Click on a letter below to jump to that section.
Activities of Daily Living (ADL) – Routine activities, such as bathing, dressing, grooming, feeding, etc.
Acute Rehabilitation Program – Usually begins as soon as a person is medically stable. The typical length is 2-3 months for a TBI or SCI. Treatment is provided in a medical or rehabilitation facility.
Advance Directive – Documents (such as a Living Will or Health-Care Power of Attorney) that allow you to state your preferences regarding your medical treatment, in the event you become incapacitated.
Amnesia – Memory loss.
Anoxia/Anoxic Encephalopathy – Generalized lack of oxygen supply – may be due to poor blood flow to the brain or low oxygen in the blood.
Anterior Cord Syndrome – An incomplete spinal injury in which all functions are absent below the level of injury except proprioception and sensation.
Apraxia – The inability to produce voluntary speech often caused by brain damage.
Aspiration – When food or liquid goes into the windpipe (trachea) and lungs instead of the esophagus and then the stomach. This can cause lung infection or pneumonia.
ASIA Scale – A measure of function after a spinal cord injury used by physicians. The scale has A-E classifications:
- (A) COMPLETE – No preservation of motor or sensory function.
- (B) INCOMPLETE – PRESERVED SENSATION ONLY – Preservation of any sensation below the level of injury, except phantom sensations.
- (C) INCOMPLETE – PRESERVED MOTOR NONFUNCTIONAL – Preserved motor function without useful purpose; sensory function may or may not be preserved.
- (D) INCOMPLETE – PRESERVED MOTOR FUNCTIONAL – Motor function is preserved below neurologic level and at least half of the key muscle groups below neurologic level have a muscle grade >3
- (E) COMPLETE RECOVERY – Complete return of all motor and sensory function, but may still have abnormal reflexes.
Ataxia – A type of muscular in-coordination.
Attention Span – The amount of time a person can concentrate on a particular task.
Attorney-In-Fact – Person you choose to make decisions on your behalf if you become disabled.
Atrophy – Deterioration or loss of tissue.
Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) – Forms of communication that supplement or enhance speech or writing, including voice augmentation devices, computers, communication boards, etc.
Autoimmune Response – The body produces a response against its own healthy cells.
Autonomic Dysreflexia (Hyperreflexia) – A condition of dangerously high blood pressure, sweating, chills, headache, and facial flushing. Usually occurs in individuals with SCI above the 6th thoracic level
Balance – The ability to use appropriate righting and equilibrium reactions to maintain an upright position. It is usually tested in sitting and standing positions.
Behavior Modifications – Interaction with a person in a way which either decreases, increases or maintains specific behavior. The techniques of behavior modification are generally intended to facilitate improved self-control by expanding the individual’s skills, abilities and independence.
Bilateral – Affecting both sides
Bladder Training – The method by which the bladder is trained to empty (without) the use of an indwelling catheter (see intermittent catheterization program).
Brain Stem – The lower extension of the brain connected to the spinal cord. Neurological functions located in the brain stem include those necessary for survival – being awake or alert. Brain stem injuries commonly occur in traumas when there is a TBI or SCI.
Caudia Equina Syndrome – This condition occurs when the Caudia and Equina nerve routes become compacted. This causes an interruption in the sensory and motor capabilities to the bladder and lower extremities. This condition usually occurs with fractures below the L2 level and results in flaccid-type paralysis.
Central Cord Syndrome – Central Cord Syndrome (CCS) is the most common form of cervical spinal cord injury. There is usually loss of motion and sensation in arms and hands. This condition usually results from trauma which causes damage to the neck, leading to major injury to the central gray matter of the spinal cord.
Cerebellum – The portion of the brain which helps coordinates movement. Damage may result in ataxia.
Cerebral Infarct – When the blood supply is reduced below a critical level and the brain tissue in that region dies.
Closed Head Injury – Trauma to the head which does not penetrate the skull but which damages the brain.
Cognitive Deficit – A reduction in one or more “thinking” skills which include: attention, concentration, memory, sequential thought organization, judgment, reasoning and problem-solving.
Coma – A state of unarousable unresponsiveness with eyes closed.
Coma Stimulation – Coma Awareness Program – Intensive inpatient treatment that charts the opening and closing of patient’s eyes, and tests whether patients can register sights and sounds. EEG’s are used to monitor brain activity and experiment with drugs and stimulants to attempt to develop a system of communication with the traumatically injured patient, whether it is blinking of the eyes, or a jerk of the hand, etc.
Complete Lesion – An injury with no motor or sensory function below the area of the spinal cord that was damaged.
Concussion – Brief loss of consciousness.
Confabulation – Making up facts or events.
Contracture – Loss of full movement of a joint.
Contrecoup – Injuries on the side of the brain opposite the point of impact.
Decubitus or Decubitus Ulcer – Often described as pressure sore, pressure ulcer, bed sore, skin opening or skin breakdown. A discolored or open area of skin caused by pressure. Common areas most prone to breakdown are buttocks or backside, hips, shoulder blades, heels, ankles and elbows.
Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) – A blood clot in a vein, most commonly seen in the calf or thigh.
Demyelination – Disease or condition that results in damage to the protective covering (myelin sheath) surrounding nerve fibers in the brain and spinal cord. When the myelin sheath is damaged, nerve impulses slow or even stop, causing neurological problems.
Dendrite – A short microscopic tree-like branched extension of a nerve cell, along which impulses received from other cells at synapses are transmitted to the cell body.
Diffuse – Diffuse Axonal Injury – Brain damage which involves many areas of the brain rather than one specific location. A Diffuse Axonal Injury is the most common type of head injury, and is classified as a closed head injury.
Discharge Planning – Planning and preparation for short term or long term rehabilitation care, or home care. Hospital social workers and case managers usually aid in the discharge planning process.
Disinhibition – Inability to control or inhibit emotions and impulses
Do-Not-Resuscitate (DNR) Order – An order in a patient’s medical record, directing the treating doctors and health care professionals to withhold cardio-pulmonary resuscitation. Another term for a DNR order is “No Code”.
Dysarthria – “Slurred” speech due to paralysis or weakness of tongue, lips, soft palate and/or other facial muscles involved in the production of speech.
Edema – Swelling caused by fluid retention.
Epilepsy – Seizure disorder, which are misfirings of the brain’s electrical system.
Evoked Potentials – Recording electrical activity in the brain in response to specific visual, auditory or sensory stimulation. May help further determine brain damage.
FES (Functional Electric Stimulation) – The application of low-level, computer-controlled electric current to the neuromuscular system, including paralyzed muscles to help improve or restore their function.
Flaccidity – A form of spinal cord injury that often results in paralysis in which muscles are soft and limp.
Flexion – Bending a joint.
Focal – Restricted in one region (as opposed to diffuse)
Foley/Foley Catheter – Catheter designed to stay in bladder for a period of time to drain urine; empties into a bag.
Fractured Skull – Generally, head injuries may be broadly classified as either open head injury, in which the skull is penetrated, or closed head injury, where no actual penetration has occurred. Skull fractures frequently occur with head injuries and may be either depressed or non-depressed. A fractured skull with an open wound or gunshot wound to the head are examples of open head injuries.
Gait – Pattern of Walking. Gait training is instruction in walking.
Gastrostomy Tube – Tube placed into the stomach through an incision in the abdomen. It is used to feed people with long-term swallowing problems.
Glasgow Coma Scale – Glasgow Coma Scale is the most common scoring system used to describe the level of consciousness in a person following a traumatic brain injury. It is based on eye opening, verbal and motor responses. Basically, it is used to help gauge the severity of an acute brain injury and monitoring changes and level of consciousness. The minimum score is a 3 which indicates deep coma or a brain-dead state. The maximum is 15 which indicates a fully awake patient.
Halo Traction – The patient’s upper body and cervical spine is immobilized with a traction device. The device can consists of a metal ring around the head, held in place with pins into the skull.
Harrington Rods – Metal braces fixed along the spinal column for support and stabilization.
Hemiplegia, Hemiparesis – Refers to varying degrees of loss of control or weakness of either the right or left half of the body, resulting from injury to the opposite side of the brain. Bilateral hemiplegia can result from injury to both sides of the brain.
Hemisphere – One of the two halves of the brain
Heterotopic Ossification (HO) – The formation on new bone deposits in the connective tissue surrounding the joints (primarily the hip and knee). This condition often occurs as a result of prolonged immobilization and bedrest).
Hydrocephalus – Enlargement of fluid filled cavities in the brain.
Hypoxia/ Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy or HIE – Brain injury caused by lack of oxygen to the brain. The body can compensate for brief periods of depleted oxygen, but if the asphyxia last too long, brain tissue is destroyed.
Incompetent – Some states use the word incompetent, but some states use the words incapacitated person instead of incompetent. A person is incapacitated if they lack the ability to understand and appreciate the nature and consequence of medical and other legal decisions.
Incontinent – The inability to control one’s bladder and/or bowel. Many people who are incontinent can become continent with training.
Informed Consent – A patient’s right to know the risks and benefits of a medical procedure.
Intermittent Catheterization Program (ICP) – Bladder training program where a catheter is inserted to empty the bladder at regular time intervals.
Intrathecal Baclofen – Administration of the anti-spasm drug Baclofen directly to the spinal cord by way of a surgically implanted pump.
Laminectomy – A surgical operation used to relieve pressure on the spinal cord, or to explore the extent of damage to the spinal cord.
Neurogenic Bladder – Dysfunction of the bladder caused by neurologic damage. Symptoms can include overflow incontinence, frequency, urgency, urge incontinence, and retention. Risk of serious complications (e.g., recurrent infection, vesicoureteral reflux, autonomic dysreflexia) is high.
Neuropathic/Spinal Cord Pain – Neuropathic (nerve generated) pain is a problem experienced by SCI patients. A sharp, almost electrical shock, type of pain will be felt to the left of the injury and is the result of damage to the spine and soft tissue surrounding the spine.
Neuropsychological Testing – The most common type of subjective-testing offered as proof of a traumatic brain injury is neuropsychological testing. The testing can help your doctor find out how damage to your brain is affecting your ability to reason, concentrate, solve problems, or remember. The testing will often demonstrate cognitive deficits for a patient, since more traditional testing methods, such as CAT scans, X-rays, MRI’s may not document objective findings of organic impairment. Evidence based on “subjective testing” such as neuropsychological testing will be viewed more favorably by insurance companies and the courts if there is additional evidence such as a positive MRI, EEG, etc.
Paraplegia –Partial or complete loss of motor and/or sensory function of the lower half of the body with involvement of both legs that is usually due to injury or disease of the spinal cord in the thoracic, lumbar or sacral region. Hemiplegia refers to one side of the body. Quadriplegia refers to both sides of the body from the neck down.
Parietal Lobes – The parietal lobes can be divided into two functional regions of the brain.
Right – Damage to this area can cause visuospatial deficits (e.g., the patient may have difficulty finding his way around new or familiar places).
Left – Damage to this area may disrupt a patient’s ability to understand spoken and/or written language.
Preservation – Uncontrollable repetition of a particular response, such as a word, phrase, or gesture, despite the absence or cessation of a stimulus.
Plateau – A temporary or permanent leveling off in a recovery process.
Post Concussive Injury/Post Concussive Syndrome – A complex disorder in which various symptoms, such as mild depression, persistent headaches, poor balance, etc., occur after the injury that caused the concussion. Most concussive injuries are a mild traumatic brain injury, usually after a blow or trauma to the head.
Rancho Scale – The Rancho Los Amigos Scale enables doctors to determine a traumatic brain injury patient’s state of consciousness, extent of brain damage, and prognosis by referring to levels 1-8. The scale also allows neurologists and brain injury rehabilitation experts to evaluate a victim’s behavior as he or she progresses through traumatic brain injury treatment. The level of cognitive functioning scale was developed by the head injury team at Rancho Los Amigos Hospital. The scale is useful for health care professionals and families since, by referring to levels 1-8, family members and professionals can “speak the same language”.
Reflux – The backflow of urine from the bladder into the ureters and kidney.
Seizure – An uncontrolled discharge of nerve cells which may spread to other cells nearby or throughout the entire brain. Usually lasts only a few minutes at most. May be associated with loss of consciousness, loss of bowel and bladder control and tremors. May also cause aggressive or other behavior change.
Shunt – A surgically placed tube running from the ventricles to deposit fluid into either the abdominal cavity, heart or large veins of the neck. The purpose is to drain the ventricles in the brain when the normal “drainage” system is not functioning properly.
Skin Breakdown – Skin breakdowns occur as a result of excessive pressure, primarily over the bones or the buttock area.
Skull Fracture – The term used to describe the breaking of the bones surrounding the brain. A depressed skull fracture is one in which the broken bone(s) exert pressure on the brain.
Spasticity – Is a condition in which certain muscles are continuously contracted. This contraction causes stiffness or tightness of the muscles and can interfere with normal movement, speech, and gait. Spasticity is usually caused by damage to the portion of the brain or spinal cord that controls voluntary movement.
Subluxation – Partial dislocation or separation of a joint.
Tetraplegia – Also known as quadriplegia, is paralysis caused by illness or injury that results in the partial or total loss of use of all four limbs and torso; paraplegia is similar but does not affect the arms. The loss is usually sensory and motor, which means that both sensation and control are lost.
Tracheotomy/Trach – A surgical opening (hole) at the front of the throat providing access to the trachea or windpipe.
Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) – A urinary tract infection (UTI) is a bacterial infection in any part of your urinary system — your kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra. This can cause fever, chills, burning on urination, urgency, frequency, incontinence, foul smelling urine. Side effects vary, and may include nausea and vomiting, skin rash or hives. UTI’s commonly occurs in individuals with a spinal cord injury.
Ventilator – Mechanical device to facilitate breathing in a person with impaired diaphragm function.
Weaning – Gradual removal of mechanical ventilation, as patient’s lung strength and vital capacity increases.