In this section
Acute: A term used to describe an illness or disease
process which comes on very quickly, is severe, or occurs over a short period
Adolescent: A young person between the ages of 12–20
Adolescent Transition Program: Adolescent transition
is the process that young people aged 15–19 living with a chronic illness need
to go through in order to move on from a children's hospital to an adult
Afebrile: A fever or high temperature is not present.
Allergist/Immunologist: A specialist doctor skilled in
the diagnosis and treatment of allergies and immune system problems.
Ambulant/Ambulation: Able to walk; walking.
Ambulatory: An outpatient (not admitted
or staying in the hospital). An Ambulatory Care Centre or Clinic is
where hospital outpatients are seen.
Anaesthetic: A medication used to cause numbness or
loss of feeling of the skin and surrounding tissue before a small operation or
medical procedure. It is called a local anaesthetic or a 'local'. A different
type of anaesthetic is given before an operation or medical procedure and
causes you to fall asleep and not remember anything. It is called a general
anaesthetic or a 'general'.
Anorexia: A temporary loss of appetite or being unable
to eat enough food because of illness. This only lasts a short time – usually a
few days or until the illness goes away.
Anorexia nervosa: A chronic and serious
psychiatric illness, which may be mistaken for general anorexia, but is not the
Aphasia: Inability to speak. This may be an acute or
Ataxia: A loss of coordination, for example difficulty
Bacteria: A 'germ' or 'bug' which is capable of
causing an infection.
Benign: Not dangerous or causing cancer (e.g. a
Biopsy: A small sample of tissue that is usually
surgically removed so it can be tested for diseases.
Blood pressure: The force of blood against the walls
of the arteries. It is measured with a cuff (called a sphygmomanometer)
that is placed on the upper arm or lower leg and inflated to give a numerical
reading (such as 120/65). The reading is used by doctors and nurses to see if a
patient needs certain medicines, fluids and so on.
Bradycardia: Slow heart rate. There are different
ranges of normal heart rate for different age groups.
Cardiologist: A doctor that specialises in diseases
and disorders of the heart.
Catheter: Also called a urinary catheter, is a soft
tube that is inserted into the bladder to allow urine (wee) to flow out. It is
sometimes put in before or after surgery, to get a urine sample
to test for infection (especially in small children) or when urine measurements
need to be accurate.
Centre for Adolescent Health: The CAH provides medical
and emotional support for young people aged 10–24.
ChIPS (Chronic Illness Peer Support): A program for
young people aged 12–25 who live with a chronic health condition.
Participants attend an eight-week group program, social events and camps.
Chronic: Long term or permanent (such as a
Code grey: This code is called when an unarmed person
is acting aggressively. It can be called by staff who feel threatened by
patients or visitors to the hospital. A team responds that help calm the person
Constipation: Irregularity or inability to use the
bowels (do a poo). The hard faeces (poo) cause straining and may result in
small tears to the anus (bottom) and bleeding.
Contagious: When an infection or disease can be passed
on to others.
CT (computerised tomography) or CAT scan: A test that
shows a three dimensional image of your body. It is similar to having an X-ray.
Cyanosis: Discoloration of the skin caused by a lack
of oxygen in the body, usually seen as a blue tinge around the lips.
Cyst: A fluid filled sac that grows in the body.
Dermatologist: A doctor who specialises in
diseases or disorders of the skin.
Diarrhoea: Frequent, very runny bowel movements.
Dysphagia: Inability or difficulty in swallowing
saliva or food.
Dysphasia: Difficulty in speaking or finding the right
ECG (electrocardiogram/graph): A test used to measure
the electrical activity in the heart. It is quick and painless and is done by
applying sticky dots or stickers attached to leads onto the patient's chest,
arms and legs and obtaining a 'picture'. It usually takes a couple of minutes.
Education Institute: The Ed Institute provides
educational support to young people whose schooling is affected by time in
hospital or their medical condition.
EEG (electroencephalograph): A test used to measure
electrical activity in the brain. It involves applying sticky dots and leads to
obtain a 'picture' of the brain's activity.
EMG (electromyogram): A test to determine nerve
Enema: A fluid is placed into the anus (bottom)
to cause a bowel movement. It is most commonly used as a treatment for severe
Epidermis: The outer layer of skin.
Epistaxis: A nose bleed.
Advisory Council): A council formed in 2008, made up of a diverse range
of family members whose children (or grandchildren) have had experiences with
FBE (full blood examination): A routine blood test
which is used to examine the make-up of the blood.
Febrile: High body temperature or fever (over 38ºC in
babies; over 38.5ºC in children).
Gastroenterologist: A doctor who specialises in
diseases and disorders of the stomach and digestive system.
Haematologist: A doctor that specialises in diseases
or disorders of the blood.
Hepatologist: A doctor who specialises in diseases or
disorders of the liver.
Hypertension: High blood pressure.
Hypotension: Low blood pressure.
ICU (Intensive Care Unit): A unit/ward were very
unwell patients are treated.
IM (intramuscular): A medicine which is injected into
a muscle (such as a vaccination).
Immunosuppression (immune deficiency or weakened immune
system): When the immune system isn't able to fight infections as well as
normal or not at all. This is sometimes caused by medications (such as
chemotherapy) or certain illnesses.
IV (intravenous): This term refers to a 'drip' – a
small, flexible tube which is inserted into a vein to deliver fluid therapy or
Laxatives: A group of medicines which can help relieve
constipation by promoting a bowel movement.
Livewire: A support network for young people aged
12–21 who live with, or have a sibling with, a chronic health condition.
Lumbar puncture/spinal tap: A procedure where a needle
is inserted into the lower part of the spinal column (spine, or back) to
collect fluid for testing.
Mental wellbeing: The complete wellbeing and optimal
development of a child, including their emotional, behavioural, social and
cognitive (intellectual) development.
Mentor: A person who helps a young person when needed
and can give support.
MET (Medical Emergency Team) call: A MET call can
occur in any medical emergency situation across the hospital. A team of health
professionals will help the person in need. You shouldn't go to
investigate the call if it is not your child because you might get in the
way. Parents/carers and other visitors are able to make MET calls if required.
Either ask a staff member to make a MET call by speaking to them directly,
pressing the nurse call button or the emergency bell at the end of your child’s
bed, or dial 777 from any hospital telephone. Ask the operator to make a MET
call and tell them where you are, for example your child’s ward and room
Microshield: Hand sanitiser that doesn't need water.
MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan: A painless test
that uses a strong magnetic field to get clear pictures of specific body parts,
such as the brain or stomach. The patient lies in a special machine like a
Nausea: Feeling as if you are going to vomit.
Neurologist: A doctor that specialises in diseases and
disorders of the brain and the nervous system.
NG (nasogastric) tube: A soft tube that is passed
through the nose and into the stomach and is used to feed, administer
medications or withdraw stomach contents.
Nutritionist: A specialist who gives advice on diet
Oncologist: A doctor that specialises in cancers and
Otolaryngologist: A doctor that specialises in the
ears, nose and throat. Also known as an ENT.
Paediatric: The practice of specialist medicine for
children under the age of 18 years.
Pathologist: A specialist that identifies diseases by
studying cells and tissues.
Pharmacist: The hospital pharmacist is part of the
hospital's healthcare team, and ensures the safe and effective use of medicines
throughout all areas of the hospital.
Physiotherapist (physio): A health care professional
who helps people dealing with physical weakness or difficulties as a result of
an illness or injury. Physios specialise in muscles and their surrounding
Pulmonologist: A doctor that specialises in the
diseases or disorders of the lungs.
Pulse/heart rate: The number of times the heart beats
in one minute. A pulse can be felt in the wrists, the neck or measured by an
Radiologist: A doctor that specialises in interpreting
pictures (X-rays and other scans) of the body.
Spirometer: A test that is used to asses lung
SpO2 or oxygen saturation (sometimes just called sats):
The amount of oxygen in your body and blood. This is measured by a probe
which is placed on a patient's finger, toe or foot. It is painless. The
readings show the amount of oxygen in the blood (as a percentage). This
observation is taken on almost all patients.
Starlight Express Room: A fun (medical free) place to
hang out. It's located on the ground floor (Beach) of the North Building.
SC (subcutaneous): A medicine which is injected
underneath the layers of skin.
Tachycardia: Fast heart rate.
Trigger: Something causes a symptom to occur in someone who
has a medical condition, for example, pollen can trigger an asthma episode,
heat can trigger a flare-up of eczema, being stressed can trigger a migraine
headache. The trigger is not the cause of the actual medical condition. A
trigger can also set off a disease in someone who has a genetic predisposition
to developing the disease, for example a viral illness may trigger the first
signs of multiple sclerosis.
U&E (urea & electrolytes): A specific blood test
that checks the amount of waste products, potassium, magnesium and calcium in
Ultrasound: The use of sound waves to see the inside
Urinalysis: An examination of a urine (wee) sample,
usually to check for infection or other abnormalities. Also called a full ward
test (FWT) or dipstick.
Urologist: A doctor that specialises in diseases or
disorders of the urinary system and the male reproductive system.
Volunteer: A person who volunteers their time to help
the hospital and is unpaid. Volunteers wear pink lanyards.
X-ray: A test which uses electromagnetic radiation to
view the bones in the body, to check for fractures (breaks) and other
abnormalities. It is sometimes used to check for a foreign body (such as
something you may have swallowed).
Y@K (Youth at the Kids, Youth Advisory Council or YAC): A group of young people
who have an interest in the development and improvement of the RCH.
Many thanks to The Royal Children's Hospital patient who
developed this fact sheet. Reviewed by the General Medicine department. We
acknowledge the input of RCH consumers and carers.
Reviewed June 2018.
Kids Health Info is supported by The Royal Children’s
Hospital Foundation. To donate, visit www.rchfoundation.org.au.
This information is intended to support, not replace, discussion with your doctor or healthcare professionals. The authors of these consumer health information handouts have made a considerable effort to ensure the information is accurate, up to date and easy to understand. The Royal Children's Hospital Melbourne accepts no responsibility for any inaccuracies, information perceived as misleading, or the success of any treatment regimen detailed in these handouts. Information contained in the handouts is updated regularly and therefore you should always check you are referring to the most recent version of the handout. The onus is on you, the user, to ensure that you have downloaded the most up-to-date version of a consumer health information handout.