Intestinal Disorders Intestine Terminology

The following terms describe procedures and conditions related to the intestinal tract. For other terms related to the anatomy intestinal system, see the intestine anatomy page.

Biopsy: A biopsy is the removal of a small piece of tissue that is to be examined under a microscope for suspected disease. The procedure causes minor discomfort, but it is an important part of distinguishing cancerous lesions from ulcers in the colon in patients with ulcerative colitis. It is also used to differentiate ulcerative colitis from Crohn ‘s disease.

Colectomy: The surgical removal of all or part of the colon. During a colectomy, ulcerated areas are removed and the surrounding tissue is joined together with tiny sutures (stitches). The result is an area free from ulceration or cancerous lesions.

Colitis: An inflammation of the mucosal layer of the colon. The symptoms of colitis are diarrhea and abdominal pain. Colitis occurs in Crohn ‘s disease, ulcerative colitis and bowel infections.

Corticosteroids: Steroid hormones that are created by the adrenal cortex gland. They play a large part in the metabolism of fats, carbohydrates and proteins, and have a strong anti-inflammatory role. Manufactured corticosteroids are used in the treatment of ulcerative colitis.

Gastroenterologist: This is a doctor who specializes in diseases of the gastrointestinal (GI) system and in the care of patients with GI problems. This doctor is a specialist in the following organs: the digestive tract, liver, biliary tract and pancreas.

Ileostomy: This is a procedure in which part of the ileum is joined with the abdominal wall to create an opening suitable for expelling fecal material. The opening is referred to as a “stoma. ” The purpose of an ileostomy is to bypass the colon following surgery to give it a resting period for healing, or as an alternative route for fecal elimination after a proctocolectomy.

Immunomodulator: This is a medication used to block the immune system response that is responsible for the symptoms associated with inflammatory bowel disease.

Inflammation: This is a defensive reaction of body tissues to injury. It can happen quickly (acute) or over time. Inflammation results in pain, heat, swelling and loss of function of the tissue.

Peritonitis: Inflammation of the peritonium, the membrane that lines the cavity of the abdomen. Symptoms of peritonitis are pain, swelling, fever and weight loss.

Primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC): In this condition, bile ducts within the liver and leading from the liver to the intestines are scarred, inflamed and blocked. Bile is responsible for emulsifying fat in the small intestine. The root cause of primary sclerosing cholangitis is not known, but infections and immunity are thought to play a role.

Proctitis: This condition is present in ulcerative colitis and means swelling and inflammation of the rectum. Bleeding usually occurs with proctitis.

Proctocolectomy: Removal of the rectum and the colon. This results in the need for a stoma or pouch in the ileum.

Tenesmus: A desire or false sense of having to defecate without being productive. It can occur often or sporadically.

Toxic colitis: Damage to the intestinal wall that extends throughout the entire thickness of the wall and inhibits the mobility action. This prevents adequate movement of fecal material towards the anus. Swelling occurs and muscle tone is decreased.

Toxic megacolon: Inflammation or infection of the colon, which results in an enlarged colon and puts the patient at risk for perforations in the intestinal wall. Rapid heartbeat, fever, pain, blood in the stools and abdominal cramping are symptoms of toxic megacolon.

Ulcer: This is an area of tissue erosion that results in a depressed area in the tissue affected. Gastrointestinal ulcers can be worsened by stress, smoking, diet and infection.

Resources (2005). Anatomy of the digestive system.

Johnson, D.R. (nd). Introductory anatomy: Digestive system.

National Library of Medicine. (updated 2004). Large intestine anatomy. MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia.