Suffixes for Medical Procedures

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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Adrianne Baron

Adrianne has taught high school and college biology and has a master's degree in cancer biology.

This lesson will cover the most commonly used suffixes that describe procedures that are performed on the body. We will also look at some examples of terms that use the suffixes.


Medical terms are formed using a combination of a prefix, word root, and suffix. Not all medical terms have prefixes or word roots, but they will all contain suffixes. The suffix of a medical term gives action to the term. It does this by telling what the subject in the term is doing, having done to it, or who is doing something with it. The suffixes can be grouped into categories based on the information provided in a suffix. The different categories include conditions, signs and symptoms, diseases, procedures, and nouns. We are going to focus on the procedure suffixes in this lesson.

Suffixes for Procedures

One of the procedure suffixes is '-centesis', meaning surgical puncture to remove fluid. You may have heard of a pregnant woman having an amniocentesis done, which is a surgical puncture to remove fluid from the amniotic sac. Another example is arthrocentesis, meaning a surgical puncture to remove fluid from a joint.

Another procedure that can be done is surgical fixation or surgical binding. The suffix indicating this is '-desis'. This also commonly involves the joints. Arthrodesis uses this suffix and means surgical fixation of the joint.

There is another suffix with a similar meaning. The suffix '-pexy' means surgical fixation or suspension. A term that uses this suffix is 'cystopexy', which is when a physician has to do fixation or suspension of the bladder.

The suffix '-ectomy' means surgical removal. This can be used to explain the removal of various structures in the body. For instance, hysterectomy is a very common procedure for surgical removal of the uterus. Another example is cholecystectomy, which is the surgical removal of the gall bladder.

There are times that something can be repaired instead of needing to be removed. The suffix for this is '-plasty', meaning surgical repair. One of the most common repair procedures is surgical repair of the nose, which is called rhinoplasty.

'-stomy' is a suffix that is used to describe the surgical creation of an opening. This is commonly seen in the term 'colostomy', meaning surgical creation of an opening into the colon of the intestines. This is the procedure that was done when you see a person with a little pouch hanging on the outside of the body around a lower abdominal area.

There is another suffix that is kind of similar which is '-tomy', meaning incision or cutting into. This procedure is sometimes needed when people are not able to breathe on their own. A tracheotomy is done to make an incision into the trachea to allow for breathing.

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