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Pediatric Glossary - Respiratory Disorders

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Adenoids - two pieces of tissue located behind the nose that often become enlarged in childhood. This can lead to problems with breathing.

Alveolus - air sac where gas exchange takes place.

Anti-inflammatory drugs - drugs that reduce the symptoms and signs of inflammation.

Aorta - blood vessel that delivers oxygen-rich blood from the left ventricle to the body; it is the largest blood vessel in the body.

Apex - top portion of the upper lobes of the lungs.

Atrium (atria pl.) - one of two upper chambers in the heart.


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Base - bottom portion of lower lobes of the lung, located just above the diaphragm.

Blood pressure - pressure of blood against the walls of a blood vessel or heart chamber.

Bronchiole - a small airway (subdivision of the bronchus) that leads to areas of the lung and absorbs oxygen from the air.

Bronchiolitis - inflammation that involves the bronchioles (small airways).

Bronchitis - an inflammation of the mucous membranes of the bronchial tubes, causing a persistent cough that can produce considerable quantities of sputum (phlegm).

Bronchodilators - a group of drugs that widen the airways in the lungs.

Bronchoscopy - a fiberoptic, flexible tube is passed through the mouth into the bronchi to locate tumors or blockages, and to gather samples of tissue and/or fluid.

Bronchus - one of two large subdivisions of the trachea through which air passes to and from the lungs.


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Cardiac output - total amount of blood being pumped by the heart over a particular period of time.

Catarrhal - swelling of the membranes of the nose and back of the throat that can lead to breathing problems.

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.

Constrict - tighten; narrow.

Culture - a laboratory test that involves the growing of bacteria or other microorganisms to aid in the diagnosis.

Cyanosis - bluish color in the skin because of insufficient oxygen.


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Diaphragm - primary muscle used for respiration, located just below the lung bases.

Dilate - relax; expand.

Dyspnea - sensation of difficulty in breathing.


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Edema - swelling due to the buildup of fluid.

Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) - a test that records the electrical activity of the heart, shows abnormal rhythms (arrhythmias or dysrhythmias), and detects heart muscle damage.

Endothelial cells - the delicate lining, only one cell thick, of the organs of circulation.

Eosinophils - a type of white blood cell that can increase in allergy and other infections.

Expiration - exhaling; giving off carbon dioxide.


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Fibrosis - process by which inflamed tissue becomes scarred.


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Heartbeat - one complete contraction of the heart.

Histamine - a chemical present in cells throughout the body that is released during an allergic reaction and one of the substances responsible for the symptoms of allergy, such as itching, sneezing, or wheezing.

Hyperactive - describes a situation in which a body tissue is especially likely to have an exaggerated reaction to a particular situation.

Hypertension - abnormally high blood pressure.

Hypotension - abnormally low blood pressure.


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Immunoglobulin E (IgE) - a type of antibody which attaches to mast cells in the respiratory and intestinal tracts and may cause allergic rhinitis, asthma, or eczema.

Inflammation - redness, swelling, heat, and pain in a tissue due to chemical or physical injury, infection, or allergic reaction.

Inspiration - inhaling; taking in oxygen.


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Laryngitis - inflammation and swelling of the lining of the larynx that usually leads to a hoarse voice, or loss of voice.

Larynx (also called the voice box) - a cylindrical grouping of cartilage, muscles, and soft tissue which contains the vocal cords. The vocal cords are the upper opening into the windpipe (trachea), the passageway to the lungs.

Lobectomy - removal of an entire lobe of the lung.

Lung volume - the amount of air the lungs hold.


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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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Nasal polyp - a small rounded piece of the lining of the nose that can extend into the passages of the nose.


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Palpitation - sensation of rapid heartbeats.

Peak flow meter - a portable, inexpensive, hand-held device used to measure the ability to push air out of the lungs.

Perfusion - flow.

Pharynx - the throat.

Pleura - membrane that covers the outside of the lung.

Pneumonectomy - removal of an entire lung.

Pulmonary artery - blood vessel delivering oxygen-poor blood from the right ventricle to the lungs.

Pulmonary function tests - diagnostic tests that help to measure the lungs' ability to exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide appropriately. The tests are usually performed with special machines that a child must breathe into.

Pulmonary hypertension - abnormally high blood pressure in the arteries of the lungs.

Pulse oximetry - a device used to measure the amount of oxygen in the blood.


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RAST - (RadioAllergoSorbent Test, a trademark of Pharmacia Diagnostics) - a laboratory test used to detect IgE antibodies to specific allergens. A RAST requires a blood sample, which is sent to a medical laboratory where tests are performed to identify specific allergens that may cause rashes, asthma, hay fever, drug reactions or other skin problems. The latest form of the RAST is called the Immuno CAP allergy blood test or CAP test.

Respiration - gas exchange from air to the blood and from the blood to the body cells.

Respiratory system - the group of organs responsible for carrying oxygen from the air to the bloodstream and for expelling carbon dioxide.

Reye syndrome - a specific disease process that can affect the liver, brain, pancreas, kidney, heart and muscle. It usually occurs in children under 18 years of age. It typically starts with a red rash, vomiting, and confusion that follows a viral infection. This can lead into seizures, coma, and breathing problems. The cause of Reye syndrome is not known although a variety of factors are thought to be involved, such as genetics or the use of aspirin during a viral illness.


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Smooth muscle - muscle that performs automatic tasks, such as constricting blood vessels.

Spirogram - record of the amounts of air being moved in and out of the lungs.

Stridor - a high-pitched sound heard best on inspiration.

Syncope - fainting; temporary loss of consciousness.

Systemic - relating to a process that affects the body generally.

Systolic pressure - the highest pressure to which blood pressure rises with the contraction of the ventricles.


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Vasodilator - agent that widens blood vessels.

Ventilation - movement of air (gases) in and out of the lungs.

Ventricle - one of the two pumping chambers of the heart; right ventricle receives oxygen-poor blood from the right atrium and pumps it to the lungs through the pulmonary artery; left ventricle receives oxygen-rich blood from the left atrium and pumps it to the body through the aorta.


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X-ray - a diagnostic test which uses invisible electromagnetic energy beams to produce images of internal tissues, bones, and organs onto film.


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