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Glossary of SCI Terms

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Abdominal Binder - See belly binder.

Aces - Elastic bandage used to wrap extremities to help support and prevent blood pressure from lowering.

ADL - Activities of daily living: eating, dressing, grooming, shaving, etc. Nurses, occupational and physical therapists are the main coaches for ADL, which is sometimes called DLS or daily living skills.

Ambulation - "Walking" with braces and/or crutches.

Ankylosis - Fixation of a joint leading to immobility, due to ossification or bony deposits of calcium at joints.

Anterior - The front of anything.

Anterior Cord Syndrome -An incomplete spinal injury in which all functions are absent below the level of injury except proprioception and sensation.

Antero-lateral - To the front and to the side.

Antero-posterior - To the front and to the back.

Antibody - A protein, carried in the blood, produced by the immune to system which will attack germs, viruses, and other invading agents.

Anticholinergic - A drug often prescribed for those with indwelling catheters to reduce spasms of smooth muscle, including the bladder. Anticholinergics block certain receptors (acetylcholine), resulting in inhibition of certain nerve impulses (parasympathetic). Brand names include Daricon, ProBanthine, Urispas, Ditropan, and Cystospaz. Side effects may include constipation, nausea, dry mouth, and blurred vision. Caution: combined with alcohol, anticholinergics can cause extreme drowsiness.

Antidepressant - A drug prescribed to treat depression; standard tricyclic antidepressants include Tofranil, Imvate, Elavil, Norpramin, and Adapin.

Aphasia - The change, or loss, in language function due to an injury.

Apraxia - The inability to produce voluntary speech due to a deficit in motor (muscle) programming caused by brain damage.

Arachnoid Membrane - The middle of three membranes protecting the brain and spinal cord.

Arachnoiditis - Inflammation and scarring of the membranes covering the spinal cord.

ASIA Score - A measure of function after spinal cord injury, used by physicians. "A" means complete injury; "E" means full recovery.

Astrocyte - Star-shaped glial cells which provide the necessary chemical and physical environment for nerve regeneration.

Ataxia - Failure or irregularity of muscle coordination.

Atelectasis - Loss of breathing function characterized by collapsed lung tissue.

Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) - Forms of communication that supplement or enhance speech or writing, including electronic devices, picture boards, and sign language.

Autoimmune Response - The body produces a response against itself.

Autonomic Dysreflexia (Hyperreflexia) - A syndrome attributed to interruption of spinal cord sympathetic pathways.

Autonomic Nervous System - The part of the nervous system that controls involuntary activities, including heart muscle, glands, and smooth muscle tissue. The autonomic nervous system is subdivided into the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems.

Axon - The nerve fiber that carries an impulse from the nerve cell to a target, and also carries materials from the nerve terminals back to the nerve cell.

Balkan Frame - A rectangular frame which may be placed over a hospital bed to position or increase mobility. Loops or a trapeze are often hung from the Balkan frame to assist a patient in bed activities and wheelchair transfers to and from the bed.

Belly Binder - Wide elastic binder use to help prevent a drop in blood pressure or used for cosmetic purposes to hold in abdomen. A rigid (non-elastic) binder is used to help empty the bladder in some patients.

Biofeedback - A process that provides sight or sound information about functions of the body, including blood pressure, muscle tension, etc.

Bladder Training - Method by which the bladder is trained to empty (micturition) without the use of an indwelling catheter. Involves drinking measured amounts of fluid, and allowing the bladder to fill and empty at timed intervals. See intermittent catheterization.

Body Jacket (TLSO) - A support made of plastic that fits over the chest, abdomen and upper pelvis, used to support an unstable or recently fused spine.

Bowel program - The establishment of a "habit program" or a specific time to empty the bowel - also known as a "dil" - so that regularity can be achieved.

Brown-Sequard Syndrome - An incomplete spinal cord injury where half of the cord has been damaged.

Calculi - Stones that may form in either kidney or bladder.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome - A painful disorder in the hand caused by inflammation of the median nerve in the wrist bone.

Catheter - A flexible rubber or plastic tube for withdrawing or introducing fluids into a cavity of the body, usually the bladder.

CT Scan - Computerized axial Tomography is a cross-sectional X-ray enhancement technique that greatly benefits diagnosis with high-resolution video images.

Cauda Equina - The collection of spinal roots descending from the lower part of the spinal cord.

Central Nervous System (CNS) - The CNS includes the brain and spinal cord.

Cerebrospinal Fluid (CSF) - A colorless solution similar to plasma protecting the brain and spinal cord from shock.  A lumbar puncture (spinal tap) is used to draw CSF.

Cervical - The upper spine (neck) area of the vertebral column. Cervical injuries often result in quadriplegia (tetraplegia).

Complete Lesion - An injury with no motor or sensory function below the area of the spinal cord that was damaged.

Contracture - The stiffening of a body joint to the point that it can no longer be moved through its normal range.

Condom Catheter - External urine collecting device used by males.

Creatinine Clearance - A 24-hour urine collection test to assess how the kidneys are functioning.

Crede - A technique of pressing down and inward over the bladder to facilitate voiding. Pronounced "cruh-day."

Cyst (post traumatic cystic myelopathy) - A collection of fluid within the spinal cord, which may increase pressure and lead to increased neurological deterioration, loss of sensation, pain, and dysreflexia.

Cystogram (CG) - X-ray taken after injecting dye into bladder.

Cystometric Examination - An exam measuring the pressure of forces to empty, or resisting to empty, the bladder.

Decubitus Ulcer - See pressure sore.

Demyelination - The loss of nerve fiber "insulation" due to trauma or disease, which reduces the ability of nerves to conduct impulses (as in multiple sclerosis and some kinds of SCI).

Dendrite - Microscopic tree-like fibers extending from a nerve cell (neuron). They are receptors of electrochemical nervous impulse transmissions.

Denial - Avoiding physical or emotional conflict or loss; many rehab professionals over-ascribe denial to their patients. Hoping for functional improvement should not be misunderstood as denying disability.

Dermatome - A map that shows typical function for various levels of spinal cord injury.

Derotational Splints - Long splints on legs and feet used to prevent foot drop and external rotation of the hips. These splints are used when a patient is supine.

Discharge Planning - Planning and preparation for life rehab. has been completed.

DLS (Daily Living Skills) - See ADL.

Dorsal Root - The collection of nerves entering the dorsal section (on the back) of a spinal cord segment.

Dura Mater - The outermost of three membranes protecting the brain and spinal cord, it is tough and leather-like

Dysphagia - Difficulty in swallowing.

Edema - Swelling; most commonly present in legs and feet. Edema occurs when the body tissues contain an excessive amount of fluid (plasma), increasing skin sensitivity and risk of pressure sores.

Egg-crate Mattress - Foam mattress, resembling egg cartons, that helps distribute pressure and prevent pressure sores.

Electromyogram (EMG) - A test that records the responses of muscles to electrical stimulation.

Electro-ejaculation - A means of extracting sperm from men with erectile dysfunction by using an electrical probe in the rectum. The sperm can be used to fertilize eggs in the uterus or in a test tube.

Exacerbation - A recurrence or worsening of symptoms.

Extension - Movement which brings the body or limbs into straight position.

Fairley Test - A urine test to determine the site of infection. For instance, it can determine whether infection exists in the bladder only or in a kidney as well.

FES (Functional Electric Stimulation) - The application of low-level, computer-controlled electric current to the neuromuscular system, including paralyzed muscle.

Flaccidity - A form of paralysis in which muscles are soft and limp.

Flexion - Movement which brings body or limbs into a bent position.

Foley Catheter - A rubber tube placed in the urethra, extending to the bladder, in order to empty the bladder. It is held in place with a small fluid-filled balloon.

Functional - The ability to carry out a purposeful activity.

Gait Training - Instruction in walking, with or without equipment.

Ganglioside - Complex, carbohydrate-rich lipids found in cell membranes, most concentrated at the surface of brain cells.

Glial Cells - From the Greek for "glue," glial cells are supportive cells associated with neurons. Astrocytes and oligodendrocytes are central nervous system glial cells. In the peripheral nervous system the main glial cells are called Schwann cells.

Glossopharyngeal breathing (GPB) - A means of forcing extra air into the lungs to expand the chest and achieve a functional cough. Also called "frog breathing."

Halo Traction - The process of immobilizing the upper body and cervical spine with a traction device. The device consists of a metal ring around the head, held in place with pins into the skull. A supporting frame is at tached to the ring and to a body jacket or vest to provide immobilation.

Hand Splint - See tenodesis.

Harrington Rods - Metal braces fixed along the spinal column for support and stabilization.

Hemiparesis - Partial paralysis of loss of movement on one side of the body.

Hemianopsia - Loss of part of one's
visual field in one or both eyes.

Heterotopic Ossification (HO) - The formation of new bone deposits in the connective tissue surrounding the major joints, primarily the hip and knee.

Hubbard Tank - A large full-body tank of water used for wound care and range of motion.

Hydronephrosis - A kidney distended with urine to the point that its function is impaired. Can cause uremia, the toxic retention of blood nitrogen.

Hyperreflexia - See autonomic dysreflexia.

Hyperesthesia - Grossly exaggerated tactile stimuli .

Hypothermia - An extreme lowering of the body temperature. A technique used to cool the spinal cord after injury.

Hypoxia - Lack of blood oxygen due to impaired lung function.

Immune Response - The body's defense function that produces antibodies to foreign antigens. It is important in organ and tissue transplantation since the body is likely to reject new tissues.

Incomplete Injury - Some sensation or motor control preserved below spinal cord lesion.

Incomplete Lesion - A spinal cord lesion in which some sensation or muscle function below the level of injury is preserved.

Incontinence - Lack of bowel and/or bladder control.

Indwelling Catheter - A flexible tube retained in the bladder, used for continuous urinary draining to a leg bag or other device.

Informed Consent - A patient's right to know the risks and benefits of a medical procedure.

Intermittent Catheterization (ICP) - Using a catheter for emptying the bladder on a regular schedule. See self-catheterization.

Intrathecal Baclofen - Administration of the anti-spasm drug Baclofen directly to the spinal cord by way of a surgically implanted pump.

Intravenous Pyelogram (IVP) - An X-ray of the kidney to determine function.

Ischemia - A reduction of blood flow that is thought to be a major cause of secondary injury to the brain or spinal cord after trauma.

KUB - An X-ray of the abdomen, showing the kidneys, ureters, and bladder.

Laminectomy - An operation used to relieve pressure on the spinal cord, or used to examine the extent of damage to the cord.

Late Anterior Decompression - Surgical procedure to reduce pressure on the spinal cord by removing bone fragments.

Lateral - side

Leg Bag - External bag which is strapped to the leg for collection of urine.

Lesion - an injury or wound, any pathologic or traumatic injury to the spinal cord.

Lipid Peroxidation - Lipids are the backbone of nerve cell membranes.

Lithotripsy - A non-invasive treatment for kidney stones. Shock waves, generated under water by a spark plug, crumble stones into pieces that will pass with urine.

Log Roll - Method of turning a patient without twisting the spine, used when a person's spine is unstable.

Lower Motor Neurons - These nerve fibers originate in the spinal cord and travel out of the central nervous system to muscles in the body. An injury to these nerve cells can destroy reflexes and may also affect bowel, bladder and sexual function.

Lower Motor Neuron Lesion - Any damage to the lower motor neuron or its axon (peripheral nerve) that separates the lower motor neuron from control of its muscle fibers. This type of lesion leads to flaccidity and muscle atrophy.

Lumbar - Pertaining to that area immediately below the thoracic spine; the strongest part of the spine, the lower back.

Motoneuron (motor neuron) - A nerve cell whose cell body is located in the brain and spinal cord and whose axons leave the central nervous system by way of cranial nerves or spinal roots. Motoneuron supply information to muscle. A motor unit is the combination of the motoneuron and the set of muscle fibers it innervates.

MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) - A high-tech diagnostic tool to display tissues unseen in X-rays or by other techniques.

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) - A chronic disease of the central nervous system where myelin, the insulation on nerve fibers, is lost. MS is thought to be an autoimmune dysfunction in which the body turns on itself for some unknown reason.

Myelin - A white, fatty insulating material for axons which produced in the peripheral nervous system by Schwann cells, and in the central nervous system by oligodendrocytes. Myelin is necessary for rapid signal transmission along nerve fibers, ten to one hundred times faster than in bare fibers lacking its insulation properties.

Myelogram - A diagnostic test in which an opaque liquid is injected into the spinal canal, producing an outline of it on X-rays or fluoroscope.

Nerve Growth Factor (NGF) - A "vitamin" for nerve cells. NGF, a protein, supports survival of embryonic neurons, and regulates neurotransmitters.

Neurogenic Bladder - Any bladder disturbance due to an injury of the nervous system.

Neurolysis - Destruction of peripheral nerves by radio frequency, heat, cutting or by chemical injection. Used to treat spasticity.

Neuron - A nerve cell that can receive and send information by way of synaptic connections.

Neurotransmitter - A chemical released from a neuron ending, at a synapse, to either excite or inhibit the adjacent neuron or muscle cell.

Occupational Therapist (OT) - The member of the rehabilitation team who helps maximize a person's independence.

Oligodendrocyte - A central nervous system glial cell. Oligodendrocytes are the site of myelin manufacture for central nervous system neurons (the job of Schwann cells in the peripheral nervous system).

Omentum - Well-vascularized tissue of the gut.

Osteoporosis - Loss of bone density, common in immobile bones after SCI.

Ostomy - An opening in the skin to allow for a suprapubic cystostomy (catheter drainage), for elimination of intestinal contents (colostomy or ileostomy) or for passage of air (tracheostomy).

Papavarine - A drug injected into the penis to produce an erection which acts by increasing blood flow.

Paralytic Ileus - Loss of movement in the small intestine, resulting in gas and fluid build-up. It usually lasts a few days after injury.

Paraplegia - Loss of function below the cervical spinal cord segments, wherein the upper body retains most function and sensation.

Passive Standing - Standing on one's feet while being propped up in a standing frame or other device. IUt is said to benefit bone strength.

Percussion - Forceful tapping on congested parts of the chest to facilitate postural drainage in persons with people with high-level tetraplegia.

Peripheral Nervous System - Nerves outside the spinal cord and brain (not part of the central nervous system). If damaged, peripheral nerves have the ability to regenerate.

Phrenic Nerve Stimulation - Electrical stimulation of the nerve that fires the diaphragm muscle, facilitating breathing in people with injury at the C1 or C2 level.

Physiatrist - A doctor whose specialty is physical medicine and rehabilitation.

Physical Therapist (PT) - A key member of the rehabilitation team.

Plasticity - Long-term adaptive mechanism by which the nervous system restores or modifies itself toward normal levels of function.

Posterior - Back

Postural Drainage - Using gravity to help the clear lungs of mucus by positioning the head lower than chest.

Postural Hypotension - The reduction of blood pressure resulting in light-headedness.

Preservation - The repetition of an idea or activity without an appropriate stimulus.

Pressure Release - Relieving pressure from the ischial turberosities (bones on which we sit) every 15 min. in order to prevent pressure sores.

Pressure Sore - Also known as decubitus ulcer. A potentially dangerous skin breakdown due to pressure on skin resulting in infection, tissue death.

Priapism - A dangerous condition where the penis remains erect due to retention of blood.

Prone - Lying on stomach

Proprioception - The sense of movement and position.

Prosthesis - Replacement device for a body part, for example an artificial limb.

PVR (Post Void Residual) - The volume left in bladder after the patient voids (urinates).

Quad Cough - A method of helping a patient with tetraplegia cough by applying external pressure to diaphragm, thus increasing the force and clearing the respiratory tract.

Quadraparesis - Partial loss of function all four (4) extremities of the body.

Quadriplegia - Loss of function of any injured or diseased cervical spinal cord segment, affecting all four body limbs. Outside the U.S. the term tetraplegia is used (which is etymologically more accurate, combining tetra + plegia, both from the Greek, rather than quadri + plegia, a Latin/Greek amalgam).

Range of Motion (ROM) - The normal range of movement of any body joint. Range of Motion also refers to exercises designed to maintain this range and prevent contractures.

Reciprocating Gait Orthosis (RGO) - A type of long-leg brace used for ambulation by paralyzed people. Uses cables across the back to transfer energy from leg to leg, thereby simulating a more natural gait.

Reflex - An involuntary response to a stimulus involving nerves not under control of the brain.

Reflux - The backflow of urine from the bladder into the ureters and kidney.

Regeneration - The regrowth of a cell or nerve fiber.

Rehabilitation - Retraining to normal functionality or training for new functionality.

Residual Urine - Urine that remains in the bladder after voiding. Too much left can lead to a bladder infection.

Retrograde Pyelogram (RP) - Insertion of contrast material directly into the kidney through an instrument.

Rhizotomy - The cutting, or interuption, of spinal nerve roots.

Sacral - The fused vertebrae and spinal cord below the lumbar level.

Schwann Cells - Responsible in the peripheral nervous system for myelinating axons they also provide trophic support in injury situation.

Secondary Injury - The biochemical and physiological changes that occur in the injured spinal cord after the initial trauma has done its damage.

Self-Catheterization - Intermittent catheterization, the goal of which is to empty the bladder as needed, on one's own, minimizing risk of infection.

Shunt - A tube used to drain a cavity. In the spinal cord, a shunt is used to treat a syrinx by equalizing pressures between the syrinx and the spinal fluids. In spinal bifida, it is used to reduce pressure of hydrocephalus.

Space Boots - Plastic boots with foam linens worn on the feet when lying on your side.

Spasticity - Hyperactive muscles that move or jerk involuntarily.

Sphincterotomy - The cutting of the bladder sphincter muscle to eliminate spasticity and related voiding problems.

Spinal Shock - Similar to a concussion in the brain, spinal shock causes the system shuts down.

Subluxation - Complete or partial dislocation (as in shoulder).

Suctioning - Removal of mucus and secretions from lungs. It is important for people with high-level tetraplegia who lack ability to cough.

Suprapubic Catheter - A catheter surgically inserted into the bladder by incision above the pubis.

Suprapubic Cystostomy - A small opening made in the bladder and through the abdomen, sometimes to remove large stones, more commonly to establish a catheter urinary drain.

Synapse - The specialized junction between a neuron and another neuron or muscle cell for transfer of information such as brain signals, sensory inputs, etc., along the nervous system.

Syringomyelia - The formation of a fluid-filled cavity (a syrinx) in an injured area of the spinal cord, which is a result of nerve fiber degradation and necrosis. It sometimes extends upward, extending also the neurological deficit. Treatment often includes surgery to insert a shunt for drainage of the cavity.

Syringomyelocele - A congenital neural tube defect which can cause spinal bifida in which spinal fluid fills a sac of spinal membrane.

Syrinx - A cyst; a cavity.

Tendon Lengthening - A procedure, usually involving the Achilles tendon, to treat contractures caused by spasms.

Tenodesis (Hand Splint) - Metal or plastic support for hand, wrist and/or fingers. Used to facilitate grater function to a disabled hand by transferring wrist extension into grip and finger control.

Thoracic - Pertaining to the chest, vertebrae or spinal cord segments between the cervical and lumbar areas.

Thrombophlebitis - A clot in a vein due to diminished blood flow which can occur in a paralyzed leg. Symptoms include swelling and redness.

Tilt Table - A motorized table which is used to gradually increase patients tolerance to being in a standing position. Also used to teach partial weight bearing and to give prolonged stretch in each position.

Tracheostomy - Opening in windpipe to facilitate breathing.

Upper Motor Neurons - Long nerve cells that originate in the brain and travel in tracts through the spinal cord. Any injury to these nerves cuts off contact with brain control. Reflex activity is still intact, however resulting in spasticity. For men with upper motor neuron injuries, reflex erections are possible.

Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) - Bacterial invasion of the urinary tract, which includes bladder, bladder neck and urethra. Symptoms of UTI include urine that is cloudy, contains sediment and smells foul, and fever. UTI involving the kidneys is preventable but dangerous. Medications often prescribed for UTI include Keflex, Macrodantin, Furadantin, Septra, Bactim, Mandelamine, penicillin, and amoxicillin. Side effects vary, and may include nausea and vomiting, skin rash or hives.

Ventilator - Mechanical device to facilitate breathing in persons with impaired diaphragm function.

Vertebrae - The bones that make up the spinal column.

Vital Capacity - The measure of air in a full breath. It is an important consideration for people with high-level tetraplegia who also have impaired pulmonary function.

Vital Signs - Consist of taking blood pressure, pulse, respiration and temperature.

Weaning - Gradual removal of mechanical ventilation, as patient's lung strength and vital capacity increases.

If there is a term or definition that you think needs added, please send it to me.

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