Glossary of Specialties...

This page contains definitions of various medical specialties but does not attempt to cover all medical terminology. For more detailed information on medical terms, visit the Glossary of technical and popular medical terms provided by the Heymans Institute of Pharmacology or the Medical Glossary maintained by the American Medical Association.



Addiction Medicine: Addiction treatment involves helping individuals with chemical dependencies to live productively and drug free. Detoxification takes place in the hospital, where the patient who is dependent on drugs such as alcohol, tranquilizers, or cocaine is withdrawn from these under careful medical supervision. The patient may then enter an inpatient or outpatient program to maintain that drug free state. An aftercare program is an essential part of the program following the completion of primary treatment.

Allergy: An allergist provides evaluation and management of hay fever, itchy eyes, asthma, exercise-induced bronchospasms, sinus-related problems, headaches, fluid in the ears, skin rashes, hives, eczema, food and drug allergies, anaphylaxis, stinging insect bites, and skin testing to identify allergies.

Anesthesiology: An anesthesiologist renders the patient pain free during surgery and other procedures. Anesthesiologists determine the appropriate anesthetics to be used during surgery; and during the surgical process administer drugs, breathe for the patient, and determine when and how blood products and intravenous fluids will be administered. Following surgery, they also monitor the patient in the recovery room, and when necessary, in intensive care. Anesthesiologists are also consultants in the management of chronic pain.


Cardiac Electrophysiology

Cardiac Electrophysiology, Clinical: Clinical cardiac electrophysiology is a sub-specialty of cardiology dealing with the evaluation and management of patients with complex rhythm or conduction abnormalities. The clinical electrophysiologist uses complex catheter mapping techniques to determine the precise mechanism of various rhythm abnormalities and to help guide appropriate therapy. Modern treatment options may include electronic devices such as implantable cardioverter-defibrillators or advanced pacing systems. Radio frequency catheter ablation techniques have recently revolutionized the treatment of certain specific rhythm disturbances. Clinical cardiac electrophysiology is a very important adjunct to a modern complete cardiology program.

Cardiology: Cardiologists provide services for patients with all aspects of adult heart disease. By referral from your primary care physician, cardiologists diagnose and treat angina and heart attacks, and provide cardiac rehabilitation services. They also perform heart catheterization, coronary angioplasty, echo cardiography, stress testing, and the implantation of temporary and permanent pacemakers.

Cardiology, Nuclear: Nuclear Cardiology refers to the use of radioactive compounds and computer technology to evaluate the function of the heart and the adequacy of the blood supply.

Cardiology, Pediatric: Pediatric Cardiology is the treatment of heart and blood vessel disease in infants, children, and teenagers. Reasons for referral include heart murmurs, cyanosis ("blue-baby" condition), rapid breathing, heart enlargement, high blood pressure, infections involving the heart and blood vessels, chest pain, rhythm disturbances, fainting episodes, and questions about participation in sports.

Chiropractic A chiropractor regards disease as a neural malfunction, and uses manipulation of the spinal column and other structures as the preferred treatment.


Certified Nurse Midwife: A certified nurse-midwife (CNM) is a primary care provider for normal maternity, newborn and well-woman gynecological care. The CNM designation is received after completing an accredited graduate level program in midwifery at schools of medicine, nursing or public health, and passing a certification examination administered by the ACNM Certification Council, Inc. Prior to entering an education program, a CNM must be a licensed Registered Nurse (RN).

Critical Care Medicine: Critical Care Medicine generally involves the medical management of severely ill patients in an intensive care setting. This includes the care of individuals with multiple organ system failure, often on ventilators or other major support equipment. Medical, surgical, or traumatic illnesses can require care of this nature.

Cytopathology: A sub-specialty of pathology, cytopathology is the diagnosis of diseases such as cancer or inflammation by looking at cells under a microscope.


Dentistry: A dentist diagnoses, treats, and provides preventive care for diseases of the teeth, mouth, gums, and related structures.

Dermatology: A dermatologist provides diagnosis and management of diseases of the skin, the largest and most visible organ of the body. Skin may be affected by infections, inflammations, and tumors.
The dermatologist must be aware of the many skin problems as they relate to general medicine. Treatments include surgery and also prescriptions of many topical and systemic drugs.

Dermatopathology: A dermatopathologist can be a dermatologist or pathologist with specialized training in diagnosis and treatment of diseases and abnormalities of the skin.



Emergency Medicine: Specialists in emergency medicine provide treatment for all trauma, and any life- or limb-threatening situations, as well as medical problems of an urgent nature. Emergency specialists stabilize critically ill or injured patients and determine what sub-specialty care is needed.
Emergency physicians are also responsible for pre-hospital care including the supervision of paramedics and emergency medical technicians (EMTs) before the patient reaches the hospital.


Family Practice: The specialist in family practice is concerned with the whole family: the very young, the aged, or anyone in between. Family practice recognizes that, just as an organ such as the heart cannot be treated out of context of the whole person, the individual family member cannot be treated out of the context of the whole family. Several family practitioners provide obstetric, geriatric, addiction medicine, and sports medicine services.



Gastroenterology: A gastroenterologist provides diagnosis and treatment of adult disorders of the digestive system (the esophagus, stomach, small and large intestine, liver, and pancreas), including trouble with swallowing, heartburn, chest pain not due to heart disease, ulcers, problems with digestion and elimination, and symptoms occurring after surgery. A gastroenterologist does not do physicals or provide general medical care, but does follow patients with chronic G.I. disorders such as Crohn's Disease, ulcerative colitis, chronic hepatitis, and chronic pancreatitis.
By using fiber-optic and video endoscopes, the gastroenterologist can explore symptoms after the patient has been evaluated by the family physician and radiologist. This includes screening for colon cancer by fiber-optic sigmoidoscopy and the removal of polyps by colonoscopy.

Geriatrics: The practice of geriatrics deals with the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disease in the elderly. Emphasis is placed on maintaining independence, communication with the patient, and keeping the patient as active as possible. The geriatrician pays special attention to the altered presentation of diseases in the elderly and the side effects of medicines, and coordinates the care of the elderly person.
Geriatrics is a medical sub-specialty of family practice or internal medicine. In order to become board certified, an individual must pass an additional comprehensive exam in geriatrics.

Gynecology: A gynecologist provides care for women of all ages, specializing in the female reproductive system. This includes medical and surgical care for a wide variety of health concerns such as birth control, treatment of infertility, premarital counseling, disorders of the breast and reproductive system, and therapy related to menopause and the postmenopausal years.


Hematology: Physicians specializing in hematology provide diagnosis and treatment of blood disorders including anemia, bleeding disorders, and low platelet counts.


Infectious Diseases

Infectious Diseases: The infectious disease specialist sees patients with infections that are unusually persistent or severe, or that involve an unusual agent. For hospitalized patients, the infectious disease specialist is available through the referral of the attending physician. For outpatients, the specialist in infectious diseases often manages patients with bacterial diseases of the bone, wounds, urinary tract, joints, and sinuses; severe viral infections such as mononucleosis, hepatitis, and AIDS; spirochete diseases such as Lyme disease and other unusual diseases; diseases affecting foreign travelers; and fevers of undetermined origins. Infectious disease specialists are also available for consultation to foreign travelers.

Internal Medicine: An internist specializes in the primary care of adults including prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of diseases. The internist provides and coordinates the care of the "whole patient" including referral to other specialists as necessary.

Interventional Radiology: The interventional radiologist uses non-surgical catheter-based techniques to treat many diseases and blockages of the blood vessels and solid organs (liver, kidneys). These techniques include angiography (use of contrast medium to make blood vessels visible on x-ray); angioplasty (use of an inflatable balloon device to open vessels); placement of a stent (spring-like device to hold a vessel open); and embolization (intentional blockage of a blood vessel). These procedures may eliminate, simplify, or complement various kinds of surgeries.
This discipline also includes neuro-interventional radiology in which similar techniques are used in treating vascular and non-vascular diseases of the head and neck such as aneurysm, vascular malformation, and tumor.


Laparoscopy: Advanced Laparoscopy allows the surgeon to perform complex procedures such as hysterectomy, bladder repair, and ovarian cyst and fibroid removal through small incisions using a laparoscope (a fiberoptic scope for viewing inside of the body). These procedures previously needed to be done through larger, open incisions. Laparoscopy greatly eases the recovery for the patient and shortens the recovery time. Laser surgery can be performed during advanced laparoscopy.
Advanced Hysteroscopy allows the surgeon to perform procedures inside the uterus with a hysteroscope (a specialized scope for viewing the inside of the uterus), eliminating large incisions and greatly reducing the recovery time.


Medical Toxicology: A medical toxicologist provides specific expertise in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of human poisoning due to drugs, pollution, hazardous chemicals in the home and workplace, and naturally occurring toxins.


Neonatology: Neonatology is the sub-specialty of pediatrics that is concerned with the identification, treatment, and prevention of problems in the newborn infant. Some other common neonatology problems would include prematurity, respiratory distress syndrome, infection or sepsis in the infant under one month of age, and infants born with congenital anomalies. The ultimate goal of neonatology is to provide each newborn infant with his or her best possible foundation for future growth and development.

Nephrology: Diagnosis and treatment of problems relating to kidney function abnormalities including chronic renal failure, acute renal failure, hypertension, and various metabolic disturbances.

Neurology: A neurologist provides diagnosis and treatment for disorders of the nervous system: the brain, spinal cord, and nerves. Conditions treated by a neurologist include muscle disorders, pain (especially headache), epilepsy, neuritis, brain and spinal cord tumors, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, stroke, myasthenia gravis, and muscular dystrophy. Patients may need a neurology consultation if they are experiencing dizziness, seizures, blackouts, numbness, tingling, weakness, paralysis, or lack of coordination. Patients with diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, or cancer may also be referred to a neurologist. Neurologists may consult in the treatment of chronic pain.

Neuropsychology: Neuropsychologists diagnose and treat behavior related to injury of the brain and nervous system. Neuropsychologists may treat patients who have had a brain injury or stroke, who suffer from chronic pain, or who have learning disabilities.

Neuroradiology: Neuroradiology is a sub-specialty of radiology which concentrates on imaging of the head, neck, and spine. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and Computed Tomography (CT) are the primary diagnostic modalities. Diagnostic and interventional angiography is also employed to evaluate the blood vessels in the neck and brain.

Neurosurgery: Neurological surgery provides treatment of conditions related to the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) as well as oerioheral nerves and neiehborine structures.
Neurosurgeons are involved in treatment of head and spine injuries, peripheral nerve injuries, spinal tumors, brain tumors, abscesses, intracranial blood clots and aneurysms. Neurosurgeons also treat pinched nerves and perform endarterectomy, or cleaning of the arteries in the neck for the prevention of stroke. A neurosurgeon sees patients by physician referral only.

Nuclear Medicine: Nuclear medicine uses safe, painless, and cost-effective techniques to both image the body and treat disease. It documents organ function and structure rather than anatomy. Very small amounts of radioactive materials are injected into the body. These harmless materials are attracted to specific organs, bones or tissues, allowing the structures to produce an image on a gamma camera or a SPECT (single photon emission computed tomography) camera, and to provide other clinical information. Although nuclear medicine is commonly used for diagnostic purposes, it also can be used in treating hyperthyroidism and thyroid cancer, and providing pain relief from certain types of bone cancers.

Nurse Practitioner: A nurse practitioner is a registered nurse who has completed advanced training and is qualified to assume some of the duties and responsibilities formerly taken on by a physician, and usually under the supervision of a licensed physician.


Obstetrics/Gynecology: An obstetrician-gynecologist provides care for women of all ages, specializing in the female reproductive system. A specialist in OB-GYN provides care during pregnancy, delivery, and postpartum, as well as medical and surgical care for a wide variety of health concerns such as birth control, treatment of infertility, premarital counseling, disorders of the breast and reproductive system, and therapy related to menopause and the postmenopausal years.

Occupational Medicine: Occupational medicine includes all aspects of the relationship between workplace factors and health. This includes physical, chemical, biological, social, and psychological aspects.
Occupational medicine specialists evaluate and treat workplace injuries and illnesses, and render opinions as to the work-relatedness of a medical condition. Services include work-related physical examinations, surveillance exams required by the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Department of Transportation exams, urine drug and breath alcohol testing services, and fitness-for-duty evaluations (work restrictions). Occupational medicine specialists also provide appropriate referrals.

Oncology, Medical: Medical oncologists provide diagnosis and treatment for cancer patients. They manage the medical component of cancer treatment including chemotherapy, and work closely with other specialists, especially surgeons, pathologists, and radiation oncologists in planning and administering the most appropriate therapy. Medical oncologists also supervise and conduct cancer research in cooperation with nationally accredited agencies.

Oncology, Radiation: The radiation oncologist is a cancer specialist who participates in the evaluation of cancer patients and provides treatment using radiation-generating equipment and radioactive materials.
As part of a team of physicians, radiation oncologists use a simulator for treatment planning, and linear accelerator, superficial x-rays, or brachytherapy (the temporary implantation of radioactive "seeds" for treatment of specific kinds of tumors) to treat cancer.

Ophthalmology: An ophthalmologist performs comprehensive eye examinations, prescribes and fits corrective lenses, provides diagnosis for disorders and diseases of the eye, and carries out the medical and surgical procedures necessary for their treatment, including fluorescein angiography, laser surgery, and all phases of eye care.

Optometry: Optometrists provide primary eye care services including comprehensive eye health and vision examinations; diagnosis and treatment of eye diseases and vision disorders; prescribing glasses, contact lenses, low vision rehabilitation, vision therapy, and medications; performing certain surgical procedures; and counseling regarding surgical alternatives and vision needs as related to patients' occupations, avocations and lifestyles.

Orthodontics: An orthodontist is a dentist dealing with correction of the teeth (as with braces).

Orthopaedics: See Surgery, Orthopaedic

Otolaryngology: An otolaryngologist provides diagnosis and treatment for diseases of the ears, nose, and throat, including hearing problems and ear diseases along with problems and tumors of the head and neck.


Pain Management: A pain management specialist is an anesthesiologist with specialty training in management of acute, chronic, and cancer pain in adults. All types of pain are treated including nerve pain; pain relating to chronic illnesses such as diabetes; post-operative pain lasting longer than expected; and pain related to low back injury or disease, arthritis in the low back, or disk disease. The goal of treatment is reducing pain to the greatest extent possible. Pain management specialists usually see patients by referral only.

Pathology: A pathologist specializes in laboratory medicine. The primary role of pathologists is to examine specimens of cells, tissue, organs, and body fluids in order to identify diseases. The range of material examined by pathologists includes microscopic individual cells, portions of an organ, entire organs, or an entire body for autopsy. In addition, pathologists provide medical supervision to the clinical laboratory, consultative services in related clinical-pathological patient care settings, and participate in research.

Pediatrics: Pediatrics is devoted to the special medical problems of young persons from infancy through young adulthood, including both health supervision and illness care.
Sub-specialty interests and expertise range from the complex problems of premature and full term newborns (neonatology) to the often multifaceted difficulties of teens and young adults (adolescent medicine).

Periodontics: Periodontists are dentists who treat diseases of tissues and structures surrounding and supporting the teeth.

Physical Medicine Rehabilitation: The specialist in physical medicine and rehabilitation (physiatry) provides rehabilitative treatment for all neurological disorders including traumatic brain injury, spinal injury, stroke, Parkinson's disease, muscular dystrophy, or multiple sclerosis; medical and rehabilitative evaluations for pain syndromes in the neck or low back, arm and leg pain, arthritis and chronic pain states; electromyography or tests of nerve and muscle function; and biofeedback.

Physician Assistant: Physician assistants are certified to provide basic medical services (as the diagnosis and treatment of common ailments) usually under the supervision of a licensed physician.

Podiatry: Podiatry is the medical and surgical treatment of the foot and ankle. This includes care for diabetes, sports and work related problems, and surgical correction of all foot and ankle deformities.

Psychiatry, Addiction: Addiction Psychiatry is the evaluation and treatment of emotional/psychological distress and maladaptive functioning of individuals with substance abuse issues.

Psychiatry, Adult: Within the hospital setting, a psychiatrist evaluates and treats serious forms of mental illness such as schizophrenia, depression, manic states, adjustment disorders, and certain organic mental disorders. On the outpatient level, a psychiatrist treats less acute forms of the illnesses listed above, marital and family problems, and sexual disturbances.

Psychiatry, Child and Adolescent: A child and adolescent psychiatrist is an expert in the normal and abnormal emotional development of children. Patients are referred directly from family physicians, pediatricians, schools, and by families. A child and adolescent psychiatrist treats children and teenagers with behavioral problems; changes in personality, mood or academic performance; and social withdrawal symptoms or concerns about drug and alcohol abuse. Treatment may consist of individual, family or group psychotherapy; medication therapy; hospitalization or further medical evaluation.

Psychology, Geriatric: Geriatric Psychiatry focuses on the normal and abnormal emotional, behavioral, and cognitive aspects of aging, including diagnosis and treatment of mental illness in older adults such as depression, anxiety, confusion, and psychosis. Geriatric psychiatrists also evaluate patients with memory loss or dementia, such as Alzheimer's Disease, with special emphasis on the behavioral problems associated with these disorders.
Geriatric psychiatrists help patients and their families cope with the normal changes and losses that occur with aging, chronic illness, and end-of-life issues. Treatments include medication and individual therapy with a special emphasis on working with the family along with the older individual.

Psychology: Specialty which diagnoses and treats abnormalities of the mind and behavior. A psychologist may specialize in clinical psychology, counseling, guidance, family therapy, or a number of other fields.

Public Health: Physicians specializing in public health deal with the protection and improvement of community health by organized community effort, and including preventive medicine and sanitary and social science.


Radiology: A radiologist specializes in the interpretation of various medical imaging modalities for the diagnosis of disease. The most commonly used modality is the radiograph or x-ray. Computer assisted tomography (CT) scans and gamma ray scans, as well as radiographs, are produced by ionizing radiation. Other types of imaging modalities that radiologists specialize in interpreting are ultrasound, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), thermography, and single photon emission computerized tomography (SPECT). None of these modalities utilize ionizing radiation.
A radiologist may also specialize in the treatment of certain diseases through the use of interventional radiology.

Reproductive Endocrinology: Reproductive Endocrinology is a separate, boarded sub-specialty of Obstetrics/Gynecology which focuses on endocrine problems as it regards to fertility and general function. This also includes advanced training in reproductive surgeries, such as reconstruction of the fallopian tubes.

Respiratory Medicine: These physicians are certified in general internal medicine and provide for the primary care needs of their patients. They specialize in respiratory (pulmonary) medicine which provides diagnosis and treatment for lung diseases that may cause breathlessness, chest discomfort, coughing, or wheezing, including asthma, emphysema, bronchitis, and work-related lung disorders.

Rheumatology: Rheumatology is a subspecialty of internal medicine. Rheumatologists specialize in caring for patients with any of more than 130 diseases associated with arthritis (painful swollen joints). These diseases include connective tissue diseases. Examples of common forms of arthritis and connective tissue diseases include degenerative joint disease (osteoarthritis); rheumatoid arthritis; gout; pseudogout; lupus; ankylosing spondylitis; Reiter's Syndrome; psoriatic arthritis; arthritis associated with inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis; scleroderma; vasculitis; and many others.


Sleep Disorders: Sleep Medicine specialists diagnose and treat disorders causing abnormal sleepiness, complaints about quality or quantity of nocturnal sleep (insomnias), or abnormal behaviors during sleep (parasomnias). These disorders can be physiologic, behavioral, genetic, toxic, or environmental, even iatrogenic (as a result of medical care). Diagnoses depend on a detailed specialized history and on polysomnographic (sleep) studies.

Sports Medicine: Physicians specializing in sports medicine work to prevent, diagnose, and rehabilitate athletic injuries. The concept of sports medicine includes medical supervision of athletes, special physical education, therapeutic exercise, and exercise in the prevention of chronic degenerative disease.

Surgery, Cardiovascular-Thoracic: Cardiovascular-Thoracic surgeons perform heart and chest surgery, and surgery of the arteries and veins.
Heart surgery includes coronary artery bypasses, valve replacements, removal of aneurysms, and repair of the walls of the heart.
Thoracic (chest) surgery includes treatment of trauma to the chest, biopsies, exploratory surgeries, and repair surgeries for deformities.
Vascular surgery includes carotid artery surgery, surgery for aortic aneurysms, bypasses for blocked vessels in the arms or legs, removal of blood clots from vessels, amputations, repair of arteries and veins, creation of arteriovenous fistulas (connection of artery to vein to bypass capillaries for insertion of hemodialysis equipment), and advanced surgical techniques in balloon and laser angioplasty.
They accept patients by physician referral only.

Surgery, General: A general surgeon performs general abdominal surgery, thyroid surgery and breast surgery, and provides trauma care. A general surgeon sees patients by referral from their primary care physician.

Surgery, Hand: Hand Surgeons treat tumors of the hand (which are usually benign), ganglion cysts, finger contractures, birth defects such as webbed fingers, degenerative conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome, and hand trauma. Hand trauma is common, and surgery includes repair of bones, tendons and nerves, and grafting of burns. Outpatient surgery is common for hand problems, and physical and occupational therapists help complete the recovery.

Surgery, Oral-Maxillofacial: An oral-maxillofacial surgeon is a dentist qualified to perform specialized surgery of the jaws and face.

Surgery, Orthopaedic: Orthopaedic surgeons offer evaluation and treatment for musculoskeletal problems including trauma, congenital anomalies, fractures, bone and soft tissue tumors, reconstructive procedures, hand surgery, and spine surgery. Special services include total joint replacements, diagnostic and surgical arthroscopy, treatment of chronic osteomyelitis using the Infusaid pump, and musculoskeletal sports-related injuries.

Surgery, Plastic and Reconstructive: A plastic surgeon performs cosmetic and reconstructive surgery and surgery of the hand. Some of the services provided by a plastic surgeon include surgical correction of birth defects; breast reconstruction, reduction, or augmentation; the removal of skin lesions and skin cancers; early and late reconstruction after traumatic injuries including burns; and cosmetic procedures.

Surgery, Vascular: Surgery of the vascular system includes specific carotid artery surgery, surgery for abdominal or non-cardiac thoracic aortic aneurysms, bypasses for occluded vessels in the arms or legs, embolectomies (removal of blood clots from vessels), amputations, repair of injured or traumatized arteries and veins, creation of arteriovenous fistulas (connection of artery to vein, thus bypassing capillaries) for the insertion of hemodialysis equipment, and advanced surgical techniques in balloon and laser angioplasty. Vascular surgeons see patients by referral from their primary care physician.


Urology: A urologist provides diagnosis and treatment of diseases of the urinary tract in men and women, and diseases of the male reproductive system, including tumors, congenital diseases, trauma, inflammatory problems, and treatment for fertility/ infertility and impotence. Urologists at Marquette General also perform lithotripsy, a nonsurgical treatment for kidney stones.

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