Page 2 Medical and Obstetrics/Gynecology Study Guide for the EMT test

Medical Terminology

It’s important that EMTs and paramedics have a good understanding of medical terminology so they can communicate effectively to other medical professionals.

Parts of a Medical Term

Medical words have different parts, including the root, suffix, and prefix, and changing one part of the word can change the entire meaning. The root word is the foundation of the word, or the main part. Most medical terms have a root word. The prefix comes before the root word and the suffix after the root word. The prefix of the root medical term often describes location. For example, in the word tonsillitis, tonsil is the root word, and itis is the suffix.

Terms/Concepts to Know: common root words, suffixes, prefixes for medical terms

Notation Shortcuts

Abbreviations, symbols, and acronyms are sometimes used in place of full terms. These can make communication easier and quicker, providing the shortcuts used are legible and accurate. For example, certain symbols may stand for post, right, or left. Using a symbol is quicker than writing the entire word. Acceptable abbreviations and symbols may vary by agency. Be sure to use only approved abbreviations and symbols when documenting.

Terms/Concepts to Know: no relevant terms

Movement and Directional Terms

Many terms are used to describe movement and direction. A few of the most crucial terms include superior, inferior, medial, and lateral. Superior refers to nearest to the head, while inferior refers to closest to the feet. Medial refers to a body part closer to the middle of the body, while lateral is a part away from the middle of the body.

Terms/Concepts to Know: proximal, distal, superficial, anterior, posterior, apex, flexion, extension

The Human Body

Understanding human anatomy is essential in providing accurate information to hospital personnel and securing appropriate treatment.

Topographical Anatomy

The human body is divided into different planes. Think of the planes of the body as imaginary lines that separate or divide it. The planes are a helpful reference when describing symptoms or injuries. The frontal planes divide the body from front to back. The transverse planes divide the body from top to bottom. The lateral plane divides the body into right and left sides.

Terms/Concepts to Know: coronal plane, axial plane, sagittal plane, midsagittal plane

Anatomy and Physiology of the Skeletal System

The skeletal symptoms gives the body its form. The skeletal system includes bones, cartilage, ligaments, and tendons. The skeletal system is divided up into two sections, including appendicular and axial. The appendicular skeletal system includes pelvis, arms, and legs. The axial skeletal system includes the vertebra, thoracic cage, skull, and facial bones.

Terms/Concepts to Know: ligaments, tendons, cartilage, thorax, cranium, vertebrae, femur, tibia, pelvis

Anatomy and Physiology of the Musculoskeletal System

The musculoskeletal system not only provides form for the body, but also protects the vital organs. In addition, muscle tissue plays a vital role in movement. The musculoskeletal system includes the voluntary muscle tissue and the bones. The three types of muscle tissue include cardia (which attaches to the heart), smooth muscle (which attaches to the blood vessels and intestines), and skeletal (which attaches to the bones).

Terms/Concepts to Know: involuntary muscle, voluntary muscle

Respiratory System Anatomy and Physiology

The respiratory system is divided into the upper and lower airway. The upper respiratory system includes the nose, mouth, jaw, pharynx, and larynx. The lower airway consists of the bronchus and the lungs. The upper airway warms and humidifies the air. The lower airway is involved in gas exchange, including taking oxygen in and expelling carbon dioxide from the lungs. The overall function of the respiratory system is to allow for ventilation, which is moving air in and out of the lungs and respiration, which is gas exchange.

Terms/Concepts to Know: nasopharynx, trachea, diaphragm, epiglottis, thyroid cartilage, alveoli, pleura, ventilation, respiration

Circulatory System Anatomy and Physiology

The circulatory system involves the heart, veins, arteries, and capillaries that carry blood through the body. The circulatory system is also called the cardiovascular system. The two main divisions of the circulatory system include the pulmonary circulation and the systemic circulation. The systemic circulation carries oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the body and back to the heart. The pulmonary circulation transports oxygen-poor blood from the heart to the lungs where it picks up oxygen to take back to the heart.

Terms/Concepts to Know: myocardium, ventricular, atrium, pulmonary veins, stroke volume, cardiac output, capillaries, perfusion

Nervous System Anatomy and Physiology

The nervous system includes the spinal cord and the brain, as well as the nerves. The nervous system plays a role in almost all other body systems. For example, the nervous system controls basic functions such as temperature, breathing, and blood pressure. The nervous system is divided into two sections: the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord) and the peripheral system (the nerves outside the brain and spine).

Terms/Concepts to Know: somatic nervous system, autonomic nervous system, brain stem, sensory nerves, motor nerves

Digestive System Anatomy and Physiology

The digestive system breaks down food and provides the body with the nutrients and calories it needs. The organs of the gastrointestinal system include hollow organs like the intestines, stomach, and bladder. If these hollow organs become perforated, waste material can spill into the abdominal cavity, causing infection. Solid organs that are part of the system include the liver, kidneys, pancreas, and spleen.

Terms/Concepts to Know: retroperitoneal, salivary glands, chyme, bile ducts

Lymphatic System Anatomy and Physiology

The lymphatic system supports the immune and circulatory system. It helps remove fluid from tissues, transports white blood cells, and absorbs fatty acids. It also removes toxins and waste from the body. The lymphatic system includes the thymus glands, lymph vessels and glands, spleen, and lymph nodes.

Terms/Concepts to Know: lymph fluid, lymph nodes

Urinary System Anatomy and Physiology

The urinary system removes waste material from the kidneys. It also controls fluid balance and helps maintain the proper pH of the blood. The urinary system includes the bladder, urethra, and ureters, and two kidneys. The kidneys filter waste material out of the blood. The ureters are hollow tube-like structures that carry liquid waste from the kidneys to the bladder, where it is stored until urination takes place. The urethra carries the urine from the bladder to the outside of the body.

Terms/Concepts to Know: peristalsis, renal pelvis

Genital System Anatomy and Physiology

The genital system involves the reproductive organs that produce life. The reproductive anatomy of the male includes the penis, testicles, and prostate gland. The female genital system includes the ovaries, fallopian tubes, cervix, uterus, and vagina.

Terms/Concepts to Know: ovaries, fallopian tubes, cervix, seminal vesicles


Pathophysiology refers to the effect disease has on normal physiological processes. EMTs and paramedics will care for patients with various conditions and diseases that affect different systems. For example, some common diseases that cause respiratory compromise include asthma, pneumonia, and COPD. Other conditions, such as shock, may affect multiple organs.

Terms/Concepts to Know: cellular respiration, shock, respiratory compromise