Glossary of Terminology

Terminology Glossary

As you learn about GERD, you will encounter lots of medical terminology; this information is presented as a quick reference resource.

GERD (reflux disease) is an acronym and there are many associated with this disease. Please visit our Alphabet Soup of Acronyms blog post for our acronym collection.

AchalasiaInability of a circular muscle, especially that of the esophagus or rectum, to relax, resulting in widening of the structure above the muscular constriction
AdhesionsAdhesions are fibrous bands that form between tissues and organs, often as a result of injury during surgery.
Angle of His

The antireflux barrier (ARB) is composed of well-defined structures that work synergistically to keep stomach contents out of the esophagus. The components of the ARB are: 

  • The gastroesophageal valve (GEV),
  • The lower esophageal sphincter (LES),
  • The crura of the diaphragm, which “pinch” the distal esophagus aiding in closing the esophagus,
  • The intra-abdominal length of the esophagus which is exposed to positive intra-abdominal pressure,
  • Esophageal peristalsis / motility and clearance,
  • Abdomino-thoracic pressure difference.
Atypical GERDGERD symptoms related to non-esophageal structures other than or in addition to, the typical heartburn, reflux, etc. Affects up to 35% of patients with classic GERD. Symptoms include asthma, cough, chronic bronchitis, pulmonary fibrosis, pneumonia; maybe due to micro-aspiration of gastric contents. Laryngitis, sinusitis, hoarseness, vocal nodules, globus hystericus are probably vagally mediated events. Other symptoms include non-cardiac chest pain, dental erosion, and hiccups. More difficult to diagnose, requires longer treatment and is less responsive to therapy. Non-responders may require fundoplication.
Barrett’s Esophagus (BE)When the squamous cell or lining is replaced by other cells that have a more cube-like shape, the condition is known as Barrett’s esophagus or the columnar-lined esophagus, referring to cells that are shaped like a column.
CardiaUpper opening of stomach that attaches to esophagus, just distal to the Z-line. Cardial incompetence refers to absence of or deficient closure of this area relative to the esophagus.
DiaphragmA shelf of muscle extending across the bottom of the ribcage. The diaphragm separates the thoracic cavity from the abdominal cavity. In its relaxed state, the diaphragm is shaped like a dome. It is controlled by the phrenic nerve.
DysphagiaDifficulty in swallowing.
EndoscopeAn illuminated usually fiber-optic flexible or rigid tubular instrument for visualizing the interior of a hollow organ or part (as the bladder or esophagus) for diagnostic or therapeutic purposes that typically has one or more channels to enable passage of instruments (as forceps or scissors)
EsophagitisInflammation of the esophagus most commonly caused by gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
Esophagogastro-duodenoscopy (EGD)Involves insertion of an endoscope through the mouth and throat into the esophagus and stomach (often while the patient is sedated) in order to assess the internal surfaces of the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum.
EsophagusOr gullet is an organ in vertebrates which consists of a muscular tube through which food passes from the pharynx to the stomach.
FundoplicationA surgical procedure in which the upper portion of the stomach is wrapped around the lower end of the esophagus and sutured in place as a treatment for the reflux of stomach contents into the esophagus
FundusLeft upper portion of the body of the stomach. This rounded part of the upper stomach allows for an accumulation of gases produced by chemical digestion.
Gas Bloat SyndromeInability to belch, leading to an accumulation of gas in the stomach or small intestine.
Gastroesophageal Valve or GEV3-4 cm musculo-mucosal fold created through the oblique angle at which the esophagus enters the stomach. It opens only for swallowing and closes promptly. When competent and fully intact, prevents the reflux of gastric contents up into the esophagus.
GE JunctionGastroesophageal junction; also called cardia. The anatomical term for the junction orifice of the stomach and the esophagus. At this level, the mucosa of the esophagus transitions into gastric mucosa.
GERD HRQL or Gastric Reflux Health Related Quality of LifeHealth related quality of life questionnaire used to objectively quantify symptom severity of GERD.
GERD or Gastroesophageal Reflux DiseaseA chronic condition in which acid from the stomach flows back into the lower esophagus, causing pain or tissue damage; also known as acid reflux.
GlobusThe sensation of having a lump in the throat when there is nothing there. A symptom of some physical disorders such as reflux laryngitis.
Greater Curve or CurvatureLeft side of the stomach from the cardia to the pylorus. It is the section of the stomach that “pouches” out.
H2-Blocker or Histamine-2 Receptor AntagonistsDrugs that prevent or block the production of gastric acid. A pump in the stomach releases hydrochloric acid when stimulated by histamine. H2 blockers prevent histamine from stimulating this pump, thereby reducing the amount of acid that is released into the stomach. H2 blockers are available over-the-counter (OTC) or by prescription. Examples, Cimetidine (Tagamet), Famotidine (Pepcid), Ranitidine (Zantac).
HeartburnOr pyrosis is a painful or burning sensation in the esophagus just below the sternum or breastbone caused by regurgitation of gastric acid. The pain often rises into the chest and may radiate to the neck, throat or angle of the jaw.
Hiatal HerniaProtrusion (or herniation) of the upper part of the stomach into the thorax through a tear or weakness in the diaphragm.
LES or Lower Esophageal SphincterA ring of smooth muscle fibers at the junction of the esophagus and stomach; also called: cardiac sphincter, gastroesophageal sphincter.
Lesser Curve or CurvatureThe right side of the stomach from the cardia (entrance at the end of the esophagus) to the pylorus (exit into the duodenum or beginning of the small bowel). It is the flatter aspect of the stomach.
LERD/LPR or Laryngopharyngeal RefluxProximal gastroesophageal reflux affecting the upper esophagus and airway with concomitant ENT symptoms or signs such as hoarseness, throat clearing, cough, sore throat, dysphagia, or globus.
Motility DisorderMuscles of the intestinal walls contract and relax in a coordinated, rhythmic fashion that propels food from the esophagus to the stomach and through the intestine to the anus. In the presence of a motility disorder, these contractions don’t occur in a coordinated fashion.
NERD or Non-erosive Reflux DiseaseOne of many types of GERD characterized as reflux disease without esophagitis, i.e. without the slow erosion of the lining of the esophagus.
OdynophagiaPain experienced when swallowing
PharynxThe section of the alimentary canal that extends from the mouth and nasal cavities to the larynx, where it becomes continuous with the esophagus.
PeritoneumThe serous membrane that lines the walls of the abdominal cavity and folds inward to enclose the viscera.
PPI or Proton Pump InhibitorsDrugs that reduce the production of acid by blocking the enzyme in the wall of the stomach that produces acid. The reduction of acid prevents ulcers and allows any ulcers that exist in the esophagus, stomach and duodenum to heal. Examples: Omeprazole (Prilosec), Iansoprazole (Prevacid), Esomeprazole (Nexium).
RefluxBackflow of contents from the stomach into the esophagus. Commonly due to transient or permanent changes in the barrier between the esophagus and stomach resulting from one or a combination of the following: incompetence of the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), transient LES relaxation, impaired expulsion of gastric reflux from the esophagus, or a hiatal hernia.
RegurgitationReturn of partly digested food from the stomach to the esophagus and mouth.
Squamous Esophageal EpitheliumLocated at the level of the esophageal mucosa, consists of flat, scale-like cells called squamous cells.
StenosisAbnormal narrowing in a blood vessel or other tubular organ or structure (esophagus). It is also sometimes called a “stricture”.
StomachBean-shaped hollow muscular organ of the gastrointestinal tract involved in the second phase of digestion, following mastication.
Stomach AcidOr gastric acid is, together with several enzymes and intrinsic factor, one of the main secretions of the stomach. Chemically it is an acid solution consisting mainly of hydrochloric acid and small quantities of potassium chloride and sodium chloride.
StrictureAn abnormal narrowing of a bodily passage due to inflammation, cancer, or the formation of scar tissue, e.g. esophageal stricture.
ThoraxThe region of the body formed by the sternum, the thoracic vertebrae and the ribs. Extends from the neck to the diaphragm not including the upper limbs.
UlcerationDevelopment of an ulcer, i.e. a lesion of the skin or a mucous membrane such as the one lining the stomach or duodenum that is accompanied by formation of pus and necrosis of surrounding tissue, usually resulting from inflammation or ischemia.
Vagus nerveEither of the tenth pair of cranial nerves that arise from the medulla and supply chiefly the viscera especially with autonomic sensory and motor fibers. (Vagally: of, relating to, mediated by, or being the vagus nerve).
Z-LineThe squamocolumnar junction where the lining changes from white esophageal [squamous] tissue to red gastric [columnar] tissue. The line is irregular hence the name Z (zigzag) line and the lower esophageal sphincter is located in this area.

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