A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z


Area between the chest and the hips that contains the stomach, small intestine, large intestine, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, and spleen.

Alimentary canal

Gastrointestinal (GI) tract.

Anal electromyography

Diagnostic test involving the insertion of needle electrodes into muscles around anus to measure nerve damage.

Anal fissure

Small tear in the anus. Symptoms include itching, pain, or bleeding.

Anal fistula

Abnormal opening between anus and another organ or anus and the skin. May result from injuries or sub-dermal abscesses or disease (e.g. cancer, Crohn's disease).

Anal sphincter

Ring of muscle at the anal aperture that keeps the anus closed.


The surgical creation of an opening between two hollow organs or vessels, or one hollow organ or vessel and the skin. A colostomy is an anastomosis between the colon and the skin.


A visual exam of the anus using an anoscope.

Anorectal manometry

Use of a manometry catheter to measure anal and rectal pressure, reflexes and sensation.


Medicines that calm muscle spasms in the intestine.


Medicines that help reduce or stop muscle spasms in the intestines.


Terminal end of the digestive tract.

Ascending colon

First third of the colon on the right side of the abdomen.


Without symptoms.

Atonic colon

Lack of normal muscle tone in the colon generally caused by disease or the overuse of laxatives. May result in chronic constipation.

Back to index


Chalky liquid used to coat the inside of organs to improve visualization in X-ray.

Barium enema X-ray

Lower GI series.


Portion of GI tract made up by the small and large intestines.

Bowel prep

Process used to clean the colon in preparation for surgery or visualization studies.

Bulbocavernosis reflex

A reflex contraction of the anal sphincter mediated by the pudendal nerve and produced by squeezing the clitoris or the glans of the penis.

Bulking agents

Laxatives that make bowel movements soft and easy to pass.

Back to index


A hollow tube generally used for accessing the body through the skin or a natural orifice.


Generally thin, flexible, hollow tube that acts as short or long-term entryway into the body.


First part of the large intestine at junction of small/large intestine.


Surgical removal all or part of the colon.


Attacks of abdominal pain, caused by muscle spasms in the intestines.


Irritation of the colon.


Prevalent body protein that shapes the structure of tendons, bones, and connective tissues.

Collagen vascular disease

Malfunction of the immune system that can affect tendons, bones, and connective tissues.


The large intestine. Consists of the cecum, ascending colon, the transverse colon, the descending colon, the sigmoid colon, and the rectum. Primary purpose is to extract water from feces.

Colonic inertia

When muscles of the colon do not work properly to excrete waste.


Visual exam of the colon through a long, flexible, narrow tube.

Colonoscopic polypectomy

Removal of growths (polyps) through a colonoscope.

Colorectal transit study

Test to see how food moves through the colon.


Surgically created opening between the colon and the abdominal wall allowing the diversion of fecal waste.


Present at birth.


Condition in which the stool becomes hard and dry.


Ability to control bowel movements or urine.

Continent ileostomy

Surgically created pouch of the small intestine. Stool that collects in the pouch is removed by inserting a small tube through an opening made in the abdomen.

Crohn's disease

A chronic form of inflammatory bowel disease.

Cystocele (dropped bladder)

When bladder wall droops into the anterior vaginal space as a result of weakening of the pelvic floor.

Back to index


Passage of stool through the anus.


X-ray of the anus and rectum during bowel evacuation to measure colonic muscle effectiveness.

Descending perineum syndrome

Weakness and excessive ballooning of the pelvic muscles associated with chronic constipation due to straining, vaginal deliveries, or prior surgery.

Digestive system

Organs in the body that break down and absorb food.


Bloating or swelling.


Condition that occurs when weakness in the muscle layer of the colon creates small out-pouches (diverticulum) and become inflamed.


Condition that occurs when weakness in the muscle layer of the colon creates small out-pouches.

Back to index


Electrical current delivered to tissue to cease bleeding.


Accidental bowel movement.

Endo anal ultrasound (EAU)

Ultrasound of the anal muscles taken by passing a probe into the anus to assess muscle integrity.


Thin, flexible tube with integrated camera to visualize the esophagus, stomach, duodenum, colon, or rectum. Colonoscopes and sigmoidoscopes are types of endoscopes.

Enteric Nervous System (ENS)

Autonomic nervous system within the walls of the digestive tract. Regulates digestion and muscle contractions that eliminate solid waste.


Inner lining of cavities of human organs.




To get rid of waste from the body.

Back to index

Fecal incontinence

Inability to control the passage of stool or gas.


A hard mass of dried feces.




Abnormal opening between two organs or between one organ and the outside of the body, caused when damaged tissues come into contact with each other and join together while healing.

Back to index

Gardner's syndrome

Condition in which many polyps form throughout the digestive tract.


Physician who specializes in digestive diseases.


Field of medicine concerned with the function and disorders of the digestive system.

Gastrointestinal (GI) tract

Large, muscular tube or cavity that extends from the mouth to the anus.

Back to index

Health related quality of life (HRQL)

The impact an illness has on quality of life, including the individual's perception of his or her illness.


Surgical removal of hemorrhoids.


Swollen blood vessels in and around the anus that cause itching, pain, and bleeding.


An out-pouching or abnormal protrusion of the inner part of a structure through the middle layer and/or outer part of a structure.

Back to index

Imperforate anus

Birth defect in which the anal canal fails to develop.

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)

Inflammation and ulcers in the GI tract. The most common causes are ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease.

Inguinal hernia

Segment of the large or small intestine that protrudes into the groin and may cause pain, pressure or burning.


A structure supplied with intact nerves.

Intestinal flora

Bacteria, yeasts, and fungi that grow normally in the intestines.

Intestinal mucosa

Surface lining of the intestines that absorb nutrients.


Symptoms that don't respond to standard treatments.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

Hyper activity of GI nerves causing sensitivity to food, stool, gas, and stress.

Ischemic colitis

Decreased blood flow to the colon, which causes fever, pain, and bloody diarrhea.

Back to index

Kegel exercises

Series of pelvic floor flexing exercises recommended for women with urinary stress incontinence, men who have urinary incontinence after prostate surgery and people who have fecal incontinence.

Back to index


Surgical incision into the abdomen.


To clean or rinse.


Medications to relieve long-term constipation.

Lower GI series

X-rays of the rectum, colon, and lower part of the small intestine. Also called Barium Enema X-ray.

Back to index


Tests that measure muscle pressure and movements in a muscular organ


Large and swollen colon; results from severe constipation.


Blood in the stool.


Movement of food through the digestive tract.


Mucous membrane that lines a structure (e.g. nose, mouth, GI tract).

Back to index



Occult bleeding

Blood in stool that is not visible to the naked eye.


Typically refers to a surgically created opening between GI tract and the skin with the intended purpose of permitting stool passage from the body. Colostomy and Ileostomy are types of ostomies.

Overlapping Sphincter Repair

Surgical procedure used to repair a damaged or weakened anal sphincter where the sphincter is strengthened via overlapped edges sutured together.

Back to index


The p (probability) value is a calculation used in studies to determine if the results are caused by chance or not. A p value less than 0.05 is statistically significant and indicates that the result is not due to chance.


The origin and development of a disease or disorder.


The study of the fundamental nature, causes, and development of abnormal conditions and the structural and functional changes that result.


Changes or alterations in function that accompany a syndrome or disease.

Pelvic Floor

A large hammock-like structure of muscles stretching across the floor of the pelvis. Supports reproductive organs, urinary structures and the lower portion of the GI tract.


Area around the anus.

Perianal abscess

A collection of pus in and around the anus.


Related to the perineum.


Area between the anus and the sex organs.


Wavelike movement of muscles in the GI tract that moves food and liquid through the GI tract.


Abnormal tissue growth on the inner or outer surface of an organ.


Presence of many polyps.


Operation to remove the rectum.


Irritation of the rectum.


Surgical removal the colon and rectum.


Inflammation of the colon and rectum.


Physician who specializes in disorders of the anus and rectum.


Short, rigid metal tube used to look into the rectum and anus.


Examination of the rectum and anus with a proctoscope.


Endoscopic examination of the rectum and sigmoid colon. See also endoscopy.


Drugs that enhance propulsion of contents through the gut.

Puborectalis muscle

A voluntarily controlled muscle that acts as a sling to support the rectum. Contraction kinks the lower rectums so contents are not expelled when abdominal pressure increases, such as when coughing or lifting.

Back to index

Randomized controlled trial

A study in which patients are randomly assigned to receive one of several clinical interventions.

Rectal manometry

Test that uses a measuring device to assess pressure and contractions of the rectal and anal sphincter muscles.


Sloutching of the anterior rectal wall and posterior vaginal wall into the wall of vagina.


Surgical placement of sutures and mesh to position, secure and anchor the rectum to the sacrum.


Muscular portion of colon approximately 5 inches long that connects the sigmoid colon to the anus.


Resistant to treatment.

Back to index

Sigmoid colon

Lower part of the colon that empties into the rectum.


A flexible or rigid tube for visual exam of the sigmoid colon.

Small intestine

GI tract organ about 20 ft in length. Includes the duodenum, jejunum, and ileum.

Spastic colon

See irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).


Ring-like band of muscle.


Surgery to repair a damaged or weakened anal sphincter.


Generally refers to a surgically created opening in the abdomen that is the permanent or temporary terminal end of the GI tract.


Solid waste of undigested foods, bacteria, mucus, and dead cells that pass through the rectum as bowel movements.. Also called Feces.


Abnormal narrowing of a body opening. Also called Stenosis.

Back to index


Constant feeling of the need to empty the bowel, accompanied by pain, cramping and involuntary straining efforts.

Back to index

Ulcerative colitis

Serious disease that causes ulcers and inflammation in the inner lining of the colon and rectum. See also Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD).


An imaging method using high-frequency sound waves.

Back to index