into the rectum to examine the rectum and the prostate gland for signs of cancer.


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Electroencephalogram (EEG) - a procedure that records the brain's continuous electrical activity by means of electrodes attached to the scalp.

Enuresis - involuntary discharge of urine usually during sleep at night; bedwetting beyond the age when bladder control should have been established.

Estrogen replacement therapy (ERT) - use of the female hormone estrogen to replace that which the body no longer produces naturally after medical or surgical menopause.

Extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL) - use of a machine to send shock waves directly to the kidney stone to break a large stone into smaller stones that will pass through the urinary system.


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Functional incontinence - leakage of urine due to a difficulty reaching a restroom in time because of physical conditions such as arthritis.


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Glomerulonephritis - a type of glomerular kidney disease in which the kidneys' filters become inflamed and scarred, and slowly lose their ability to remove wastes and excess fluid from the blood to make urine.

Glomerulosclerosis - the term used to describe scarring that occurs within the kidneys in the small balls of tiny blood vessels called the glomeruli. The glomeruli assist the kidneys in filtering urine from the blood.

Goodpasture syndrome - a rare, autoimmune disease that can affect the lungs and kidneys.


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Hematuria - the presence of red blood cells (RBCs) in the urine.

Hemolytic uremic syndrome - a rare kidney disorder that most often affects children under the age of 10. It is often characterized by: damage to the lining of blood vessel walls, destruction of red blood cells, and/or kidney failure.

Hydronephrosis - a condition that occurs as a result of urine accumulation in the upper urinary tract. This usually occurs from a blockage somewhere along the urinary tract.


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Impotence (also called erectile dysfunction) - the inability to achieve or maintain an erection.

Interstitial cystitis - a complex, chronic disorder characterized by an inflamed or irritated bladder wall.

Intravenous pyelogram (IVP) - a series of X-rays of the kidney, ureters, and bladder with the injection of a contrast dye into the vein to detect tumors, abnormalities, kidney stones, or any obstructions, and to assess renal blood flow.


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Kidney stone - a solid piece of material that forms from crystallization of excreted substances in the urine.

Kidney transplantation - a procedure that places a healthy kidney from one person into a recipient's body.

Kidneys - a pair of bean-shaped organs located below the ribs toward the middle of the back.


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Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) - a diagnostic procedure that uses a combination of large magnets, radiofrequencies, and a computer to produce detailed images of organs and structures within the body.


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Nephrectomy - surgery to remove the kidney; the most common treatment for kidney cancer.

Nephritis - inflammation of the kidneys.

Nephrology - the medical specialty concerned with diseases of the kidneys.

Nephrotic syndrome - a condition characterized by high levels of protein in the urine, low levels of protein in the blood, tissue swelling, and high cholesterol.

Neurogenic bladder (also called neuropathic bladder) - a bladder disorder that can be caused by a tumor or other condition of the nervous system.


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Overflow incontinence - leakage of urine that occurs when the quantity of urine produced exceeds the bladder's capacity to hold it.


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Partial nephrectomy - surgery to remove the kidney; only the part of the kidney that contains the tumor is removed.

Penis - the outer reproductive organ of a male.

Pessary - a device placed in the vagina to hold the bladder in place or to treat a prolapsed uterus.

Peyronie's disease - a plaque, or hard lump, that forms on the erection tissue of the penis. The plaque often begins as an inflammation that may develop into a fibrous tissue.

Polycystic kidney disease (PKD) - a genetic disorder characterized by the growth of numerous cysts filled with fluid in the kidneys.

Premature ejaculation (PE) - the inability to maintain an erection long enough for mutual satisfaction.

Priapism - persistent erection of the penis because venous outflow is blocked.

Prostatalgia - pain in the prostate gland.

Prostate - a sex gland in men. It is about the size of a walnut, and surrounds the neck of the bladder and urethra, the tube that carries urine from the bladder. It is partly muscular and partly glandular, with ducts opening into the prostatic portion of the urethra. It is made up of three lobes: a center lobe with one lobe on each side.

Prostatectomy - surgical procedure for the partial or complete removal of the prostate.

Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) - an antigen made by the prostate gland and found in the blood; may indicate cancer in the prostate gland.

Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test - a blood test used to help detect prostate cancer by measuring a substance called prostate-specific antigen produced by the prostate.

Prostatism - any condition of the prostate that causes interference with the flow of urine from the bladder.

Prostatitis - an inflamed condition of the prostate gland that may be accompanied by discomfort, pain, frequent urination, infrequent urination, and, sometimes, fever.

Proteinuria - spilling protein in the urine.


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Rectum - lower end of the large intestine, leading to the anus.

Renal angiography (also called renal arteriography) - a series of X-rays of the renal blood vessels with the injection of a contrast dye into a catheter, which is placed into the blood vessels of the kidney; to detect any signs of blockage or abnormalities affecting the blood supply to the kidneys.

Renal ultrasound - a noninvasive test in which a transducer is passed over the kidney producing sound waves which bounce off of the kidney, transmitting a picture of the organ on a video screen. The test is used to determine the size and shape of the kidney, and to detect a mass, kidney stone, cyst, or other obstruction or abnormalities.


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Scrotum - the bag of skin that holds the testicles.

Sperm disorders - problems with the production and maturation of sperm; the single most common cause of male infertility. Sperm may be immature, abnormally shaped, unable to move properly, or, normal sperm may be produced in abnormally low numbers (oligospermia).

Sphincter muscles - circular muscles that help keep urine from leaking by closing tightly like a rubber band around the opening of the bladder.

Stress incontinence - the most common type of incontinence that involves the leakage of urine during exercise, coughing, sneezing, laughing, lifting heavy objects, or other body movements that put pressure on the bladder.


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Testis - one of the pair of male gonads that produce semen; suspended in the scrotum by the spermatic cords.

Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) - a method of providing pain relief using electrical signals which are sent to the nerve endings.

Transrectal ultrasound of the prostate - a test using sound wave echoes to create an image of an organ or gland to visually inspect for abnormal conditions, such as gland enlargement, nodules, penetration of tumor through capsule of the gland, and/or invasion of seminal vesicles. It may also be used for guidance of needle biopsies of the prostate gland and guiding the nitrogen probes in cryosurgery. It can also be used to see the rectum.

Transurethral surgery - surgery in which no external incision is needed. For prostate transurethral surgery, the surgeon reaches the prostate by inserting an instrument through the urethra. See below for different types of transurethral surgery.

Transurethral hyperthermia - a procedure that uses heat, usually provided by microwaves, to shrink the prostate.

Transurethral incision of the prostate (TUIP) - a procedure that widens the urethra by making some small cuts in the bladder neck, where the urethra joins the bladder, and in the prostate gland itself.

Transurethral laser incision of the prostate (TULIP) - the use of laser through the urethra that melts the tissue.

Transurethral resection of the prostate (TURP) - a surgical procedure by which portions of the prostate gland are removed through the penis.

Tunica vaginalis - a thin pouch that holds the testes within the scrotum.

Tunnel surgery (also called percutaneous nephrolithotomy) - a small cut is made in the patient's back and a narrow tunnel is made through the skin to the stone inside the kidney. The doctor can remove the stone through this tunnel.


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Ultrasound (also called sonography) - a diagnostic imaging technique which uses high-frequency sound waves and a computer to create images of blood vessels, tissues, and organs. Ultrasounds are used to view internal organs as they function, and to assess blood flow through various vessels.

Urea - the nitrogen part of urine produced from the breakdown of protein.

Ureterocele - the portion of the ureter closest to the bladder becomes enlarged because the ureter opening is very tiny and obstructs urine outflow; urine backs up in the ureter tube.

Ureteroscope - an optical device which is inserted into the urethra and passed up through the bladder to the ureter; to inspect the opening of the ureters.

Ureters - two narrow tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder.

Urethra - narrow channel through which urine passes from the bladder out of the body.

Urethritis - infection limited to the urethra.

Urge incontinence - the inability to hold urine long enough to reach a restroom. It is often found in people who have conditions such as diabetes, stroke, dementia, Parkinson's disease, and multiple sclerosis, but may be an indication of other diseases or conditions that would also warrant medical attention.

Urinalysis - laboratory examination of urine for various cells and chemicals, such as red blood cells, white blood cells, infection, or excessive protein.

Urinary incontinence - the loss of bladder control.

Urinary tract infection (UTI) - an infection that occurs in the urinary tract often caused by bacteria such as Escherichia coli. A urinary tract infection often causes frequent urination, pain, and burning when urinating, and blood in the urine.

Urine flow study - a test in which the patient urinates into a special device that measures how quickly the urine is flowing. A reduced flow may suggest benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH).

Urologist - a medical doctor who specializes in treating conditions related to the kidneys and urinary tract, and the genital tract or reproductive system in males 

Urology - the branch of medicine concerned with the urinary tract in both genders, and with the genital tract or reproductive system in the male.

Urogenital - refers to the urinary and reproductive systems.


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Vesicoureteral reflux (VUR) - the abnormal flow of urine from the bladder back into the ureters; often as a result of a urinary tract infection or birth defect.


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