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Glossary of Urological Terms

This glossary provides a list of the most commonly used terms in urology, together with links to additional information (e.g. external websites, patient information leaflets, other pages on this website etc)

Abacterial cystitis
Inflammation of the bladder of uncertain cause, in the absence of any bacterial infection ... More Information
Active monitoring
A term which describes careful & close follow-up of any condition (usually cancer) without any treatment; specific intervention is only implemented when there are clear signs of disease progression or a deterioration in the patient's health.  Sometimes called "active surveillance" or "watchful waiting"
A cancerous tumour developing from the glandular component of any organ (in urology, this usually applies to the prostate or kidney)
See: Cystinuria
A drug used to relieve pain (i.e. a painkiller)
A benign tumour of the kidney which arises from blood vessels and fat; it may, if it grows large enough, rupture and cause bleeding into or around the kidney
A drug that blocks the effects of the male hormone (testosterone), often used in the treatment of prostate cancer
A drug belonging to a large group of agents used to eradicate bacterial infection
Anti-inflammatory (NSAID)
A drug which reduces inflammation and helps to relieve pain, often used to treat prostatitis and the pain of kidney stones.  Also known as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID)
Assisted conception
Fertility treatment utilising sperm retrieval and fertilisation by artificial insemination (AI), in vitro fertilisation (IVF), sperm microinjection (ICSI) or transfer of a fertilised egg to the Fallopian tube (GIFT) ...  More Information
Derived or transferred from the patient’s own body
The complete absence of sperms in ejaculated semen. This is one of the causes of male-factor infertility and is usually due to failure of production of sperms by the testis or to obstruction of the tubing along which sperms normally pass ...  More Information
Inflammation / infection of the tip of the penis ...  More Information
Balanitis xerotica obliterans (BXO)
A scarring disease of the foreskin, of unknown cause, which results in a tight foreskin.  Sometimes referred to as lichen sclerosus et atrophicus (LSA) ...  More Information
Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH)
Benign enlargement of the prostate gland, invariably seen with increasing age ... More Information
A tissue sample taken from any organ or part of the body to ascertain whether any abnormality is present
Bladder cancer (TCC)
A tumour which develops in the internal lining of the bladder wall; usually a malignant transitional cell carcinoma (TCC) ... More Information
Bladder instability
Bladder training
A technique whereby the patient learns to resist the urge to urinate by passing urine according to a strict, timed schedule ... More Information
A type of radiotherapy where radioactive seeds are implanted directly into an organ, usually the prostate gland ... More Information
Calcium oxalate
The commonest constituent of kidney stones and the type of stone which is most prone to recur
A stone, usually in the kidney or ureter.  Stones may also occur in the prostate, bladder or (more rarely) in the seminal vesicles (sperm sacs)
The outermost part of the collecting system of the kidney where urine is first released for excretion dwon to the bladder
Castration (medical)
The use of drugs to antagonise the male or female hormones, having the same effect as surgical removal of the testicles or ovaries
Castration (surgical)
Removal of both testicles (in men) or ovaries (in women)
A rubberised or silicone tube passed into a hollow organ (usually the bladder) to drain its contents ... More Information
The use of drugs to treat cancer More Information
A deformity of the penis which results in a bending on erection ... More Information
Chronic retention of urine
Surgical removal of the foreskin, usually performed for phimosis ... More Information
Clavien (Clavien-Dindo) classification
A grading system for measuring the severity of surgical complications ... More Information
An operation in which stitches are inserted to lift up the bladder neck and correct stress incontinence ... More Information
The presence of one or more disorders (or diseases), together with a primary disease or disorder, which increase(s) a patient's susceptibility to complications
Computerised tomography (CT)
A form of X-ray where slices are taken through the body to produce images at different levels
Corpora cavernosa
The two erectle cylinders running along the length of the penis which fill with blood during erection
A waste product filtered from the blood by the kidneys and expelled in the urine
Destruction of a tissue or organ by freezing to a very low temperature ... More Information
Surgical removal of the bladder, usually for invasive cancer ... More Information
An inherited disorder of metabolism which results in high levels of the amino acid cystine in the urine and leads to formation of cystine stones ... More Information
Inflammation of the internal lining of the bladder ... More Information
Prolapse of the bladder into the vagina
An X-ray of the bladder where dye is inserted into the bladder using a catheter
Cystometrogram (CMG)
A technique for assessing bladder function by filling the bladder with fluid or gas and measuring the pressure inside the bladder during filling (and emptying) ... More Information
Inspection of the bladder using a telescope (either flexible or rigid) with an attached light source to illuminate the interior of the bladder ... More Information
The study of individual cells, usually in the urine, under a microscope to identify malignancy or other disorders
Cytoreductive surgery
The surgical removal of part of a malignant tumour (which cannot be completely removed) in order to reduce the bulk of the tumour and make radiation or chemotherapy more likely to be effective
Detrusor muscle
The interlocking muscle fibres which form the bladder wall, allowing the bladder to contract and empty itself of urine
Digital rectal examination (DRE, PR)
Examination of the back passage with a gloved finger, usually to feel the prostate gland
Stretching or widening of an opening, usually the urethra or neck of the bladder ... More Information
Dimethylsulfoxide (DMSO)
A chemical solution instilled into the bladder to help painful bladder conditions such as interstitial (abacterial) cystitis ... More Information
An abnormal pouch leading off the cavity of a hollow organ; most commonly seen in the bladder
Leakage after the normal passage of urine due to either obstruction (prostate or stricture) or to an abnormal outpouching of the urethra (diverticulum)
Painful passage of urine
Lying in the wrong place as a result of an inherited abnormality.  This can apply to any structure in the body but is most commonly seen with testicles and kidneys
Blocking the artery to an organ by introducing foam, coils or gel under X-ray control using a small catheter placed in the artery
A generic term for inspection of the internal lining of organs of the urinary tract using a telescope and an illuminating light source
Prolapse of the small or large bowel into the back part of the vagina
Incontinence of urine at night usually considered synonymous with bedwetting
The sperm-carrying mechanism lying behind the testis which stores sperms for ejaculation and prepares them for fertilisation
Epididymitis (epididymo-orchitis)
Inflammation / infection of the epididymis, often involving the testis as well (epididymo-orchitits) ... More Information
Erectile deformity
Erectile dysfunction (MED)
Impotence: the inability to obtain or maintain an erection sufficient for penetration and the satisfaction of both sexual partners ... More Information
The complex process of hardening & enlargement of the penis as a result of sexual stimulation
Exstrophy / Ectopia vesicae
A congenital condition where the bladder and urethra fail to close and lie on the surface of the lower abdomen open to the outside
Extracorporeal shockwave lithotripsy (ESWL)
Shockwaves generated in water, focussed and fired through the body to fragment stones in the kidney or ureter ... More Information
Leakage of urine or surgical irrigation fluid outside the urinary tract
Fournier's gangrene
A life-threatening infection, usually of the genital region, resulting in death of tissue and profound collapse (due to the toxins released by the dead tissue)
The thin bridge of skin on the under-surface of the penis joining the head of the penis to the inside of the foreskin
Passing urine too often, usually during the day
Gleason grade
A method of scoring the aggressiveness of prostate cancer by assessing the pathological appearance of the tumour under a microscope
Green light laser (PVP)
A technique for relieving prostatic obstruction using a KTP (potassium titanyl phosphate) laser which emits visible, green light
Haematospermia (haemospermia)
Blood in the semen during ejaculation ... More Information
Blood in the urine ... More Information
Filtration of the blood using an external machine to remove harmful waste products in patients whose own kidneys have failed ... More Information
A specialised molecule, found only in red blood cells, which transports oxygen around the body via the bloodstream; a shortage of haemoglobin is known as anaemia.
Having to wait an abnormally long time for the flow of urine to start
High Intensity Focussed Ultrasound (HIFU)
The use of high-energy, focused sound waves to destroy abnormal tissues or organs, currently only used experimentally on the prostate & kidney
High-Dependency Unit (HDU)
A ward area where intermediate care is provided for patients who require more careful monitoring than is available on a normal ward
Histology / Histopathology
The science of assessing tissue under a microscope to determine whether any abnormality is present
Horseshoe kidney
A rare, congenital abnormality where the two kidneys are joined together across the midline to form an inverted horseshoe
An abnormal collection of fluid in the naturally-occurring sac which surrounds the testicle ... More Information
Distension of the kidney due to obstruction, reflux or a congenital abnormality
A congenital abnormality of the penis where the urethra (urinary orifice) does not open at the tip of the penis; often associated with a downward bending of the penis (chordee)
Treatment of cancer by stimulating the natural immune response, usually with BCG (Bacille Calmette Guerin) ... More Information
In vitro fertilisation (IVF)
Involuntary leakage of urine ... More Information
Inferior vena cava
A large vein that carries de-oxygenated blood from the lower body, and lower torso, to the heart.
Inability of a couple to produce a pregnancy following a minimum of 1 year of trying without contraceptive precautions ... More Information
Intensive Therapy Unit (ITU, ICU)
A ward area where advanced life-support measures can be given to critically-ill patients before or after surgery
International Index of Erectile Function (IIEF)
A symptom score to determine the severity of erectile & ejaculatory function and their impact on quality of life ... More Information
International Prostate Symptom Score (I-PSS)
Interstitial cystitis
Intravenous urogram (IVU)
An X-ray of the kidneys, ureters and bladder performed using an injection of dye into a vein in the arm
The use of saline or other bottled fluids to keep the bladder clear of clotting blood before, during or after surgery
Juxta-glomerular apparatus (JGA)
A specialised cluster of blood vessels close to each kidney which secretes hormones that govern blood pressure & salt balance in the body
One of two paired organs (normally) which lie at the back of the abdomen, in front of the lower ribs, and filter the blood to produce urine
Kidney cancer (renal cancer)
A tumour arising from the kidney, usually an adenocarcinoma
Kidney transplant
A telescope with a light source and camera attached which is inserted into the abdominal cavity (through a small incision) to perform 'keyhole' surgery ... More Information
Light amplification by the stimulated emission of radiation; an energy source for performing some types of urological surgery
Length of stay
The number of nights that a patient stays in hospital following a surgical or investigative procedure
Crushing of a stone, usually in the bladder, to reduce it to fragments small enough to be passed spontaneously or removed through an endoscope ... More Information
Wearing away of a stone; usually synonymous with ESWL ... More Information
Lymphadenectomy (lymph node dissection)
Surgical removal of lymph nodes to determine whether they are involved with cancer ... More Information
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
A means of producing cross-sectional images of the body to characterise tissues by stimulating electrons in tissue to move in response to a strong magnetic field
A secondary tumour (remote from the original cancer) which has arisen by spread through the bloodstream, the lymphatic system or by direct seeding
See: Voiding
A diseased state, disability, or poor health
Mortality rate
A measure of the number of deaths in a given population
Multi-Disciplinary Team (MDT)
A group of clinicians, from all specialities involved in care of a particular condition, who combine to discuss individual patient problems and to recommend treatment plans for each patient
Necrotising fasciitis
Surgical removal of the kidney ... More Information
The basic microscopic unit in the kidney which filters water and waste products from the blood
Surgical removal of the kidney and ureter (the tube connecting the kidney to the bladder), usually performed for a malignant tumour of the inner lining of the kidney or ureter ... More Information
Abnormal passage of urine at night
Non-Seminomatous Germ Cell Tumour (NSGCT)
See: Teratoma
Nuclear magentic resonance (NMR)
The surgical removal of one or both testicles ... More Information
Inflammation (or infection) of a testicle
Overactive bladder (OAB)
A condtion caused by involuntary bladder contractions during filling which cannot be suppressed ... More Information
Overflow incontinence
Leakage of urine from a bladder which is permanently full.  Also known as chronic retention with overflow ... More Information
Retraction of a tight foreskin which becomes "stuck" due to an inability to return it to its original position covering the head of the penis
Partial nephrectomy
Surgical removal of part of the kidney ... More Information
Percutaneous nephrolithotomy (PCNL)
Puncture of the kidney through a small incision in the flank with passage of a telescope into the kidney which is used to visualise, fragment and extract stones ... More Information
Peritoneal dialysis (PD)
Removal of waste products from patients with kidney failure by washout of the abdominal (peritoneal) cavity through a specially-inserted catheter ... More Information
Peyronie's disease
A plaque (hardened area) that forms in the penis preventing that area from stretching and resulting in bending, indentation ("waisting") or shortening of the penis ... More Information
Tightness of the foreskin, either due to a scarring disease or as a result of a congenital abnormality ... More Information
Photoselective vaporisation of prostate (PVP)
Plasma cell balanitis
Excessive thirst which causes the patient to drink large amounts of fluid
Over-production of urine, usually at night, common in the elderly due to poor water handling ability with increasing age ... More Information
Positron emission tomography (PET)
A scanning technique, occasionally used to assess the spread of cancer, which combines radio-isotope scanning with CT or MRI
A persistent, painful erection which occurs without sexual stimulation ... More Information
A chestnut-sized organ lying at the bottom of the bladder which produces chemicals to nourish sperms and facilitate their transport to the female uterus
Removal of the prostate gland by telescopic or open surgery
Prostate-specific antigen (PSA)
A chemical released into the bloodstream by the prostate gland which may be raised in men with prostate cancer ... More Information
Infection or inflammation of the prostate gland ... More Information
An artifical implant used to replace any part of the body (e.g. a testicle)
Pyelitis / Pyelonephritis
Inflammation of the kidney, usually as a result of bacterial infection
Quality of Life Score (QoL)
A means of assessing the impact of symptoms on the overall day-today activities of patients
Radio frequency ablation (RFA)
Destruction of an organ or tissue using inserted needles which produce microwave-type energy More Information
Radio-isotope scanning (nuclear medicine imaging)
The use of low-dose, radioactive agents injected into the body to demonstrate structure and function of tissues or organs
See: Enterocele
Renal colic
Intermittent, excruciating pain produced by the passage of a stone from the kidney downwards towards the bladder
Robotic (or robotic assisted)
This describes a type of keyhole (laparoscopic) surgery where a robot is used to aid the surgeon in carrying out the procedure
Seminal vesicle
One of a pair of sacs lying behind the prostate gland which store seminal fluid and sperms in preparation for ejaculation
One of the two commonest forms of testicular cancer
An artificial or natural material inserted, usually around the urethra, to treat urinary incontinence
A muscular, valve mechanism which prevents outflow from any organ in the body (e.g. bladder, bile ducts, rectum)
Spina bifida
A congenital defect in the bones of the spinal column, often affecting the spinal cord, resulting in neurological defects in the lower part of the body
A small tube or splint inserted to keep a tube or blood vessel open More Information
Stress urinary incontinence (SUI)
The involuntary leakage of urine during periods of raised abdominal pressure (e.g. coughing, sneezing, laughing or lifting) ... More Information
Abnormal scarring or narrowing of a hollow tube
Struvite (triple phosphate)
A type of kidney stone, usually caused by infection and often occurring in women, consisting of calcium, magnesium & ammonium phosphate More Information
Symptom score
A simple questionnaire to determine the severity of a patient's symptoms (e.g. chronic pelvic pain symptoms, prostate symptoms, erectile dysfunction)
Teratoma (NSGCT)
One of the two commonest forms of testicular cancer
Testicular cancer
One of commonest tumours in young men; usually a seminoma or teratoma ... More Information
The main male hormone produced mainly by the testicles (but also, in small amounts, by the adrenal gands)
Destruction of an organ or tissue by heating to a high temperature
A staging system for cancer which describes the extent of the primary tumour (T), the lymph nodes (N) and metastases (M)
Administration of blood (or blood products) by intravenous injection ... More Information
Transfusion rate
The proportion of patients (expressed as a percentage, %) requiring a blood transfusion following surgery
Transitional cell carcinoma (TCC)
A malignant (cancerous) tumour arising from the internal lining of the urinary tract
Surgical implantation of a donated organ to replace one which has failed to work effectively ... More Information
Transurethral resection (TUR)
Usually of the prostate gland (TURP) or of a tumour in the bladder (TURBT)
Trial without catheter (TWOC)
Removal of a catheter from the bladder to re-establish normal passage of urine ... More Information
See: Erection
Ultrasound (U/S)
High-frequency sound waves used diagnostically to determine the nature of tissues by reflecting sound waves off them
A communication between the umbilicus and the top of the bladder which normally closes before birth but may persist abnormally into later life
The thin, muscular tube which propels urine down from the kidneys to the bladder
Ureteric colic
Ureteroscopy (URS)
Inspection of the ureter (and/or kidney) using a telescope (either flexible or rigid) with an attached light source passed into the bladder and up the ureter towards the kidney ... More Information
The tube through which urine passes to the outside of the body from the bladder
A sudden, irresistible desire to pass urine
Uric acid (urate)
A chemical, eliminated in the urine, whose levels can build up in the body (to produce gout) or in the kidneys (to produce stones)
An abnormal collection of varicose veins above the testicle, usually on the left side
Vas deferens
A muscular tube which carries sperm from the epididymis into the urethra during ejaculation of semen
Vascular access
A means of connecting an artery to a vein (either in the arm or leg) to allow the vein to be used for haemodialysis ... More Information
An X-ray examination performed through the vas deferens to establish the presence or absence of obstruction in the tubing; now largely obsolete due to improved sperm retrieval techniques
Passing urine
Von Hippel Lindau disease (VHL)
A rare, inherited condition causing tumours and cysts in the retina, brain and kidneys
See: Irrigation
Watchful waiting
WHO performance status
A grading system, devised by the World Health Organisation, for assessing patient fitness:
  • 0: able to carry out all normal activity without restriction
  • 1: restricted in strenuous activity but ambulatory and able to carry out light work
  • 2: ambulatory and capable of all self-care but unable to carry out any work activities; up and about more than 50% of waking hours
  • 3: symptomatic and in a chair or in bed for greater than 50% of the day but not bedridden
  • 4: completely disabled; cannot carry out any self-care; totally confined to bed or chair
Wilm's tumour
A form of kidney cancer, also known as a nephroblastoma, occurring predominantly in children ... More Information
A picture taken using non-visible wavelengths of radiation to produce images of parts of the body
Yttrium Aluminium Garnet (YAG)
A type of laser energy produced by generating laser light in a neodymium-yttrium aluminium garnet (YAG) crystal
Zoon's balanitis (plasma cell balanitis)
A type of inflammation of the foreskin and penis, only seen in the uncircumcised, characterised by dense infiltration of the tissues with plasma cells