General Medical Terms

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Accessory organ

A lump of tissue adjacent to an organ that is similar to it, but which serves no important purpose, if functional at all. While not necessarily harmful, such organs can cause problems if they grow too large or become cancerous. In any case, their presence points to an underlying abnormality in the parent organ.



In medical usage, benign is the opposite of malignant. It describes an abnormal growth that is stable, treatable and generally not life-threatening.


The surgical removal and analysis of a tissue sample for diagnostic purposes. Usually, the term refers to the collection and analysis of tissue from a suspected tumor to establish malignancy.



Any type of hard concretion (stone) in the body, but usually found in the gallbladder, pancreas and kidneys. They are formed by the accumulation of excess mineral salts and other organic material such as blood or mucous. Calculi (pl.) can cause problems by lodging in and obstructing the proper flow of fluids, such as bile to the intestines or urine to the bladder.


A chronic liver disease characterized by the invasion of connective tissue and the degeneration of proper functioning—jaundice is often an accompanying symptom. Causes of cirrhosis include alcoholism, metabolic diseases, syphilis and congestive heart disease.

Common bile duct

The branching passage through which bile necessary digestive enzyme travels from the liver and gallbladder into the small intestine. Digestive enzymes from the pancreas also enter the intestines through the common bile duct.

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