Understanding Medical Jargon: Prefixes and Suffixes

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At first glance, medical jargon can seem intimidating and confusing.

But as you go through the list, you’ll find that prefixes and suffixes are everywhere! It is necessary for all healthcare professionals to have a solid understanding of the terminology in order to clearly and precisely describe a patient’s condition and needs. If you don’t know what a word means, understanding its prefix or suffix can help you figure it out!

Anti-: Prefix; refers to against

Ex: “Tamiflu is an antiviral drug used to treat influenza infections.”

Bio-: Prefix; refers to life

Ex: “Biotechnology is a field that combines the study of life with technological applications, producing innovations that can help reduce water and petrochemical usage.”

-Ectomy: Suffix; refers to surgical removal

Ex: “Appendectomy is surgery that removes the appendix.”

-Graphy: Suffix; refers to taking a record or picture

Ex: “Mammography is the best way to detect breast cancer.”

-Itis: Suffix; refers to inflammation

Ex: “Tonsillitis is inflammation of the tonsils; patients can experience swollen tonsils and sore throats.

Macro-: Prefix; refers to large

Ex: “Proteins, fat, and carbohydrates are considered the primary macronutrients.”

Micro-: Prefix; refers to small;

Ex: “Microscopes are used to see and study living organisms invisible to the naked eye.”

Neo-: Prefix; refers to new

Ex: “Neoplasia is the more technical term for cancer, but the this new growth of cells can be either benign or malignant.”

-Ology: Suffix; refers to study

Ex: “Students in health care profession need to take biology, chemistry, and physics.”

-Pathy: Suffix; refers to disease

Ex: “Abnormal heart muscle, called cardiomyopathy, can be caused by a variety of factors, including high blood pressure, heart valve problems, and complications from pregnancy.”

-Phobia: Suffix; refers to fear

Ex: “Dipsophobia is the fear of drinking.”

-Plasty: Suffix; refers to surgical reconstruction

Ex: “Common cosmetic surgery procedures include blepharoplasty (involving the eyelid) and rhinoplasty (involving the nose).”

Pre-: Prefix; refers to before

Ex: “The presurgical checkup is a meeting with your healthcare team to discuss your health.”

Post-: Prefix; refers to after

Ex: “One way to prevent persistent postsurgical pain is to emphasize surgical procedures that will not damage nerves.”

Pseudo-: Prefix; refers to fake

Ex: “Pseudopregnancy is the appearance of clinical or subclinical signs and symptoms associated with pregnancy when the organism is not actually pregnant.”

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