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


Reflux
The flow of liquid back to where it originally came from. For example, there may be back-flow/reflux of urine from the bladder back up to the kidneys.

Rehabilitation
The process of recovering from injury or disorder. With respect to spinal cord injury, rehabilitation involves becoming proficient in as many of the skills of normal daily living as possible. This may be relearning skills, such as control over certain movements, or finding new ways of doing tasks, such as those involved in managing the bladder and …

Rehydration
The process of giving a combination of fluids and salts to a person whose body is currently lacking the correct amount or balance of fluid.

Relax
When the muscle is resting (it is not contracted) it is said to be ‘relaxed`. It involves a reduction of tension in the muscle.

Renal
Associated with the kidneys, e.g., renal stones.

Renal ultrasound
A non-invasive technique for creating an image of the kidney using high frequency sound waves.

Reproductive tract
The organs and tissues involved in the process of reproduction.

Residual urine
The urine that remains in the bladder after urination.

Respiratory
To do with the processes of breathing and supplying the body with the oxygen it needs to survive, e.g., respiratory muscles are the muscles needed to breathe.

Respiratory infection
Bacteria or viruses causing an infection in parts of the respiratory tract – that is the lungs, or the tubes leading to the lungs such as the windpipe (trachea) or bronchi. Examples of respiratory infections include colds, bronchitis and pneumonia.

Resuscitate
Medical treatment aimed at restarting breathing and heart function when it has just stopped, either due to a heart attack, electrical shock, road accident or other injury.

Retrograde ejaculation
Where the semen is released, but flows back towards the bladder, rather than being squirted out of the penis.

Rheumatoid arthritis
A medical condition in which the joints become inflamed, stiff and painful.

Rib
One of 12 pairs of thin curved strips of bone that encase and protect the heart and lungs.

Rigid immobilisation
Method of support for fractured bones, especially the spine, that prevents all movement of the bones while they are healing.

Sacral
Describes the area of the body around the hip and pelvis level (i.e., near the base of the spine). Sacral vertebrae are the bones of the spine in this region, which are fused together to form a bone called the sacrum.

Sacral anterior roots
Nerves branch from the spinal cord at various levels along its length. At each level along the cord, nerves emerge from the front, in what are called the ‘anterior roots` and from the back, in what are called the ‘posterior roots`. Anterior roots that emerge at sacral levels are termed sacral anterior roots.

Sacral defecation centre
Part of the spinal cord (found in the sacral region) involved in ‘automatic` or reflex removal of faeces (stools) from the bowel.

Sacral reflex
An automatic response (reflex) that involves nerve impulses that pass through the spinal cord at the sacral level.

Sacral segments
Parts of the spinal cord associated with the sacral vertebrae (bones) – that is, the area around the base of the spine.

Sacrum
Large triangular bone in the lower spine.

Saline
A very weak salt solution (0.9% sodium chloride).

Saliva
Saliva is a liquid that is produced by glands (called salivary glands) and released into the mouth. It acts to keep the mouth moist and to help food to be swallowed more easily. It contains enzymes that break down certain types of food.

Salivary glands
Structures located around the mouth that produce and release a fluid called saliva into the mouth. Saliva keeps the mouth moist, helps food to be swallowed more easily and contains enzymes that break down certain types of food.

Scar tissue
The body tissue remaining after a wound has healed. Usually stronger than the original tissues, but less able to carry out the jobs that the original tissues were designed for.

Scrotum
The wrinkled fleshy sac which holds the testicles in a man.

Seaweed dressings
Wound dressings that contain elements derived from seaweed. They can absorb many times their weight in fluid, and the gel that is formed by the dressing mixing with fluid from the wound encourages healing.

Sebaceous glands
Glands in the skin that produce an oily substance called sebum, which keeps the skin supple.

Secrete
The process by which fluid is actively released onto a surface or into a fluid, e.g., blood.

Secretion
A substance that is produced by specific structures in the body called glands, for a particular purpose. The substance may be released into the blood, into the spaces inside the hollow tubes in the body (e.g., the digestive tract) or onto the body surface. Examples include the salivary glands secreting saliva into the mouth, glands in the lining of…

Sedation
The process of making a person sleepy or calmed – often by artificial means such as drugs.

Sedative
Any substance that promotes calm, relaxation and/or sleep.

Segment
A portion of a specific part of the body. The spinal cord is split up into many segments. These segments can be grouped into four categories according to their position down the cord. Running from the top of the cord to the bottom are 8 ‘cervical` segments, 12 ‘thoracic` segments, 5 ‘lumbar` segments and 5 ‘sacral` segments.

Segmental pain
Pain that occurs within a specific portion of the body. For example, in SCI, segmental pain occurs around the level of the SCI.

Seizure
A sudden spell of abnormal nervous activity in the brain, such as those that occur in epilepsy.

Semen
Fluid containing sperm, which is released from the penis by the male by a process called ejaculation.

Sensation
A physical feeling, e.g., touch, pain.

Sensory
Relating to the senses of touch, taste, smell, sight, hearing and to pain.

Sensory function
Usually refers to the ability to feel sensations of touch. However, it also refers to the ability to detect any information from our senses – that is touch (including pressure, pain and temperature), sight, smell, hearing and taste. Sensory function can be used to describe the activity of nerves (sensory nerves) that carry information from our sens…

Sensory nerve
Nerve that carries messages from sensors around the body towards the brain and spinal cord.

Sensory receptors
Points around the body that can sense, e.g., pressure, pain, temperature, and start a nerve impulse that sends this information back to the brain.

Septum
A dividing wall within a body part, e.g., the space inside the nose is divided into two channels by a dividing wall (septum).

Severed
Cut, either surgically or accidentally.

Shear forces
The forces produced when two surfaces that are pressed together, move over each other.

Sigmoid colon
A section of the colon (part of the large intestine) that lies in the lower abdomen, which connects the descending colon with the rectum.

Small intestine
Area of the lower digestive system that is divided into the duodenum, jejunum and ileum. Most of the digestion and absorption of food takes place in the small intestine.

Sodium
A mineral that is important in the body to help maintain water balance, aid the conduction of nerve impulses and muscle contraction, and help to maintain a normal heart rhythm. The level of sodium in the body is controlled by the kidneys.

Spasm
Spontaneous, uncontrolled, exaggerated muscle contraction that can result in uncontrolled, jerky movement.

Spastic
Refers to muscles that are stiff and contract in an uncontrolled way (have spasms). It occurs when the nervous system can no longer control muscle activity properly, such as with a spinal cord injury.

Spastic bladder
Term describing a bladder in which the automatic (reflex) contraction still takes place following an SCI, although voluntary control over emptying is lost. Also known as a reflex bladder.

Spastic paralysis
Term used to describe a condition where people experience spasms that can be accompanied by muscle stiffness. Spasms are spontaneous, uncontrolled, exaggerated muscle contractions that can result in uncontrolled jerky movement.

Sperm
Male sex cell that is produced in the testes, and must fuse with a female sex cell (ovum) for fertilisation and pregnancy to take place.

Sphincter
A valve found in, or at the end of, some tubes of the body. They contain a ring of muscle that can open or close the valve, and therefore control the flow of materials along the tube.

Sphincterectomy
Procedure of surgically cutting a sphincter (valve) in the body to stop it working. For example, cutting the sphincter in the male urethra to help the flow of urine from the body in people with certain types of bladder problems.

Spina bifida
A condition that arises when a baby is developing, when the spinal column and spinal cord do not form properly. It can result in the child being paralysed.

Spinal block
A method of pain relief that can be given to a woman during childbirth by injection into the spinal fluid. The effect only lasts 1–2 hours, and therefore the medication can only be given at the time of birth, and not in advance.

Spinal canal
The central space that runs up and down the inside of the spinal column, that encases the spinal cord. Also known as the vertebral canal.

Spinal column
Also called the spine or backbone. It is the bony structure that runs from the base of the skull down the centre of the back. It is made of rings of bone (called vertebrae) that sit on top of each other. It encases and protects the spinal cord.

Spinal deformity
Condition where the spine grows into an abnormal shape.

Spinal injuries unit
A medical unit that specialises in the diagnosis and management of spinal injuries. There are 11 such units in the UK and one in Eire.

Spinal nerve
Nerves that branch from the spinal cord in pairs, emerging at various levels along its length. They carry information from all over the body to the spinal cord and relay commands from the brain and spinal cord back to the body.

Spinal reflex
The body`s automatic response to a trigger that involves nerve impulses being received from our sense organs, passed into the spinal cord, and a responding message being sent out straight away, without needing any input from the brain. For example, in the knee jerk reflex, when the knee is tapped the spinal reflex causes the lower leg to automatica…

Spinal shock
A period of time after a spinal cord injury, when the area around the damaged cord is bruised and swollen. It can last for up to 6 weeks. During this time no messages can pass through the spinal cord below the level of injury. This will make the loss of function below the injury appear complete, and it is only once the swelling subsides that the tr…

Spirometer
An instrument that is used to measure the volume of air that is breathed in or out. It can be used to assess how well the lung is working, for example by measuring the maximum volume of air that can be breathed out (vital capacity).

Spleen
Large organ on the left side of the body below the stomach. Its functions include helping to fight infection and removing old or damaged red blood cells from the circulation.

Splints
A rigid support designed to hold bones in place to allow healing, e.g., broken bones, or to prevent movement in general.

Spontaneous bladder emptying
Method of emptying the bladder that involves training the bladder to empty automatically following a cue, such as tapping the lower abdomen.

Stabilise
To fix in position or restore balance of a system. For example, stabilising the spine after a spinal injury means to ensure that it is held in place correctly.

Stent
A rigid tube that is inserted into a natural tube of the body, e.g., urethra, blood vessel, with the purpose of keeping it open.

Steroid
These are a group of chemicals that are produced naturally in the body. For example, the hormones testosterone and oestrogen are steroids. Steroids may also be produced artificially and used as medical drugs. These tend to have anti-inflammatory effects.

Stimulant
Something that ‘stimulates`, i.e., encourages activity in certain body systems. For example, caffeine, found in drinks like tea and coffee, stimulates the central nervous system.

Stimulant suppository
A suppository that encourages bowel emptying by triggering the wave-like contractions in the bowel walls that move stools closer to the anus.

Stimulus
Something that triggers a response. For example, touching a hot surface would be the stimulus to remove your hand from that surface.

Stoma
Small surgically made opening into an organ of the body, e.g., the bowel.

Stomach ulcer
Also called a gastric ulcer. Break in the stomach lining that allows acid and digestive juices to damage the tissues beneath the lining. It can cause vomiting, pain and bleeding. It may occur as a result of the body experiencing considerable stress, for example, a spinal cord injury.

Stress ulceration
Development of breaks in the protective lining of the stomach and small intestine due to stress that the body has experienced. The breaks allow acid and digestive juices to damage the tissues beneath the lining.

Stretch receptor
A sensor found in the walls of several body organs (e.g., stomach, bladder, bowel). They detect the wall being stretched and send nerve impulses to tell the body what is happening.

Stricture
A narrowing of a tube in the body, e.g., in the urethra.

Stroke
Interruption of the blood flow to part of the brain, possibly as a result of a burst or blocked blood vessel. The interrupted blood supply means that the nerve cells in the brain do not get enough oxygen and may be damaged. This can cause paralysis and speech problems.

Suction
Applying a partial vacuum to draw air or fluid in the direction of the partial vacuum, e.g., applying suction to a tube that is passed into the lungs to remove mucus build-up.

Suppository
A type of medication designed to encourage bowel movements. They are in a solid form and are inserted up the anus into the rectum (bowel).

Suprapubic
Term used to refer to the body area above the pubic bone.

Suprapubic catheter
A drainage tube (catheter) inserted into the bladder, by passing it through a surgically-made small hole in the abdomen.

Surgical incision
A cut made by a surgeon using a sterile scalpel or other sharp instrument.

Sustained-release
Sustained-release drugs are designed so that the drug`s active ingredient is released slowly into the body over a period of time, rather than all at once.

Sympathetic nervous system
A subdivision of the body`s nervous system that is automatic (not consciously controlled) and is involved in preparing the body for physical activity.

Symptomatic
Showing symptoms, e.g., of a particular disease.

Symptomatic bladder infection
Infection of the bladder that produces symptoms, i.e., signs of disease.

Symptoms
Abnormal, usually unpleasant, sensations or changes in the body that indicate a disease process or other medical problem.

Syndrome
A recognisable collection of symptoms and signs indicating a particular disease or condition.

Syringomyelia
A pain disorder caused by the formation of a large fluid-filled space (a syrinx) within the centre of the spinal cord.

Tendons
Tissue that connects muscles to bones. A tendon is a tough, whitish cord that is flexible, but not elastic.

Testes
Pair of male sex organs that lie within the scrotum and produce sperm and the male sex hormone, testosterone.

Testosterone
The main male sex hormone.

Tetraplegia
Also termed quadriplegia. Describes the complete or incomplete paralysis from the neck downwards, affecting all four limbs and the trunk. This is the result of damage to the spinal cord between C1 and C8.

Thoracic
Describes the chest area of the body, i.e., the area below the neck that is encased in ribs. Thoracic vertebrae are the bones of the spine in this region. A thoracic fracture is a break in the thoracic vertebrae.

Thyroid gland
A gland in the neck that produces thyroid hormone and calcitonin. Thyroid hormone is essential for normal body metabolism and calcitonin controls the level of calcium in the blood.

Toxins
Substances that can cause harm to the body.

Trachea
Windpipe; the tube that runs from the throat (pharynx) and voice box (larynx) down into the lungs.

Tracheostomy
A surgically-made incision through the front of the neck, into the windpipe, in order to create an artificial airway through which a tube can be placed. This can either be used to remove fluid, e.g., mucus from the lungs, or to supply oxygen to them.