Medical Terminology for Sensory Testing, Surgeries and Pharmacology

By Beverley Henderson, Jennifer Lee Dorsey

There are a ton of medical terms associated with the senses. If a patient runs into problems with the sensory system, you will need to know the terms for diagnostic testing, surgeries and related pharmacology.

Sensory radiology and diagnostic tests

Your physician will want to run a battery of tests if you ever encounter problems with any of your senses, particularly with the eyes and ears. There is no doubt that your body and brain get a huge percentage of incoming information from these two sense organs alone, and if you lose the capability for either, your entire world will change. These are tests to take very seriously:

  • Audiogram: The graphed test results of audiometry

  • Audiometry: An audiometer delivers acoustic stimuli of specific frequencies to determine hearing for each frequency using an instrument to measure acuity of hearing

  • Diathermy: The use of high-frequency electrical current to coagulate blood vessels within the eye

  • Gonioscopy: Involves the examination of the angle of the anterior chamber of the eye to diagnose glaucoma

  • Laser photocoagulation: Used to treat diabetic retinopathy and senile macular degeneration

  • Ophthalmoscopy: Visual examination of the interior of the eye

  • Otoscopy: Visual examination of the ear with an otoscope

  • Proetz test: Test for acuity of smell

  • Slit lamp biomicroscopy: A microscopic study of the cornea, conjunctiva, iris, lens, and vitreous humor

  • Tonometry: Measurement of the tension or pressure within the eye

  • Tuning fork test (weber’s test): A vibration source (tuning fork) is placed on forehead to note sound perception on right, left, or midline

  • Visual acuity: Test of clarity or clearness of vision; reading the Snedden eye chart of black letters in decreasing size with the chart at a distance of 20 feet. 20/20 vision indicates that letters can be clearly seen at that distance. 20/50 vision indicates the eye is able to see at 20 feet what it is supposed to be able to see at 50 feet.

  • Visual field test: Test measures the area within which objects can be seen when the eye is fixed and looking straight ahead

Surgeries and procedures

Thankfully, there is something that can be done about a lot of those common eye conditions and diseases. Surgical procedures for the eye have improved dramatically over time and often involve less invasive procedures. Either way, though, you might want to call a cab afterwards.

  • Blepharoplasty: Surgical repair of the eyelid

  • Cataract surgery: To remove the lens when a cataract has formed

  • Cryoextraction of a cataract: This method uses a cold probe to the anterior surface of the lens to lift the lens out as it adheres to the probe

  • CXL (Corneal collagen cross-linking): To treat keratoconus — not intended to correct vision but is combined with PRK to improve refractive results

  • Enucleation: Surgical removal of the eye

  • Keratoplasty: This procedure, also called a corneal transplant, involves replacement of a section of an opaque cornea with a normal transparent cornea in an effort to restore vision.

  • LASIK (Laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis): Commonly referred to as laser eye surgery or laser vision correction — to correct myopia, hyperopia, and astigmatism

  • Phacoemulsification: Removal of cataract

  • Phacoemulsification of a cataract: Involves using ultrasonic vibration to break up portions of the lens. The lens is aspirated through the ultrasonic probe.

  • PRK (Photoreactive keratectomy): Laser surgery used to reshape the cornea to reduce the need for glasses or contact lenses

  • Scleroplasty: Repair of the sclera

  • Vitrectomy: Diseased vitreous humor is removed and replaced with clear solution.

Procedures for the ear are a bit more invasive, obviously, because so much is going on within the labyrinth of canals inside your head. Some of the most common clinical and surgical procedures for the ear include

  • Fenestration: Forming an opening into the labyrinth to restore hearing

  • Labyrinthectomy: Excision of the labyrinth

  • Mastoidectomy: Excision of the mastoid bone

  • Mastoidotomy: Incision into the mastoid bone

  • Myringoplasty: Surgical repair of the tympanic membrane

  • Myringotomy: Incision of the tympanic membrane performed to release pus and relieve pressure in the middle ear

  • Stapedectomy: Excision of the stapes

  • Tympanectomy: Surgical removal of the eardrum

  • Tympanoplasty: Surgical repair of the eardrum

Sensory pharmacology

Antibiotics, corticosteroids, and antivirals are often used to treat both ear and eye infections. Most eye infections are treated with topical drugs (ointments, liquids or creams, topical meaning applied directly to the area, eye drops, ear drops, and antibiotics). Most ophthalmic antibiotics are classified as topical applications, as are corticosteroids used to treat inflammation often after surgery, trauma, or chemical contact. Here are some other sensory meds to know:

  • Balanced salt solution (BSS) is used during eye surgery to irrigate and wash the eye.

    Do not confuse BSS with normal saline, as they are not the same. BSS is a registered ophthalmic preparation used in eye surgeries, a slightly different compound than normal saline, which is a sterile salt solution.

  • Beta blockers are used to treat glaucoma.

  • Mydriatic drugs (drugs that dilate the pupil) are used at eye examinations.

  • Prostaglandin analogs are used to treat glaucoma.

  • Silver nitrate is commonly used as a topical anti-infective agent, administered to eyes of newborn infants to prevent infection.