Combining root terms

Most medical words have only one root term and do not require combination as in the word [colectomy]. The situation arises when there is more than one organ or structure that is influenced by the suffix and the prefix (when present), such as [coloproctectomy]. Following are the basic rules for root terms combination:

  1. - Place an [-o-] between the root terms being combined. The combining vowel  [o] means "and". The word [gastroenterology] means "study of the stomach and the small intestine"
  2. - Organize the root terms using their proximal to distal relationship. For a better explanation, click here
  3. - If the first root term ends in a vowel, the combining vowel [-o-] is not needed. An example are the root terms [-chole-], meaning "bile or gall". and [cyst], meaning "bladder or sac". The word [chole-cyst-ectomy] does not have an [-o-] between the root terms
  4. - If the proximal to distal relationship does not apply, then the words should be ordered in a way that is euphonic
  5. - The only time a hyphen should be used is the rare case when using an [o] is not possible. Based on this rule, the word [salpingooophorectomy] is correct, the word [salpingo-oophorectomy] is not. An example of this is the word [cross-section].

An example of rule #5 is the word co-author. Since adding an [o] as a combining vowel would give us the word cooauthor (which is not correct), a hyphen must be used.

In the case of the word [coloproctectomy] the word can be divided into these components" The first root term [-col-], meaning "colon", the combining vowel [-o-], meaning "and", the second root term [-proct-], meaning "rectum", and the suffix [-ectomy], meaning "removal of". Properly read, the word means "removal of colon and rectum]. The proper term is [coloproctectomy], please do not use the terms [proctocolectomy] or worse, [protocolectomy], because they are incorrect usage of medical terminology.

For information on how to read medical words, click here.

There are more nuances to Medical Terminology, but they go beyond the objectives of "Medical Terminology Daily". For a complete course on Medical Terminology for your company, contact CAA, Inc.

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