STENOSIS [sti-NOH-sis] : narrowing or blockage of a passageway


Sometimes when I am in a physician’s office the doctor will identify a medical situation, using the Latin or Greek words for it.   If the doctor is in a good mood I respond, “I love it when you talk dirty.”  Most of the time the physician will laugh with me, and then translate the condition to me in American English.

Such is the case when I went to the physician’s office recently and the P.A. indicated that she saw something on the Ultrasound I had just completed.   It told her (and my regular physician) that there was something wrong with the artery that is found right next to the Carotid Artery on the right side of the neck.

It is called the Vertebral Artery, (prounounced [vur-TEE-bral]), as it is related to the vertebrae in the spine, through which it is fed to the brain stem and into the back of the brain.

My condition, they believe, is even fancier (or dirtier) in that it is named a Vertebral Arterial Stenosis.  Isn’t that sexy?

What it means is that they believe there may be something blocking the flow of blood through the Vertebral Artery.  Maybe.  I have an appointment on Monday with the neurologist to confirm or reject the initial diagnosis.

It struck me that I have heard the word stenosis before.  (I had never heard of the Vertebral Artery.)   It is usually employed as a way of describing a blockage of some kind in arteries which I understand to mean the arteries leading from the heart.  I’ve had some experience with them, and I have 6 stents to prove it.   They were inserted into the vessels beneath my heart to overcome plaque that had built up there, preventing blood to flow where it is supposed to flow.   I understand that there are various forms of stenosis, and various forms of medical intervention to re-open the vessels, including balloons, stents, and bypass surgery.

I read some of the material on line about vertebral arterial stenosis, pretending that I understood the Greek, Latin,  and in-house jargon of the articles.  I didn’t.  I’ll wait for the neurologist to explain it on Monday.

But it also occurred to me during this amateur vascular inquiry, that there are other uses for the word stenosis.   As I referenced above, Stenosis is a Greek word that is defined as “narrowing.”   The further use of the word makes us aware of blockages or narrowing of the vessels to stop the proper function from taking place.

Am I just a political addict, or is there a contemporary application of the word to describe legislation that is intended to go through Congress and be acted upon, or would it be proper to identify legislative stenosis? Hmmm.  And to whom would I be referring?


Diagram Credit:  Oxford University Medical School

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