Glossary of Terms

The words ‘renal’, ‘kidney’, and ‘nephrology’ are used interchangeably throughout the site.  All terms below, expect those marked “*” are taken, with permission, from the The Living Kidney Disease Manual, Fourth Edition by the Kidney Foundation of Canada.

 

Acute kidney failure

Rapid, sudden loss of kidney function, often reversible.

 

Anemia

Medical condition in which the number of red blood cells (the blood count) is reduced.

 

Antibody

A protein produced in the body to fight an invasion by foreign material (antigen).

 

Antigen

Any substance not normally present in the body which causes production of an antibody (examples include a transplant and infections).

 

Antithymocyte globulin (ATG)

Medication used to prevent or treat rejection of a transplanted kidney.

 

Artery

Blood vessel taking blood from the heart to other parts of the body.

 

Artificial kidney

See dialyzer.

 

Automated or cycler peritoneal dialysis (APD)

Form of continuous peritoneal dialysis in which a machine called an automatic cycler performs regular exchanges throughout the night.

 

Autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease (ADPKD)

Inherited kidney disease which produces fluid-filled cysts in the kidneys and other organ systems.

 

Azathioprine

Medication used to prevent rejection of a transplanted kidney.

 

Bladder

An expandable sack which collects and holds urine.

 

Calcium

Mineral that is important for bone growth and body function.

 

Calories

Measure of energy value of food.

 

Catheter

Hollow tube used to transport fluids to or from the body.

 

Cholesterol

A type of fat found in most body tissues.

 

Chronic kidney disease (CKD)

Kidney function which is less than normal and will never get better. This condition might be mild and might only need to be watched by your doctor (usually called Stage 1 or Stage 2).  Or it might be slowly getting worse and will need to be watched more carefully to avoid symptoms and complications.  Stage 5 CKD is also called End-stage renal disease (ESRD),end-stage kidney disease, or end-stage kidney failure. This is when you need dialysis or a transplant to continue to live.

 

Conservative care

A treatment option which aims to provide physical and

emotional comfort care, instead of extended life.

 

Continuous ambulatory peritoneal dialysis (CAPD)

Form of peritoneal dialysis in which dialysis fluid is exchanged at regular intervals throughout the 24-hour day.

 

Creatinine

Waste product of muscle activity.

 

Cross match

Blood test to measure the compatibility of a blood transfusion, or of a transplant donor and recipient.

 

Cyclosporine

Medication used to prevent rejection of a transplanted kidney.

 

Cytotoxic antibody

Substance in the blood (antibody) designed to kill the antigen; usually means that the body would reject a transplanted kidney.

 

Daily eating plan

Plan worked out by a dietitian and a kidney patient which determines the types and amounts of foods which should be eaten daily.

 

Diabetes mellitus (Type 1)

Disease of the pancreas in which the production of insulin is decreased. Commonly called diabetes.

 

Diabetes mellitus (Type 2)

Disease in which the body does not use the insulin that the pancreas makes. Also commonly called diabetes.

 

Dialysis

From Greek, meaning “to separate or dissolve.” A treatment for kidney failure which removes wastes and water from the blood.

 

Dialysis fluid

Special fluid used in dialysis into which wastes are passed.  Also called dialyzate, or bath.

 

Dialyzer

The part of an artificial kidney machine which acts like a filter to remove wastes from the blood.

 

Dry weight

The body weight achieved when extra fluid is removed during dialysis. Sometimes called target weight.

 

Edema

Swelling of the body tissues (usually ankles or lungs) due to salt and water retention.

 

eGFR

Estimated glomerular filtration rate (see GFR). The eGFR is estimated by a mathematical calculation using blood tests and other information in order to get an approximate measure of the amount of kidney function present.

End-stage renal disease (ESRD)

Stage 5 in chronic kidney disease when treatment, such as dialysis or transplantation, becomes necessary. “End-stage” refers to the end of kidney function. Also called end-stage renal failure or end-stage kidney failure.

 

Energy foods

Foods, particularly sugars and fats, which provide the body with energy. Usually measured in calories.

 

Erythropoietin (EPO)

Hormone which stimulates the bone marrow to produce red blood cells. The hormone is naturally produced by the kidneys, and is also available as a family of injectable medications.

 

Exchange

One complete cycle of peritoneal dialysis, consisting of inflow, equilibration (also called dwell), and outflow.

 

Fistula

Commonly used method of providing access to the bloodstream in which a vein and an artery in the arm are joined together.

 

FK506

Medication used to prevent rejection of a transplanted kidney.  See tacrolimus.

 

GFR

Glomerular Filtration Rate is an accurate measure of kidney function which usually requires specialized tests. Doctors can approximate this measure. The approximated result is called “estimated GFR”. See eGFR.

 

Glomerulonephritis

Condition in which the glomeruli, the tiny filters which clean the blood, are damaged. Often referred to as nephritis. There are many causes.

 

Glomerulus

Microscopic filter in the kidney which separates excess water and wastes from the blood. More than one glomerulus are called glomeruli.

 

Graft

A vein and an artery in the arm are joined with a piece of special tubing. The graft provides access to the bloodstream for dialysis.

 

Hemodialysis

Treatment for kidney failure in which the blood passes through a dialyzer to remove wastes and water.

 

Hemoglobin

The protein in red blood cells which carries oxygen.

 

Heparin

Substance often added to blood during hemodialysis to prevent it from clotting in the dialyzer.

 

Home nocturnal hemodialysis

Method of carrying out hemodialysis at home while you sleep.

Hormone

Chemical messenger which regulates bodily functions such as blood pressure and the making of red blood cells.

 

Hypertension

High blood pressure. May be either a cause or a result of kidney disease.

 

Immune system

System which protects the body from foreign materials such as viruses and bacteria.

 

Immunosuppressants

Medications which suppress (decrease) the body’s immune system and help prevent rejection of a transplanted kidney.

 

Insulin

Hormone produced by the pancreas which regulates the level of glucose (sugar) in the blood.

 

Jugular vein

Blood vessel located in the side of the neck sometimes used to provide access for hemodialysis.

Kidney

One of two organs located at the back of the abdominal cavity on each side of the spinal column.

 

Kidney failure

Progressive deterioration in kidney function. Also called chronic kidney disease (Stages 1 to 5).

 

Live donor transplant

Type of kidney transplant in which a kidney is donated by a live donor, often a blood relative.

 

Lupus

Commonly used term for systemic lupus erythematosus.

 

Lymphocytes

White blood cells which are part of the immune system and which are involved in transplant rejection.

 

Membrane

Porous material which is used to filter wastes from the blood.

 

Muromonab CD-3

Medication used to treat or prevent rejection of a transplanted kidney.

 

Mycophenolate mofetil

Medication used to prevent rejection of a transplanted kidney.

 

Nephritis

See glomerulonephritis.

 

Nephron

The functional unit of the kidney which acts to maintain the body’s chemical balance. Consists of a filter (glomerulus) attached to a tubule.

 

Non-living transplant

Type of kidney transplant in which a kidney is donated from someone who has died suddenly. Also called deceased donor transplant or cadaveric transplant.

 

nPNA (normalized protein-equivalent of nitrogen appearance)*       Shows how much protein you have eaten over a period of time, a part of urea kinetic modeling (see below).  Ask your Dietitian for your results.

Nutrition supplement*   

A specialized meal replacement that gives you extra nutrition. It can help to stop unhealthy weight loss and keep you at a healthy weight when you have a low appetite. Some examples are Boost, Ensure, Nepro, and Novasource Renal

Peritoneal cavity

Abdominal cavity (tummy) which contains the intestines and other internal organs.

 

Peritoneal dialysis

Treatment for kidney failure in which dialysis fluid is introduced into the peritoneal cavity to remove wastes and water from the blood.

 

Peritoneum

Thin membrane which encloses the peritoneal cavity and surrounds the abdominal organs.

 

Phosphate binder

Medication which binds with some of the phosphate when the food is in the stomach and intestine causing the phosphate to be passed in the stool instead of letting it get into the blood.

 

Phosphorus (phosphate)

Mineral in many nutritious foods. In the body fluids it is regulated by the kidneys. At normal levels, keeps bones strong and healthy. At high levels, causes itching, painful joints, and parathyroid and bone disease.

 

Platelets

Cells in the blood which are involved in blood clotting.

 

Potassium

Mineral in the body fluids regulated by the kidneys. At normal levels, helps nerves and muscles work well. At high levels, may stop the heart.

 

Prednisone

Medication like cortisone, used to prevent rejection of a transplanted kidney. A relative of prednisone may be used to treat rejection in higher doses given intravenously.

 

Protein

Substance obtained from food which builds, repairs and maintains body tissues. High sources of protein are mainly from animal foods.

 

Red blood cells

Cells in the blood which carry oxygen to the body tissues.

 

Reflux nephropathy

Condition in which the kidneys are scarred because of an abnormal flow of urine from the bladder backwards into the kidney.

 

Rejection

Process in which the body recognizes that a transplanted

organ is not its own and mobilizes the immune system to

fight against it.

 

Renal artery

Major vessel which delivers blood to the kidneys for cleaning.

 

Renal pelvis

Funnel-like structure which collects urine from the kidney and delivers it to the ureter.

 

Renal replacement therapy (RRT)

A treatment, such as dialysis or transplantation, which attempts to replace the normal functioning of the kidneys.

 

Renal vein

Major vessel which returns freshly cleaned blood from the kidneys to the circulatory system.

 

Renin

Hormone produced by the kidneys which regulates blood pressure.

 

Serum creatinine level

Blood test to measure the level of creatinine, which is a waste product of muscle activity. As kidney function decreases, the serum creatinine level increases.

 

Sirolimus

Medication used to prevent rejection of a transplanted kidney.

 

Sodium

Mineral in the body fluids which increases thirst and is regulated by the kidneys. Affects the level of water retained in the body tissues.

 

Steroid

Medication which reduces inflammation and acts as an immunosuppressant. Prednisone is an example. Not to be confused with anabolic steroids which are a medication sometimes abused by some athletes.

 

Subclavian vein

Blood vessel located underneath the collarbone sometimes

used to provide access for hemodialysis.

 

Systemic lupus erythematosus

Disease of the immune system which may affect a number of

organs, including the kidneys.

 

Tacrolimus (FK506)

Medication used to prevent rejection of a transplanted kidney.

 

Target weight

The body weight which is “targeted” after extra fluid is removed during dialysis.When all of the body’s extra fluid is gone, this is the dry weight.

 

Tissue typing

Laboratory test to determine the genetic makeup of a person.  Used to ensure compatibility of a kidney before transplant.

 

Tubule

Tube in the nephron which collects and processes urine from the glomerulus before the urine passes into the renal pelvis.

 

Ultrafiltration

Process in which blood entering a dialyzer is placed under pressure to remove excess water.

 

Urea

Waste product from the breakdown of protein.

 

Urea kinetic modeling (also called UKM)*

Calculates how well your dialysis is working.  If you have urine output, your nurse will sometimes ask you to do a urine collection so we can use that in the calculations.

Uremia

Condition caused by build-up of waste products in the blood.

 

Ureter

Tube which takes urine from the renal pelvis and delivers it into the bladder.

Urethra

Tube from the bladder which takes urine out of the body.

 

Urinalysis

Test to measure the presence of protein and other substances in the urine.

 

Vein

Blood vessel returning blood to the heart.

 

White blood cells

Cells in the blood which fight infection and are active in the process of kidney rejection.

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Last Updated May 15, 2014 | © 2007, LHSC, London Ontario Canada