Understanding Prefixes in Medical Terminology

Medical terminology is a language used in healthcare to describe anatomy, structures, conditions, diagnoses, procedures, treatments, and more. A prefix is a word part that modifies the meaning of the root word. It is found at the beginning of a medical term and alters its meaning. It is important to spell and pronounce prefixes correctly.

Prefixes can indicate a location, type, quality, body category, or quantity. For example, the prefix hyper means “above” or “excessive”; the prefix hypo means “below” or “deficient”; and the prefix brady means “slow”. Other common prefixes include steno, which means “narrow”; eu, which means “good”; dys, which means “bad”; and acro, which means “top” or “height”. It is also important to understand how medical terms are constructed.

Most medical terms are composed of root words combined with prefixes (at the beginning of a word) and suffixes (at the end of a word). For example, the medical term hyperthyroidism has a prefix (hyper) at the beginning, a root (thyroid) in the middle, and a suffix (ism) at the end. To help you remember each prefix, you can use simple tricks such as variations of medical and non-medical examples. For example, the prefix steno, which means “narrow”, can be remembered by thinking of a stenographer who takes down notes quickly and accurately.

The prefix eu, which means “good”, can be remembered by thinking of eulogies that are given to honor someone who has passed away. It is also important to understand the different types of medical professionals who use medical terminology. Doctors who specialize in neuroscience diagnose and treat mental disorders (Betts et al., 2020). Medical professionals trained to draw blood usually perform venipuncture of a superficial vein in the arm (Betts et al., 2020).

Medical-surgical specialists deal with physiology and disorders mainly of the female genital tract, as well as female endocrinology and reproductive physiology (National Library of Medicine, 2020). To strengthen your understanding of medical terminology, you can use resources such as EZmed platform which provides free medical education. However, it should not serve as clinical advice for patients or providers. It is also important to note that medical terms may not always have suffixes explicitly stated when defining them in the workplace.

The Medical Terminology Foundation created by Kimberlee Carter and Marie Rutherford (2020) provides an excellent resource for understanding how common medical terms are created using different prefixes, suffixes, and root words. The book Medical Terminology for Health Professions by Andrea Nelson and Katherine Greene (2020) is another great resource for learning about medical terminology.

Theodore Eflin
Theodore Eflin

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