Glossary of Medical Tests
 
An integral part of your care at Beaumont® Executive Health Services is meeting your need for clear, understandable medical information. For your reference, we have assembled a partial list of medical terms, laboratory tests, and procedures that you may encounter as a client in our program. The summary definitions provided are arranged by the broad topic categories outlined below. This glossary is intended to be used as an adjunct to your relationship with a trusted medical professional and not as a source for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.
  • Blood (Hematological) Studies
  • Body Composition and Global Bone Density
  • Cardiovascular Studies
  • Endocrine and Metabolic Tests
  • Gastrointestinal Evaluations
  • General Health
  • Gynecological Evaluations
  • Kidney and Urinary Tract Tests
  • Liver, Gallbladder, and Immunological Studies
  • Pulmonary Evaluations
  • Vascular Studies

BLOOD (HEMATOLOGICAL) STUDIES

COMPLETE BLOOD COUNT (CBC) WITH PLATELETS
The CBC with platelets involves a series of distinct tests that provide detailed information about the major types of cells in the blood. The results generate useful information about the body’s overall functioning. Abnormal CBC results could be associated with a variety of diseases, including infection, anemia, B12 or folate deficiencies, autoimmune disorders, malignancies, or bleeding disorders.
IRON PANEL
Assessment of iron status includes several tests. These tests are used primarily to screen for iron deficiency or excess iron (hemochromatosis).
SERUM B12 *
Serum levels of vitamin B12 may be ordered to help diagnose certain forms of anemia or central nervous system disorders.

BODY COMPOSITION AND GLOBAL BONE DENSITY

BODY MASS INDEX (BMI)
The body mass index is a measure of weight status. In most people, an elevated BMI is a risk factor for developing certain weight-related illnesses or conditions, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, or diabetes.
DEXA BODY COMPOSITION ANALYSIS*
DEXA body composition analysis is both a global bone density screening test and a study of body fat and muscle composition. The test uses a whole-body scanner to provide estimates of three different components of body composition—bone mineral mass, fat mass, and fat-free soft tissue mass. If your bone mineral mass is found to be low, DEXA bone mineral density testing will usually be recommended. Test results are also used as a guide in evaluating whether you may be at increased risk for heart disease, diabetes, obesity, high cholesterol, or related illnesses based on tissue fat to muscle ratio.
DEXA BONE MINERAL DENSITY TESTING*
Bone mineral density testing is a screening study that is used to evaluate bone mineral content and density. DEXA (dual energy x-ray absorptiometry) uses low-dose x-rays to examine bone mass at specific sites—usually the lower spine, hips, and/or forearm. The bone mineral density test is capable of diagnosing osteoporosis at an early stage.
DIETARY/NUTRITION CONSULTATION*
Dietary counseling is provided by a registered dietitian. The consultation typically involves an assessment of a client’s nutritional needs, development of a treatment plan, and education about pertinent dietary topics. Optimizing nutrition is important for health maintenance, weight-loss management, and reduction of potential health risks associated with illnesses such as osteoporosis, diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease.
MEDGEM (MEASUREMENT OF CALORIC EXPENDITURE)*
MedGem is a portable, hand-held device that is used for evaluating and monitoring personal caloric requirements. Weight control can play a key role in overall health maintenance.
WAIST-TO-HIP RATIO (WHR)
The waist-to-hip ratio provides an indicator of fat distribution in the body. It is commonly used to distinguish between people who store body fat around their waist (apple shape) and those who store fat around their hips ( pear shape). Being overweight and having a tendency to gain weight around your waist (rather than your hips) may place you at greater risk for weight-related health problems.

CARDIOVASCULAR STUDIES

B-TYPE NATRIURETIC PEPTIDE (BNP)*
BNP is a chemical secreted by the heart’s walls in response to unusual stress. Elevated BNP levels have been shown be a prognostic marker for coronary artery disease—including first-time major cardiovascular events, stroke, and transient ischemic attacks. Growing research suggests that BNP levels can also aid in predicting risk for coronary artery disease in individuals who have no apparent symptoms.
CT (COMPUTED TOMOGRAPHY) CORONARY ANGIOGRAPHY*
CT coronary angiography is a non-invasive technology capable of obtaining high-resolution images of the heart and great vessels. It may be recommended to evaluate build-up of plaque in the coronary arteries or to detect early signs of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).
CHEST X-RAY
A chest x-ray produces a film image of the internal organs in the chest cavity, including the heart, lungs, and bone. A chest x-ray is typically ordered periodically to assess heart and lung structures. It is capable of detecting a broad range of problems, including inflammation, tumors, air or fluid accumulation, and heart size abnormalities. The test may be recommended more frequently for current and former smokers.
CORONARY CALCIUM SCORING*
Coronary calcium scoring is a non-invasive test that uses high-resolution CT technology to visualize the heart and coronary arteries. The test identifies and quantifies the extent of calcium deposits in the coronary arteries. The amount of calcium accumulated in the coronary arteries has been shown to correlate with the risk of a future cardiovascular event.
ECHOCARDIOGRAPHY (REST) *
Echocardiography is a non-invasive test that uses sound waves to capture a graphic image of the heart’s movements. The test is ordered to help evaluate the structure and function of the heart.
ECHOCARDIOGRAPHY STRESS TESTING *
The echocardiography stress test uses ultrasound images to provide information about the function of heart structures when stressed—generally by exercise or pharmaceutical methods.
ELECTROCARDIOGRAM (ECG)
An electrocardiogram graphically represents the heart’s electrical activity. The test is capable of identifying signs of heart disease or cardiac abnormalities, including the location and extent of previous heart attacks.
EXERCISE STRESS TESTING (TREADMILL STRESS TEST)*
The exercise stress test is used to evaluate the effect of exercise on your heart. The test typically measures your heart’s electrical activity as you walk on a treadmill or pedal a stationary bicycle. An exercise physiologist will then make recommendations about diet and exercise.
LIPID (CHOLESTEROL) PROFILE
The lipid profile typically includes measurements of cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood. Cholesterol values include HDL (sometimes referred to as good cholesterol) and LDL (bad cholesterol). Elevated levels of HDL may correlate with a decreased risk of heart disease; conversely, elevated levels of LDL may correlate with an increased risk of heart disease. The triglyceride test is ordered to help identify disorders of insulin and carbohydrate metabolism. Together, this group of tests may be used to help assess an individual’s risk for heart attacks, stroke, vascular disease, and renal complications.
LIPOPROTEIN (A)*
Lipoproteins are proteins in the blood that transport cholesterol, triglycerides, and other insoluble fats. Elevated levels of lipoprotein (a) are a risk factor for developing atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).
HIGH-SENSITIVITY C-REACTIVE PROTEIN (hsCRP)*
The high-sensitivity CRP blood test may be used, along with other prognostic indicators, to aid in predicting the likelihood of future cardiovascular events. CRP levels may also be used to help diagnose inflammatory disorders, infectious disease, coronary disease, and acute myocardial infarction (heart attack).
URIC ACID (SEE KIDNEY AND URINARY TRACT)

ENDOCRINE AND METABOLIC TESTS

CALCIUM
Calcium blood levels are typically measured to screen for endocrine disorders, bone disease, or kidney impairment.
ELECTROLYTES
Electrolytes are critical to a wide range of cellular functions. The electrolyte panel measures levels of sodium, potassium, chloride, and carbon dioxide. Deficiencies or increased levels of these blood electrolytes are markers for a wide range of diseases and conditions, such as kidney dysfunction, heart disease, diabetes, and muscle or nerve disorders.
ESTROGEN*
The term estrogen refers to a group of chemically similar hormones secreted by the ovaries. Estrogens may be measured to help evaluate ovarian or endocrine function or to aid in detecting estrogen-producing tumors. Laboratory testing may also be used to measure perimenopausal/menopausal hormone production or to monitor the effects of hormone replacement therapy.
GLUCOSE
A blood glucose test aids in detecting high blood glucose (hyperglycemia), low blood glucose (hypoglycemia), pre-diabetes, and diabetes.
HEMOGLOBLIN (Hg) A1C
The HgA1c test is used to monitor the effects of diabetes treatment. The test is capable of looking at your blood glucose control over the previous three months. If your HgA1c level is high, strategies will be reviewed for reducing your level and thereby decreasing your risk of future complications.
TESTOSTERONE*
The testosterone blood test assesses testosterone production. Measurement of testosterone levels in men can be useful in evaluating endocrine and sexual dysfunction.
THYROID-STIMULATING HORMONE (TSH)
The thyroid gland secretes hormones that can affect the rate at which virtually every organ functions. The TSH blood test helps identify disorders of the thyroid gland, such as primary hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid), hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid), and thyroiditis (inflammation of the thyroid gland).

GASTROINTESTINAL EVALUATIONS

COLONOSCOPY*
A colonoscopy permits visualization of the entire lining of the large intestine (colon). The procedure is often ordered to screen for inflammation, ulcers, and abnormal lesions (including early signs of cancer). A colonoscopy may also be useful for patients with a history of unexplained constipation or diarrhea, rectal bleeding, or lower abdominal pain. Tissue samples and polyps can generally be removed by the doctor during the procedure and sent for examination in the lab, as necessary.
CT COLONOGRAPHY (VIRTUAL COLONOSCOPY)*
Virtual colonoscopy produces three-dimensional (or “virtual”) images of the entire colon, as well as surrounding abdominal structures. Although the procedure typically requires less preparation than the traditional colonoscopy, the doctor is not able to remove polyps or tissue samples during this procedure. For this reason, the study is sometimes ordered as a follow-up to a conventional colonoscopy.
FLEXIBLE SIGMOIDOSCOPY*
A flexible sigmoidoscopy enables the physician to examine the lower third of the colon. The procedure may be ordered to aid in detecting bleeding, inflammation, ulcers, polyps, or other abnormalities. The test is also used to screen for early signs of cancer. In most cases, the physician can remove tissue samples and polyps for later laboratory evaluation.
HELICOBACTER PYLORI IgG (H. PYLORI)*
H. Pylori is a spiral-shaped bacterium that is associated with an increased risk of developing various gastrointestinal problems, including gastritis (inflammation of the stomach lining), bleeding, ulcers, and gastric cancer. A blood test that measures specific H. Pylori IgG antibodies can detect whether a person has become infected. Multiple treatment options are available to help eliminate this infection, if discovered.
HEMOCCULT TESTING
A Hemoccult test is designed to help detect the presence of abnormal blood in the stool. Laboratory testing of stool samples is capable of detecting unrecognized bleeding along the digestive tract from ulcers, polyps, tumors, or other source.
UPPER GASTROINTESTINAL (GI) ENDOSCOPY*
An upper GI endoscopy is a procedure that permits the doctor to evaluate and/or treat problems located in the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum (the first part of the small intestine). The examination can help diagnose various gastrointestinal disorders, including blockages, polyps, ulcers, and tumors. In many cases, this study is more sensitive and specific than the upper GI series.
UPPER GASTROINTESTINAL (GI) SERIES*
An upper GI series uses x-rays to help identify structural or functional abnormalities—including ulcers, polyps, inflammation, blockages, or tumors—in the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum (the first part of the small intestine). At the outset of the exam, you will be asked to drink a barium mixture—a liquid with the consistency of a milkshake. Barium outlines the organs more clearly and allows the radiologist to observe the digestive system working as the barium travels through it.

GENERAL HEALTH

EYE EXAMINATION*
Ophthalmologists specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of disorders of the eye. A routine eye examination can be helpful not only in evaluating vision but also in detecting eye problems or unrelated medical disorders at an early stage.
HEARING EVALUATION*
Signs of hearing loss may be subtle (e.g., trouble hearing when more than one person is speaking). Hearing loss is a medical disorder that can frequently be corrected or improved. Depending on the symptoms of your hearing difficulty, you might be referred to an otolaryngologist or an audiologist for further evaluation. An audiogram is a test performed by an audiologist to help identify the presence of a hearing loss and its cause.
IMMUNIZATION REVIEW AND UPDATE
An immunization review and update may help to reduce or eliminate the risk of contracting specific diseases caused by bacteria or viruses, including influenza, pneumonia, and tetanus/diphtheria.
LACTATE DEHYDROGENASE (LDH)
LDH is found in almost every bodily tissue—primarily in the heart, liver, red blood cells, kidneys, skeletal muscle, and lungs. LDH blood levels are typically used to identify tissue damage, such as might be seen in a broad range of diseases.

GYNECOLOGICAL EVALUATIONS

CA(CANCER ANTIGEN) 125 (SEE PELVIC ULTRASOUND TESTING)
CA 125 is a protein that may be detected in higher than normal levels in the blood of certain women with ovarian cancer. CA 125 levels, however, may also be elevated in patients with other kinds of cancer, as well as in women with a variety of benign conditions. The specificity of the CA 125 test in the detection of ovarian cancer may be improved by supplementing a series of CA 125 measurements with concurrent pelvic ultrasound testing.
CLINICAL BREAST AND LYMPH NODE EXAMINATION
Breast and lymph node examinations are performed by your physician to screen for palpable irregularities or abnormalities. These routine preventive measures for women can identify signs of breast disease or cancer, often before any other symptoms appear.
DIGITAL MAMMOGRAPHY
Digital mammography is performed under the supervision of a Beaumont radiologist at the Vattikuti Breast Care Center. State-of-the-art digital technology is used to visualize breast abnormalities or signs of breast cancer. It is of particular benefit in screening for cancers that cannot be detected by physician- or self-examination.
MENOPAUSAL HORMONAL SCREENING AND HORMONE REPLACEMENT COUNSELING*
Menopausal hormonal screening typically includes a clinical review of perimenopausal or menopausal symptoms; blood tests may also be ordered to assess hormone levels. Hormone replacement counseling is intended to help clarify the personal risks and benefits of instituting hormone replacement therapy.
PAPANICOLAOU (PAP) TEST
A PAP test, also called a PAP smear, aids in identifying changes in cervical cells. A sample of these cells is usually collected by your physician during your physical exam. Test specimens are then sent to the laboratory for review by a Beaumont pathologist. The PAP test is especially important because it is capable of detecting cervical abnormalities or early signs of cancer when no other apparent symptoms are present.
Pelvic Ultrasound Testing
Pelvic ultrasound is a test that uses sound waves to produce an electronic image of the pelvis. Pelvic ultrasound has been shown to be of value as a screening tool for ovarian and uterine cancers in women with risk factors for these diseases (such as personal or family history). The sensitivity and specificity of pelvic ultrasound as a screening tool for ovarian cancer has been found to increase when accompanied by a concurrent rise in CA 125 blood levels.

KIDNEY AND URINARY TRACT TESTS

BLOOD UREA NITROGEN (BUN)
The BUN blood test is used to help evaluate kidney function and to assist in diagnosing renal disease.
CREATININE
The creatinine blood test screens for impaired kidney function. Creatinine levels are generally regarded as a more sensitive and specific measure of kidney function than are BUN levels.
ELECTROLYTES (SEE ENDOCRINE AND METABOLIC STUDIES)
PHOSPHOROUS
Blood levels of phosphorous are examined to screen for kidney disease; acid/alkali imbalances in the blood or other tissues; and endocrine, skeletal, or calcium disorders.
PROSTATE-SPECIFIC ANTIGEN (PSA) TESTING
A PSA test is a blood test that is used to assist in the detection of cancer, inflammation, or other disorders of the prostate gland.
URIC ACID
Uric acid levels in the blood are typically measured to aid in detecting kidney disease and gout. Uric acid may also be useful as a marker of vascular injury.
URINALYSIS
Routine urinalysis involves a series of laboratory tests performed on a randomly collected urine specimen. The test is used to screen for diseases of the kidney or urinary tract, as well as unrelated metabolic or systemic illnesses such as diabetes.

LIVER, GALLBLADDER, AND IMMUNOLOGICAL STUDIES

ALANINE AMINOTRANSFERASE (ALT)
The liver contains high concentrations of ALT. Analysis of ALT levels is generally used to help diagnose liver disease and to monitor treatment.
ALBUMIN
Albumin is a protein that is formed in the liver. Albumin levels can help detect nutritional abnormalities, acute and chronic inflammatory processes, infections, kidney and liver disease, and gastrointestinal disorders.
ALKALINE PHOSPHATASE
The highest concentrations of alkaline phosphatase tend to be in the liver and bone. Enzyme levels of alkaline phosphatase can be used to help detect liver abnormalities, certain kinds of tumors, rheumatoid arthritis, endocrine disorders, and nutritional disorders.
ASPARTATE AMINOTRANSFERASE (AST)
The AST test is used primarily to help assess liver and heart function. AST is an enzyme present in the tissues of many of the body’s major organ systems. Blood AST levels rise when tissue has been damaged, such as might occur in association with liver damage or a heart attack.
BILIRUBIN
Serum levels of bilirubin are usually obtained to screen for gallbladder or liver dysfunction.
GLOBULIN
Examination of globulin proteins, often in conjunction with albumin, can be useful in detecting nutritional deficiencies, acute or chronic infection, certain immune or autoimmune disorders, liver or kidney disease, and certain types of cancer.
LACTATE DEHYDROGENASE (LDH) (SEE GENERAL HEALTH)

PULMONARY EVALUATIONS

CHEST X-RAY (SEE CARDIOVASCULAR STUDIES)
PULMONARY FUNCTION TESTS
Pulmonary function testing provides a series of measurements that help reflect how well the lungs are working. These studies can aid in the early detection of pulmonary diseases such as asthma, emphysema, and bronchitis.

VASCULAR STUDIES

CAROTID DUPLEX DOPPLER*
The carotid arteries are located in the neck and deliver part of the brain’s blood supply. A stroke can occur when the carotid arteries are unable to deliver an adequate supply of blood to the brain. The carotid duplex doppler uses ultrasound, in combination with doppler technology, to examine the structure of the carotid arteries and to detect any plaque or obstructions to blood flow.
MYOCARDIAL PERFUSION STRESS TESTING*
A myocardial perfusion stress test is a cardiac scan that involves the use of small amounts of radioactive imaging agents to help detect the presence of coronary artery or structural disease.
VASCULAR SCREENING*
Vascular screening is ordered to detect early signs of three noncardiac vascular diseases: Abdominal aortic aneurysm, carotid artery disease, and peripheral arterial disease. Vascular screening is capable of detecting silent vascular diseases—that is, conditions that may be present with no obvious symptoms. The test is generally performed to identify aortic aneurysms (weakening and ballooning of the aortic artery in the chest and abdomen); plaque buildup or obstruction of the carotid artery supplying blood to the brain; and blockages in the circulation to the legs or arms.
 
* This test is not a standard component of the executive physical. It may be ordered for you in consultation with your physician.