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Medical Dictionary


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A (adenine)
In genetics, A stands for adenine, one member of the A-T (adenine-thymine) base pair in DNA. The other base pair in DNA is G-C (guanine-cytosine).

Each base pair forms a "rung of the DNA ladder." A DNA nucleotide is made of a molecule of sugar, a molecule of phosphoric acid, and a molecule called a base. The bases are the "letters" that spell out the genetic code. In DNA, the code letters are A, T, G, and C, which stand for the chemicals adenine, thymine, guanine, and cytosine, respectively. In base pairing, adenine always pairs with thymine, and guanine always pairs with cytosine.

A- (prefix)
Prefix much employed in the health sciences indicating “not, without, -less” as, for example, in alexia (not read), aphagia (not eat), aphonia (not voice, voiceless). The “a-” usually becomes “an-” before a vowel as, for example, in anemia (without blood), anotia (no ear), anoxia (no oxygen). The prefix “a-” comes from the Greek meaning “not.”

Abbreviation meaning before meals (from the Latin "ante cibum", before meals). One of a number of hallowed abbreviations of Latin terms that have traditionally been used in prescriptions. Some others:

b.i.d. = twice a day (from "bis in die", twice a day)
gtt. = drops (from "guttae", drops)
p.c. = after meals (from "post cibum", after meals)
p.o. = by mouth, orally (from "per os", by mouth)
p.r.n. = when necessary (from "pro re nata", for an occasion that has arisen, as circumstances require, as needed)
q.d. = once a day (from "quaque die", once a day)
q.i.d. = four times a day (from "quater in die", 4 times a day)
q._h.: If a medicine is to be taken every so-many hours (from "quaque", every and the "h" indicating the number of hours)
q.h. = every hour
q.2h. = every 2 hours
q.3h. = every 3 hours
q.4h. = every 4 hours
t.i.d. = three times a day (from "ter in die", 3 times a day)
ut dict. = as directed (from "ut dictum", as directed)

AA (amino acid)
Stands not only for Alcoholics Anonymous but also for amino acids, the building blocks of proteins. There are 20 amino acids from which proteins are assembled. Of these 20 amino acids, 9 are deemed "essential" in that the human body cannot make them so they are needed in the diet.

AAA (abdominal aortic aneurysm)
Many Americans know that the AAA ("triple A") is short for the American Automobile Association. Fewer may be aware that it is also the acronym for the American Association of Anatomists, one of a multitude of professional societies in the health arena. The AMA (the American Medical Association) is a far better known example. Only a small selection of these health-related organizations is given as a sampler in this DICTIONARY.

The abbreviation AAA also stands for abdominal aortic aneurysm, a ballooning of the largest artery (the aorta) as it courses down through the abdomen. At the point of an abdominal aneurysm, the aneurysm usually measures 3 cm or more in diameter. The aneurysm weakens the wall of the aorta and can end in the aorta rupturing with catastrophic consequences. As the diameter of the aorta increases, the chances of an an abdominal aortic aneurysm rupturing rise commensurately. A measurement of 5 cm is often used to recommend surgery. Persons with abdominal aortic aneurysm tend to be 60 or over and are 5 times more likely to be male than female.

AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science)
Spoken of as the "triple-AS", the American Association for the Advancement of Science is an organization concerned not only with the biomedical sciences but with all of the sciences. The AAAS publishes the weekly journal "Science", one of the great scientific periodicals. "Science" carries a remarkable range of new scientific information including, for example, findings from the Apollo mission to Mars as well as reports from the project to map the human genome.

AAD (American Association of Dermatology)
One of a multitude of professional societies in the health arena. The AMA (the American Medical Association) is a better known example in the U.S. Only a small selection of the many health-related organizations is given as a sampler in this DICTIONARY.

AAFP (American Academy of Family Physicians)
Originally, most physicians in the U.S. (and elsewhere) were family doctors. Then there was a strong move away from family medicine toward the medical specialties in the U.S. The pendulum now has swung back to a more equitable balance between family practice and the medical (and surgical) specialties. The AAFP is a professional society for American family doctors.

The AAFP states that: "The American Academy of Family Physicians is the national association of family doctors. It is one of the largest national medical organizations, with more than 85,000 members in 50 states, D.C., Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and Guam. Until October 3, 1971, it was known as the American Academy of General Practice. The name was changed in order to reflect more accurately the changing nature of primary health care.

"The Academy was founded in 1947 to promote and maintain high quality standards for family doctors who are providing continuing comprehensive health care to the public. Other major purposes of the Academy include:

To provide responsible advocacy for and education of patients and the public in all health-related matters;
To preserve and promote quality cost-effective health care;
To promote the science and art of family medicine and to ensure an optimal supply of well-trained family physicians;
To promote and maintain high standards among physicians who practice family medicine;
To preserve the right of family physicians to engage in medical and surgical procedures for which they are qualified by training and experience;
To provide advocacy, representation and leadership for the specialty of family practice;
To maintain and provide an organization with high standards to fulfill the above purposes and to represent the needs of its members.
"The Academy was instrumental in the establishment of family practice, a derivative of classical general practice, as medicine's twentieth primary specialty. The AMA's Council on Medical Education and the independent American Board of Medical Specialties granted approval to a certifying board in family practice, the basic structural requisite of a medical specialty, on February 8, 1969. Examinations have been given annually since 1970, and recertification examinations annually since 1976.

"The Academy maintains a national headquarters in Kansas City, Missouri. It publishes a clinical journal for physicians in primary care entitled American Family Physician, with a circulation of 156,000; a monthly all-member news and features publication entitled FP Report and a publication on practice management and socioeconomic issues entitled Family Practice Management."

The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) is a nonprofit association of the 125 accredited U.S. medical schools; the 16 accredited Canadian medical schools; more than 400 major teaching hospitals and health systems; some 90 academic and professional societies representing 75,000 faculty members; and the nation's medical students and residents.

The purpose of the AAMC is to improve health through the advancement of academic medicine. In pursuing this purpose, the AAMC works "to strengthen the quality of medical education and training, to enhance the search for biomedical knowledge, to advance research in health services, and to integrate education into the provisions of effective health care."

The AAMC is responsible for the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) required of everyone applying to medical school in the U.S. and Canada.

AAO (ambiguity)
The abbreviation AAO provides an instance of ambiguity or, at least some confusion, since it stands for multiple health-related organizations including the American Association of Ophthalmology, American Association of Orthodontists, and American Academy of Otolaryngology.