Medical Terms

SCT: Spinal cord tumors are abnormal growths of tissue found inside the skull or the bony spinal column, which are the primary components of the central nervous system (CNS). Benign tumors are noncancerous, and malignant tumors are cancerous. The CNS is housed within rigid, bony quarters (i.e., the skull and spinal column), so any abnormal growth, whether benign or malignant, can place pressure on sensitive tissues and impair function.

Astrocytoma: A tumor that begins in the brain or spinal cord in small, star-shaped cells called astrocytes. The location of the tumor depends on the age of the person. Astrocytomas of the spinal cord cannot be totally resected and are treated, after biopsy, by radiation therapy.

Atrophy is the partial or complete wasting away of a part of the body. Causes of atrophy include mutations (which can destroy the gene to build up the organ), poor nourishment, poor circulation, loss of hormonal support, loss of nerve supply to the target organ, excessive amount of apoptosis of cells, and disuse or lack of exercise or disease intrinsic to the tissue itself. Hormonal and nerve inputs that maintain an organ or body part are referred to as trophic [noun] in medical practice ('trophic" is an adjective that can be paired with various nouns). Trophic describes the trophic condition of tissue. A diminished muscular trophic is designated as atrophy.

Atrophy is the general physiological process of reabsorption and breakdown of tissues, involving apoptosis on a cellular level. When it occurs as a result of disease or loss of trophic support due to other disease, it is termed pathological atrophy, although it can be a part of normal body development and homeostasis as well.

Bone Scan: A bone scan is a nuclear scanning test to find certain abnormalities in bone which are triggering the bone's attempts to heal. It is primarily used to help diagnose a number of conditions relating to bones, including: cancer of the bone or cancers that have spread (metastasized) to the bone, locating some sources of bone inflammation (e.g. bone pain such as lower back pain due to a fracture), the diagnosis of fractures that may not be visible in traditional X-ray images, and the detection of damage to bones due to certain infections and other problems.

Glioma: A brain tumor that begin in a glial, or supportive, cell, in the brain or spinal cord. Malignant gliomas are the most common primary tumors of the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord). They are often resistant to treatment and carry a poor prognosis.

Laminectomy: A surgical procedure in which the posterior arch of a vertebra is removed. Laminectomy is done to relieve pressure on the spinal cord or on the nerve roots that emerge from the spinal canal.

Kyphoscoliosis: Combination of kyphosis and scoliosis (lateral curving of the spine). Part of good health maintenance is to check a child’s back (from infancy through adolescence) to make sure the back looks normal and, if concerned, a doctor is consulted.

Scoliosis: is a disorder that causes an abnormal curve of the spine, or backbone. The spine has normal curves when looking from the side, but it should look straight when looking from the front. People with scoliosis develop additional curves to either side, and the bones twist on each other like a corkscrew.

Radiation Therapy: In radiation therapy (also called radiotherapy), high-energy rays are used to damage cancer cells and stop them from growing and dividing. A specialist in radiation therapy is called a radiation oncologist.

Syringomyelia/Cyst: is a generic term referring to a disorder in which a cyst or tubular cavity forms within the spinal cord. This cyst, called a syrinx, can expand and elongate over time, destroying the spinal cord. Other symptoms may include headaches and a loss of the ability to feel extremes of hot or cold, especially in the hands. Syringomyelia progressively causes damage to the spinal cord which can cause a variety of symptoms such as curvature of the spine (scoliosis), loss of feeling (pain and temperature sensation) in the limbs, wasting, weakness, clumsiness of the limbs. In severe cases, swallowing or breathing may be affected, some sufferers become reliant on using a wheel chair.

Brain Stem: The stemlike part of the brain that is connected to the spinal cord. Or conversely, the extension of the spinal cord up into the brain. The brain stem is small but important. It manages messages going between the brain and the rest of the body, and it also controls basic body functions such as breathing, swallowing, heart rate, and blood pressure. The brain stem also controls consciousness and determines whether one is awake or sleepy.

Shunt: To move a body fluid, such as cerebrospinal fluid, from one place to another. A catheter (tube) that carries cerebrospinal fluid from a ventricle in the brain to another area of the body.

Botox: Botulinum toxin, called botox for short, is a muscle relaxing medication used to decrease spasticity related to multiple sclerosis and other neurological conditions.

Spasticity: Spasticity refers to a wide range of involuntary muscle contractions that result in muscle spasms or stiffness. Spasticity interferes with voluntary muscle movement and usually involves the muscles of the legs and/or arms. Spasticity may vary, based on many factors including infections, stress, pain, temperature, position, and time of the day. Over time, severe spasticity may cause decreased range of motion in the affected limbs. Spasticity is the result of an imbalance in the central nervous system, caused by a trauma or disease in the brain and/or spinal cord. This imbalance causes hyperactive muscle stretch reflexes, which result in involuntary contractions and increased muscle tone.

Late Effects: Side effects of cancer treatment that appear months or years after treatment has ended. Late effects include physical and mental problems and second cancers. Radiation to the spinal cord may result in a self-limited transverse myelitis, known as Lhermitte syndrome. The patient notes an electric shocklike sensation that is most notable with neck flexion. Rarely does this condition progress to a true transverse myelitis with associated Brown-Séquard syndrome. The dose to the spinal cord must be limited so as to avoid this devastating complication. A course of treatment often affects the thyroid gland either directly or secondarily via the hypothalamic-pituitary axis. Chemical hypothyroidism is often the only manifestation of an endocrinopathy and is treated readily with supplemental thyroid preparation. Other endocrinopathies are uncommon.

Thyroid Nodules: The term “thyroid nodule” refers to any abnormal growth that forms a lump in the thyroid gland. The thyroid gland is located low in the front of the neck, below the Adam’s apple. The gland is shaped like a butterfly and wraps around the windpipe or trachea. The two wings or lobes on either side of the windpipe are joined together by a bridge, called the isthmus, which crosses over the front of the windpipe.

Quadriplegia: Paralysis of all four limbs, both arms and both legs, as from a high spinal cord accident or stroke.

MRI: An MRI (or magnetic resonance imaging) scan is a radiology technique that uses magnetism, radio waves, and a computer to produce images of body structures.

Myelogram: An x-ray of the spinal cord and the bones of the spine. During a myelogram, a contrast material that is injected into the spinal canal is used to visualize the structures of the spinal cord and nerve roots.

CT Scan: A computerized axial tomography scan is more commonly known by its abbreviated name, CT scan or CAT scan. It is an x-ray procedure which combines many x-ray images with the aid of a computer to generate cross-sectional views and, if needed, three-dimensional images of the internal organs and structures of the body.

A Kidney Ultrasound: A Kidney Ultrasound uses a transducer that sends out ultrasonic sound waves at a frequency too high to be heard. When the transducer is placed on the abdomen at certain locations and angles, the ultrasonic sound waves move through the skin and other body tissue to the organs and structures of the abdomen. The sound waves bounce off the organs like an echo and return to the transducer. The transducer picks up the reflected waves, which are then converted into an electronic picture of the organs.

Flank Pain: Flank pain refers to pain in one side of the body between the upper abdomen and the back.

NS: Neurosurgeon

WAT's: Wheelchair Accessible Taxis 

The spine is divided into four sections, and each section is referred to by a letter.  

Cervical (C): Neck
Thoracic (T): Chest
Lumbar (L): Lower back
Sacral (S): Pelvis

Within each section of the spine, the vertebrae are numbered beginning at the top. These labels (letter plus a number) are used to indicate locations (levels) in the spinal cord. For example, the first vertebra in the cervical spine is labeled C1, the second in the cervical spine is C2, the second in the thoracic spine is T2, the fourth in the lumbar spine is L4, and so forth. These labels are also used to identify specific locations (called levels) in the spinal cord.