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Digestive Diseases Glossary

Below are common terms that you may hear when you or your child visit the doctor for a digestive problem.

  • Abdominal ultrasound. An imaging test. It uses sound waves to form pictures of abdominal organs.

  • Barium contrast. A chalky substance. It makes body parts show more clearly on x-rays.

  • Biopsy. A procedure in which the doctor takes a small tissue sample from the body. It is done to help with diagnosis.

  • CT (computed tomography). A test that combines x-rays and computer processing to make detailed images of the body.

  • Colonoscopy. A test that lets the doctor see inside the lower gastrointestinal (GI) tract. This includes the colon and rectum.

  • Colonoscope. A long, flexible tube that has a camera and a light at the end. When put through the rectum into the colon, it lets the doctor look closely inside the colon.

  • Constipation. Having a bowel movement less than three times a week. Often caused by dry, hard-to-pass stools.

  • Diarrhea. Loose or watery stools.

  • Endoscopy. A test that lets the doctor see inside the upper GI tract. This includes the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum (first part of the small intestine).

  • Endoscope. A long, flexible tube. It has a camera and a light at the end. When put into the mouth and down the throat, it lets the doctor closely view the upper GI tract.

  • Enema. A liquid that is put into the rectum to clean out the colon.

  • Enteral nutrition. Tube feeding. A special tube puts liquid food into the digestive tract. It may be needed if a person can’t swallow safely.

  • GI (gastrointestinal). Relating to the digestive tract.

  • Laxative. A food or medication that causes the colon to move and release stool.

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). A type of test. It uses strong magnets and radio waves to make images of the body.

  • Nasogastric tube (NG tube). A soft, flexible tube put through the nose, down the esophagus, and into the stomach. It is often used for feeding.

  • Stoma. A new opening made in the body. This can be done for many reasons. It is often made to make a new way for waste to leave the body. For this, the stoma is made in the abdomen and connected to the intestine.

  • Stool softener. A type of medication that draws water into the stool and makes it easier to pass.

  • Suppository. A small, solid material that is put through the anus into the rectum. It is a way of delivering medication into the body.

  • Total parenteral nutrition (TPN). A type of feeding. Nutrition is sent through an intravenous line (IV) put in a vein. This puts nutrients straight into the blood.

  • Ulcer. A sore. Certain GI problems may cause ulcers in the lining of the digestive tract.

  • Ultrasound. An imaging test. It uses sound waves to make pictures of internal organs.

  • X-ray. A test used to create images of bones and internal organs. The images are called x-rays or radiographs.


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