Medical Rehab Terms

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Biomechanics & Movement Science
Medical Rehab Terms
Human Performance Terms
Disability Terms/Concepts & Rehab Research Terminology
Prosthetic-Orthotic-Assistive Techn Terms


Contains Tables J-M


J. Diseases & Disorders (Neurological Origin)

Stroke (Cerebrovascular Accident (CVA))

An acute neurological dysfunction of vascular origin with symptoms and signs corresponding to the involvement of focal areas of the brain, caused by intracerebral or subarachnoid hemorrhage (hemorrhage stroke) or the blockage of a blood vessel supplying or draining the brain thus causing insufficient supply of blood and oxygen to local tissue (ischemic stroke).  Hemiplegia (paralysis of one side of the body as a result of injury to neurons carrying signals to muscles from the motor areas of the brain) is common.  

Cerebral Palsy (CP)

Defect of motor power and coordination caused by maldevelopment of the brain.

Multiple Sclerosis (Ms) 

A slowly progressive “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. 

Spina Bifida 

A congenital defect caused by incomplete development of the posterior neural arch, leaving a portion of the spinalm cord without bony protection (usually in lumbrosacral region).

Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) 

An acute trauamatic injury of the spinal cord, causing full or significant loss of sensation and muscle function I the trunk and extremities.  Injury to the thoracic or lumbar regions causes paraplegia, injury in the cervical region causes quadriplegia.

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) 

 An injury to the brain regardless of severity.  

Closed Head Injury:  Trauma to the head regardless of severity. Also see traumatic brain injury, minor head injury and concussion.  

Post-Concussion Syndrome: A particular group of impairments that characterize the effects of injury on the brain and behavior. PCS include impairments in the ability to think, to do, and to know, and is characterized by diminished, self-awareness and diminished ability to benefit from experience. 

Diffuse Axonal Injury: A shearing injury of large nerve fibers (axons covered with myelin) in many areas of the brain. It appears to be one of the two primary lesions of brain injury, the other being stretching or shearing of blood vessels from the same forces, producing hemorrhage.  

K. Diseases & Disorders (Skeletal/Articular or Muscular Origin)


Inflammation of joints

Osteoarthritis: A type of arthritis marked by progressive cartilage deterioration in the synovial joints and new bone formation around the joint.  

Rheumatoid Arthritis: A chronic, progressive, systemic disease marked by inflammation and tendency toward deformity of synovial joints.

Cumulative Trauma 

Injury resulting from the cumulative effect of repeated application of low stress, when tissues are not allowed sufficient time to recover.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: Compression of the median nerve in the carpal tunnel, located on the volar side of the wrist; this pressure is often attributed to cumulative trauma or poor wrist positioning.  Initial symptoms are pain, tingling, or numbness of the hand that may radiate into the arm.  Prolonged compression/entrapment leads to weakness and atrophy of the thenar muscles.  

Decubitus (Pressure) Ulcer 

Ulcer of the skin that forms as a result of prolonged pressure in patients confined to bed or wheelchair. 

Heterotopic Ossification (HO) 

The formation of new bone deposits in the connective tissue surrounding the major joints, primarily the hip and knee (cause unknown). Twenty to 50 percent of spinal cord injury  patients have HO (more common in people with higher level injuries, most likely to occur four months post injury). The cause of HO is unknown. 


Loss of bone density, common in immobile/unloaded bones.  

Osteogenesis Imperfecta 

An inherited disorder of the connective tissue causing excessively brittle bones, which are prone to fractures.


L. Other Relevant Medical Rehabilitation Terms 


Different from the average; inappropriate with regard to the standards of society, social role or the existing set of circumstances.  


Sharp, severe. 2. Having rapid onset, severe symptoms and a short course.  The early stages of an injury (as opposed to chronic, which is long term)  


Failure to recognize familiar objects although the sensory mechanism is intact. May occur for any sensory modality.  


Lack of memory about events occurring during a particular period of time.  


Partial or complete loss of sensation resulting from disease, injury or administration of an anesthetic agent.


Loss of the sense of smell. Syn: anodmia 


A lack of oxygen. Cells of the brain need oxygen to stay alive. When blood flow to the brain is reduced or when oxygen in the blood is too low, brain cells are damaged.  


A protein produced by the immune system to attack bacteria, viruses or other invading disease producing agents. Each antibody has a molecular structure that exactly fits the structure of each foreign body (antigen) like a key and a lock. Antibodies are carried in the blood. It is also common to add antibodies to treat specific disease antigens if we lack immunities to them (vaccination).  


Meditation used to decrease the possibility of a seizure (e.g., dilantin, phenobarbital, mysoline, tegrtol).  


A drug prescribed to treat depression; standard tricyclic antidepressants include Tofranil, Imvate, Elavil, Norpramin, and Adapin. Side effects include some sedation, dry mouth, and visual problems. 


Surgical reconstruction of a damaged or malformed joint to alleviate and improve joint mobility.  An artificial joint (prosthetis) may ormany not be used.


The act of inhaling solid or liquid materials into the lungs. 

Atrial fibrillation 

Rapid, irregular contraction of the atria of the heart that produces an irregular and often rapid ventricular rate.

Cardiac arrhythmia  

Irregular or abnormally slow or rapid beating of the heart.


One or more additional chronic diseases (e.g., an individual who has suffered a stroke, such as heart or lung disease. 


A principle which states that personal information about others, particularly patients, should not be revealed to persons not authorized to receive such information.  


The ability to control urination and bowel movements.  

CT Scan 

Computerized axial tomography is a cross-sectional X-ray enhancement technique that greatly benefits diagnosis with high resolution video images, some in three dimensions.  


The loss of cardiovascular or physical fitness as a result of inactivity. 


 Identification of a disease or condition by a scientific evaluation of physical signs, symptoms, history, as well as laboratory tests and procedures.  

 Discharge Planning 

Preparation for life after rehab, including insurance and legal issues, home adaptation, and community support issues.  


Complete loss of joint alignment occurring when the bone ends forming the joint articulation contact with each other.


A blood clot or other foreign substance that travels in the bloodstream to occlude an artery or vein. 

Evoked Potential 

Registration of the electrical response of brain cells as detected by electrodes placed on the surface of the head at various places. The evoked potential, unlike the waves on an eeg, is elicited by a specific stimulus applied to the visual, auditory or other sensory receptors of the body. Evoked potentials are used to diagnose a wide variety of central nervous system disorders.  


Abnormal internal or external discharge of blood.  May be venous, arterial or capillary from blood vessels into tissues, into or from the body. Venous blood is dark red; flow is continuous.  Arterial blood is bright red; flows in jets. Capillary blood is of a reddish color; exudes from tissue.  


Bleeding from the rupture of a blood vessel. 


 An account of the medical, psychological and social events in a patient's life as well as certain details about family, ancestors and the environment that may have a bearing on the patient's condition.  

History Of Present Illness (HPI) 

An account by the patient of the onset, duration and character of the present illness or condition as well as any acts or situations which aggravate or alleviate the symptoms. Includes the patient's statement regarding what he or she believes to be the cause of the symptoms, and whether or not a similar condition has happened in the past.  


Elevated blood pressure. 


A technique used to cool the spinal cord after injury. Hypothermia may reduce metabolic and oxygen requirements of the injured tissue and may reduce edema (swelling), which in turn may reduce secondary nerve fiber damage. Because of technical problems (it may involve exposing the spinal cord), hypothermia is not widely in use at spinal centers in the u.s.  


Lack of blood oxygen due to impaired lung function. Important in emergency treatment for quads. Hypoxia can further damage oxygen sensitive nerve tissue. 

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. Some theorize that injury to the nervous system exposes the immune system to previously unrecognized central nervous system autoantigens, which interfere with regeneration.  


Lack of bowel and/or bladder control.  


A localized response, elicited by injury or destructin of tissues, which is the bod’s attempt to protect the injured tissues (characterized by redness, swelling, and pain)

Intracranial Pressure (ICP) 

Cerebro-spinal fluid (CSF) pressure measured from a needle or bolt introduced into the CSF space surrounding the brain. It reflects the pressure inside of the skull.  


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


An operation used to relieve pressure on the spinal cord (by removing the posterior arch of a vertebra), or used to examine the extent of damage to the cord. 

Lateral Anterior Decompression 

Surgical procedure to reduce pressure on the spinal cord by removing bone fragments. Some patients report dramatic functional improvement. It must be noted that medical success depends on patient selection since not all people qualify and not all benefit from this kind of surgery. Some conditions may worsen after surgery.  


 An illness or abnormal condition or quality.  

Nerve Growth Factor (NGF) 

A "vitamin" for nerve cells. NGF, a protein, supports survival of embryonic neurons, and regulates neurotransmitters. NGF is one of several growth factors that have been identified in the central nervous system. It is theorized that these factors, including the much rarer BDNF (brain derived neurotrophic factor) and CNTF (ciliary neurotrophic factor) have important roles in regeneration. Exact knowledge of the role of growth factors continues to be a major area of neuroscience, and may lead to drugs that enhance growth of nerve tissue.  

Neurogenic Bladder 

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

Neurological Examination 

 An examination of he nervous system which includes an evaluation of mental Competency.  




Long-term adaptive mechanism by which the nervous system restores or modifies itself toward normal levels of function. The peripheral nervous system is quite plastic, while the central nervous system was long thought to be "wired" permanently, lacking plasticity. It is known now that the central nervous system reorganizes or forms new synapses in response to injury. In lower species (including some kinds of songbirds), it has been shown that the central nervous system can actually create new nerve cells in animal adults.  

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. Due to changes in the autonomic nervous system of persons with spinal cord injury, blood vessels do not decrease in size in response to lowered blood pressure. The result is that blood pools up in legs or pelvic region.  


The condition of the patient before the onset of the present symptoms. 


The prospect as to recovery from a disease or injury as indicated by the nature and symptoms of the case.  A prediction of the probable outcome of a medial problem based on the condition of the patient and the usual course of the problem as observed in other individuals. 


Treatments aimed at preventing disease. 

Psychological Examination 

 A group of standardized tests designed to measure an individual's intellectual capacity, motivation, perception, role behavior, values, level of anxiety, coping mechanisms, depression and general personality integration.  


Drooping of a body part, such as the upper eyelid, from paralysis, or drooping of the visceral organs from weakness of the abdominal muscles. 


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


Removal or excision of a tissue or body part.

Review Of Systems 

 A physical examination.  


An uncontrolled discharge of nerve cells which may spread to other cells nearby or throughout the entire brain. It usually lasts only a few minutes. It may be associated with loss of consciousness, loss of bowel and bladder control and tremors. May also cause aggression,  and  other behavioral changes. 


 Residual symptoms frequently observed following recovery from a physical condition, treatment or injury.  


 Microscopic lesions in the brain caused when the movement of the brain within the skull puts strain on delicate nerve fibers and blood vessels causing them to stretch to the point of breaking.  


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.   

Skin Graft 

Using the skin from another part of the body to repair a defect or trauma of the skin.


The cutting of the bladder sphincter muscle to eliminate spasticity and related voiding problems. A non-surgical sphincterotomy uses a chemical block to inactivate transmitter-release between sphincter nerve and muscle, gradually stopping contractions; it is also reversible.  

Spinal Shock

Similar to a concussion in the brain, spinal shock causes the system shuts down. In spinal cord injury, shock causes immediate flaccid paralysis, which lasts about three or four weeks.  Improvement then occurs to a great extent, due to several possibilities: restoration of blood flow; synaptic reconnection; restoration of myelin integrity and axonal connection.  


Any forward slipping of one vertebra on the one below it.


 An internal or external event which generates nervous system activity or response.  


Opening in windpipe to facilitate breathing.


 A physical injury caused by violent or disruptive action; a psychological injury caused by severe emotional shock.  

Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) 

Bacterial invasion of the urinary tract, which includes bladder, bladder neck and urethra. Symptoms include urine that is cloudy, contains sediment and smells foul, and fever. 

Vital Signs 

Consist of taking blood pressure, pulse, respiration and temperature.  

Work Up 

 The process of performing a complete evaluation of a patient's condition including history, physical examination, laboratory tests and x-ray  or other diagnostic procedures necessary for a doctor to use in making a diagnosis and forming a treatment plan.  


M. Medical Rehabilitation Professionals (brief version ... see also more detailed treatment)


One who evaluates hearing defects and who aids in the rehabilitation of those who have such defects.  


A person who applies the science relating to humans and their work, embodying the anatomical, physiological, psychological and mechanical principles affecting the efficient use of human energy.


A physician who specializes in the nervous system and its disorders.  

Occupational Therapist (OT) 

The member of the rehabilitation team who helps maximize a person's independence. Ots teach daily living activities, health maintenance and self care, and consult on equipment choices.  


A key member of the rehab team uniquely qualified to diagnose and treat visual disorders resulting from brain injury or defect. 


A doctor whose specialty is physical medicine and rehabilitation. 

Physical Therapist (PT) 

A  member of the rehabilitation team. The pt examines, tests and treats persons to enhance their maximum physical activity.  

Speech Pathologist 

A key  member of the rehab team. Directs, diagnoses, and conducts programs to improve communicative skills related to speech and language problems. 


Supportive and educational interventions aimed at assisting the patient or family in identifying key issues and problem solving around them. 

Primary Physician

The physician who is responsible for the care of a patient's general medical problems and for the coordination of required specialty care; this is usually an internist, family practitioner, general practitioner, pediatrician, or obstetrician, but may be from any specialty. 


The branch of medicine that focuses on the study of the nervous system. 



Copyright by Jack Winters.
For problems or questions regarding this web contact Jack Winters.
Last updated: February 20, 2001.