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Spinalnet - Spinal Cord Injuries glossary
Category: Health and Medicine > Spinal Cord Injuries
Date & country: 20/11/2007, UK
Words: 568


Chronic
Long term, e.g., a medical problem that is continuous and lasts for a long period of time.

Chronic pain syndromes
Patterns of pain that occur over a long period of time.

Circulation
Term commonly used to refer to the blood circulation – the route that the blood takes as it travels around the body through the blood vessels.

Cleansing agents
Substances that are used to clean an area, e.g., soap.

Coccyx
Small triangular bone positioned at the base of the spine. It is joined to the bottom of the sacrum.

Colon
The main part of the large intestine (large bowel). It can be divided into four parts – the ascending colon, transverse colon, descending colon and sigmoid colon. By the time the food residue reaches the colon it has already been digested, and once in the colon, excess water is absorbed back into the body. The food residue is moved along the colon …

Colonic
Relating to the colon – part of the large intestine (large bowel).

Compression
Squashing or forcing an object onto itself – usually making it take up less space. Compression of the spine occurs when the bone of the vertebrae are pushed closer together during injury.

Compression Stockings
Specialised stockings that are worn to prevent poor blood circulation in the legs.

Condom
Rubber sheath that is placed over the penis to prevent sperm or any sexually transmitted disease being passed onto the female during sex. It is a common contraceptive method – i.e., technique for preventing pregnancy.

Condom catheter
A method of draining urine in men that involves placing a rubber or plastic sheath around the penis, which is connected to a tube at the tip, along which urine can drain into a bag.

Connective tissue
Packing material that exists within and/or between the more specialised structures of the body, and acts to support, bind or separate these structures.

Constipation
Condition where it becomes difficult to empty faeces from the bowel.

Constrict
Make narrower.

Contract
An active process in which a muscle becomes shorter. This can bring about movement by creating a pulling force on the parts of the body that the muscles are attached to. Contractions may also simply change the shape of part of the body, for example, the muscles found in the walls of tubes (like blood vessels).

Contracture
Damage to a muscle or surrounding tissue that causes them to become shorter. This leads to deformity of nearby joints.

Conus
The cone shaped area at the lower end of the spinal cord (found between the eleventh thoracic vertebrae and the first lumbar vertebrae).

Coronary heart disease
Damage to the heart that occurs because its blood supply is reduced. Fatty deposits build up on the linings of the blood vessels that supply the heart muscles with blood, causing them to narrow. The narrowing reduces the blood supply to the heart muscles and causes pain known as angina.

Cranial nerves
Pairs of nerves that leave the brain and pass through holes in the skull, to lead to and from places such as the eyes, nose and muscles of the face. There are 12 pairs of cranial nerves.

Cross-infection
Becoming infected by something (e.g., bacteria), that originates from a source other than the person themselves. For example, a person who uses a catheter may become cross-infected if they catch an infection from someone else changing their catheter.

Culture
The process of ‘growing` living organisms/cells, e.g., bacteria, in special conditions to analyse them.

Curvature
A bend that may be present in a particular body structure, e.g., the spine.

Cyst
An abnormal sac or closed space in the body that is filled with fluid or semi-solid material.

Cystoscopy
Examination of the bladder using an instrument called a cystoscope. A cystoscope is a long thin instrument that is inserted into the bladder through the urethra (tube leading to the outside). It contains a light and a telescope that can relay pictures back through the instrument to a display screen.

Debridement
A method of cleaning an open wound that involves the removal of dead tissue and foreign bodies, so that healing may take place.

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT)
The formation of a blood clot (solid mass of blood) within a blood vessel – particularly the large deep veins of the lower legs. They can be caused by a prolonged lack of body movement. The clot can block the flow of blood through the vessel and if the clot stays, it can cause tissue damage, due to lack of oxygen.

Deep veins
Large veins that are well below the level of the skin (usually used to refer to veins in the lower legs).

Defecation
The process whereby the body removes/expels faeces (stools) from the bowel via, the anus.

Dehydration
The lack of sufficient water, often specifically referring to a lack of water in the body. It may occur because there is not enough water being taken into the body (drunk) or that too much is leaving the body (e.g., too much urine is being formed, excessive sweating, vomiting, etc).

Deltoid
A thick muscle that covers the shoulder and is used to lift the arm up, away from the body.

Dendrites
Short, branching outgrowths of a nerve cell (neurone) that receive messages from other nerve cells and pass them the cell body. Each nerve cell has many dendrites.

Deoxygenated
Referring to a substance from which oxygen has been removed, e.g., deoxygenated blood.

Dependent oedema
Swelling due to fluid build up within the lowest body tissues, which is caused by the effects of gravity.

Dermis
The second layer of the skin. It is a layer of living tissue directly beneath the epidermis.

Descending colon
A section of the colon (part of the large intestine) that lies down the lefthand side of the abdomen. Material enters from the transverse colon, and is moved downwards towards the final part of the colon, called the sigmoid colon.

Diabetes
A condition in which there is too much sugar (glucose) in the blood. It occurs because of problems with the production or the effectiveness of the hormone, insulin. Type I diabetes involves the body not making enough insulin, while Type II diabetes involves the body not being able to respond to insulin.

Diagnosis
The process of deciding what the nature of a disorder is, by looking at its symptoms, any background information from the patient, and the results of any tests that have been done.

Diagnostic
Refers to something that is used to indicate a particular disease or medical condition.

Dialysis
Medical procedure that filters waste products or poisons from the blood; used when the kidneys are not working correctly.

Diaphragm
A thick, dome-shaped sheet of muscle below the lungs that is involved in breathing. The term may also be used to refer to a contraceptive device used by women, which involves placing a small sheet of domed rubber into the reproductive tract to prevent the sperm entering the womb.

Diffusing
The natural movement of a substance from an area where there is a high concentration of that substance to where there is a low concentration of the same substance.

Digestion
The process by which food that has been taken into the mouth is broken down so that is can be absorbed and used by the body`s cells. Digestion involves physically breaking down the food by chewing and churning in the stomach. Food is also chemically broken down by digestive juices that are produced in the stomach and other parts of the digestive tr…

Digestive tract
The muscle-walled tube running from the mouth to the anus. It is divided into sections, such as the oesophagus, stomach and small and large intestines. Food enters at the mouth and moves along the tube, being digested (broken down) and absorbed into the body at various points along its length. Material that is left over, e.g., fibre (roughage), lea…

Digital stimulation
Stimulation of the muscles in the walls of the rectum (bowel) by inserting a gloved, lubricated finger (digit) through the anus – aimed at encouraging the passing of stools.

Dilate
Become wider.

Dislocation
Condition where bones that usually meet at a joint, have completely lost contact with each other at the joint surface and are displaced. Dislocation usually results from trauma, and a dislocated shoulder is a particularly common sports injury.

Distended
Over-expanded, swollen.

Diuretic
Substance that causes the body to lose water by increasing the amount of urine that is produced.

Doppler ultrasound
A method of using high frequency sound waves to detect blood clots.

Dorsal root
Structure (pathway) through which sensory nerves enter the ‘back` of the spinal cord.

Drug dependency
Situation that occurs when a person becomes addicted to a particular drug.

Duodenum
The first part of the small intestine (small bowel), which extends from the stomach. It is involved in digesting (breaking down) material in the food.

Dysfunction
Describes when something does not work properly.

Dyssynergia
Implies a lack of coordination. When referring to the bladder, dyssynergia means that the bladder contracts at the same time as the valves at its exit (urethral sphincters) contract, blocking the flow of urine out of the bladder. When referring to the bowel, it implies that the muscles in the bowel that push the faeces (stools) towards the outsid…

Efferent
Refers to nerves that carry messages from the brain and spinal cord towards the muscles and glands in the body, i.e., motor nerves.

Ejaculation
Process in males by which the sperm (contained in a fluid called semen) are squirted out of the penis at the point of sexual climax.

Elastic tissue
Body tissue that is strong, flexible and can be stretched, but will return to its original shape after stretching. For example, tissue found in the lungs, walls of blood vessels and the skin.

Electrical stimulation
Use of electrical pulses (applied using electrodes attached to the surface of the body) to trigger muscle contraction.

Electrocardiogram
Record of the electrical activity of the heart that is produced by placing a number of recording electrodes onto the chest area.

Electrode
A device that is used to sense or apply electrical activity.

Embolism
A blood clot that breaks off and travels around the body until it enters a blood vessel too narrow for it to continue. The blockage of this blood vessel then causes damage downstream of the embolism due to lack of oxygen and nutrients getting to this tissue.

Embryo
Name given to a baby in the first 8 weeks of development in the womb.

Enema
Administration of liquid into the rectum (bowel) through a tube, usually with the aim of triggering bowel movement and the passage of stools.

Enteral
Refers to a method of providing food to people that involves inserting a tube into the digestive tract and passing liquid food down it so that it goes directly into the tract.

Enzyme
Chemicals (proteins) produced by the body that speed up biological reactions taking place within the body, without being used up themselves.

Epidermis
The outer layer of the skin.

Epididymis
Tube that leads from the testes to the sperm duct and urethra. The sperm travel slowly from the testes and down the epididymis as they mature.

Epidural
Injection of a local anaesthetic (drug that prevents the sensation of pain) into the middle/lower back of a woman before she gives birth. The drug prevents the woman feeling pain from the chest level downwards.

Epiglottis
A flap of tissue (cartilage) located in the throat just above the larynx. It closes off the larynx during swallowing, to ensure food passes into the stomach and does not enter the airways.

Erectile dysfunction
Problems that a man may have in achieving an erect (firm) penis.

Evaporation
The process by which a substance changes from a liquid to a gas, or by which moisture is lost, e.g., the water in sweat evaporates from the surface of the skin and produces a cooling effect.

Excretion
The removal of a waste product from the body.

Excretion rate
The amount of a substance removed from the body in a given time period.

Extend
Used to describe an action that straightens a limb or part of the body.

Extensor
A muscle that is involved in straightening (extending) a limb or part of the body.

External anal sphincter
A ring of muscle around the anus that acts like a valve. It works in conjunction with another valve (the internal anal sphincter) to control the passage of faeces from the rectum (bowel) to the outside. The external anal sphincter is controlled voluntarily (consciously). It is normally contracted, and when faeces need to be removed, it relaxes.

External urethral sphincter
A valve-like structure made of a ring of muscle, located along the urethra. This valve can open and close, and works in conjunction with another valve called the internal urethral sphincter, to control when urine leaves the bladder, i.e., when urination occurs.

External urine drainage system
Artificial method of draining urine from the bladder that does not involve the insertion of catheters into the body, but rather collects the urine once it has left the body. Condom catheters (sheath placed around the penis), are connected to a drianage tube at the tip, or absorbent padding.

Faecal contamination
Traces of faeces (stools) coming into contact with areas of the body where they could potentially cause harm. For example, faecal contamination of an open wound, such as a pressure sore, could cause infection.

Faecal impaction
Condition where faeces become firmly wedged in the bowel and cannot naturally pass out through the anus because it is too hard and dry.

Faeces
The solid waste matter left after digestion of food. It is formed in the part of the large intestine (bowel) called the colon and contains indigestible food, some excess water, cells and bacteria. It is discharged from the body through the anus, when it may be referred to as stools.

Fallopian tubes
The tubes in a woman that lead from the ovaries to the womb. The female sex cells (eggs, ova) travel down these tubes towards the womb when they are released from the ovaries.

False passages
Unnatural passage/canal, that branches from a naturally occurring passage, such as the urethra (tube from the bladder to the outside). They are often caused by the unskilful introduction of instruments into the natural passage, such as the introduction of a catheter into the urethra.

Fats
Fats are the main energy store in the body and also act as insulating material under the skin and around some organs. Fat is one of the three main food forms needed by the body, with certain forms of fat being required in the diet because the body can't make them itself. Fat also helps certain vitamins to absorbed in the gut.

Fertilisation techniques
Artificial methods of fusing together the male and female sex cells (sperm and ova). The techniques may be used to produce a pregnancy when there is some difficulty in achieving fertilisation naturally.

Fibre
Also known as roughage, fibre is the part of the diet that cannot be digested to produce energy. Instead, fibre helps the digestive system by adding bulk to the faeces and aiding the function of the bowel. Foods that are high in fibre include wholemeal cereals, root vegetables, nuts and fruit.

Filter
To remove impurities or solid particles from a liquid or gas, e.g., the removal of dust particles from air that is breathed in as it passes the hairs that line the nose.

Fixation
Firmly attaching one object to another with the aim of not letting it move, e.g., fixation of a bone during surgery.

Flaccid
Limp, floppy, lacking firmness. Often used to describe muscles that have lost their firmness (muscle tone) due to lack of activity.

Flaccid bladder
Also called an areflexic bladder. This refers to the condition where the muscles in the bladder wall are limp and not able to contract, so that the bladder is not able to empty itself automatically.

Flaccid bowel
Muscles in the walls of the bowel become floppy and limp, because they no longer receive signals to contract from the spinal cord. (Some ‘self-contained` nervous activity of the bowel means that some contractions still occur, but they are much less efficient.) Because the muscles in the anus (that normally act like a valve to stop stools leaking ou…

Flaccid paralysis
Describes a condition in which people experience limp, floppy muscles that lack firmness, due to lack of activity in these muscles. Voluntary control over these muscles has been lost and they are unable to contract.

Flask-shaped sores
Type of wound/sore that has a small opening at the surface that leads to a much larger wound beneath. These wounds are often packed with dressings to ensure that the small surface wound doesn`t close over before the larger wound beneath has healed.

Flex
Used to describe an action that bends a limb or part of the body. For example, the action of bending the elbow so that the lower arm comes closer to the upper arm.

Flexor
A muscle that is involved in bending (flexing) a limb or part of the body.

Foam dressings
Type of dressing that is suitable for many types of wounds. It contains a water-absorbent foam.

Foetus
Name given to a human baby from 8 weeks after it starts developing, until birth.

Folic acid
A B vitamin that functions closely with vitamin B12. Both these vitamins are required by cells in the body that are dividing rapidly. Good dietary sources of folic acid are liver, yeast extract and green leafy vegetables.

Forebrain
The large frontal area of the human brain.

Fracture
A complete, or incomplete breakage of a bone in the body.