Glossary of Terms

Helpful terms to understand:

ABDUCTION
The sideways movement of the limbs away from the midline.
ADDUCTION
The sideways movement toward the midline.
ALPHA-FETOPROTEIN (AFP)
High levels of this protein in the mother’s blood or amniotic sac. Often associated with a neural tube defect.
AMBULATORY
Capable of walking.
AMNIOCENTESIS
A process by which the amniotic (or fetal) sac is punctured by a needle and fluid removed. The amniotic fluid removed can then be studied for detection of neural tube defects and chromosomal abnormalities before the baby is born.
ANENCEPHALY
Open neural tube defect with absent brain development that leads to early death.
ANOMALY
An organ existing in abnormal form, structure or location.
ANTICHOLINERGIC MEDICATION
A drug used to relax the bladder.
APNEA
The cessation of breathing noted by color changes, pallor and/or cyanosis and lack of chest wall movement.
AQUEDUCTAL STENOSIS
The passageway (aqueduct) connecting the third and fourth ventricles of the brain becomes narrowed, thus blocking or reducing the normal flow of cerebrospinal fluid.
ARNOLD-CHIARI MALFORMATION
See Chiari Malformation.
ARTHRODESIS
The surgical fixation of a joint.
ATAXIA
A neurological condition in which coordination of movement is impaired.
ATTENTION DEFICIT
A specific difficulty with concentration that can impair school performance and social relationships.
AUTONOMIC NERVOUS SYSTEM
The nerves that regulate automatic functions of the body.
BODY CAST
An immobilizing jacket that is molded to the legs and lower body.
BRACE
An aid for the support of a joint.
BRAINSTEM
The lower portion of the brain important for breathing and other vital functions.
CALCANEOVALGUS
A foot deformity in which the heel is turned outward and the front part of the foot is elevated.
CATHETER
A tube used to remove fluid from a cavity. A urinary catheter is passed through the urethra into the bladder in order to withdraw urine.
CAT SCAN
(Computerized Axial Tomogram)
An x-ray exam in which a scanner revolves around the head and takes pictures to obtain cross-section views which give good visualization of the ventricular system.
CEREBROSPINAL FLUID (CSF)
A water-like liquid made by the brain which fills the ventricles inside the brain and surrounds the brain and spinal cord to provide nourishment and protect them from shock.
CERVICAL VERTEBRAE
The first seven bones of the spinal cord.
CHIARI MALFORMATION
The Chiari (11) is a malformation of the hindbrain, or brainstem associated with myelomeningocele and can cause hydrocephalus and other symptoms. The cerebellum may be elongated and drop down along the lower brainstem, through the case of the skull and into the cervical canal: the fourth ventricle may be elongated and enter the cervical canal. Although most people with myelomeningocele have the Chiari Malformation, it is estimated that only 20-30 percent become symptomatic.
CHOROID PLEXUS
Small flower-like tufts in the ventricular system that produce cerebrospinal fluid.
CLUBFOOT
A deformity of the foot that is twisted at the ankle so that it cannot rest properlyon the ground.
COCCYX
The four fused vertebrae that make up the tailbone.
COGNITIVE
Pertaining to functions of the brain such as thinking, learning, and processing information.
COLLAGEN IMPLANT
A method used to treat incontinence when leakage is caused by lack of control or poor control of urine flow from the bladder.
CONGENITAL
Existing at birth.
CONTRACTURES
Fixed deformities at the joints resulting in loss of range of motion.
CORPUS CA” OSUM
A midline structure in the brain.
CRANIUM BIFIDUM (Encephalocele)
A defect in the skull with protrusion of brain tissue.
CREDE
A technique which consists of pressing down and inward with the hand over the bladder to empty it.
CYANOSIS
Bluish tinge around the mouth or nail indicating a lack of oxygen.
CYSTOMETRIC EXAM
An examination that measures the pressure inside the bladder. It also aids in diagnosis of bladder muscle condition.
DECUBITUS
Pressure sore or skin ulcer.
DERMATOMES
The areas of skin that get their sensation from different spinal nerves.
DETRUSOR
The bladder muscle.
DETRUSOR-SPHINCTER DYSSYNERGIA (DSD)
Failure of the bladder sphincter to open up when the bladder muscle contracts.
DISABILITY
A lifelong condition affecting important activities or functions of daily living.
DISLOCATED
The displacement of a bone from its normal position in a joint.
DISTAL
The end of a shunt catheter furthest away from the head.
DORSIFLE
A backward bending of the forefoot at the ankle.
DURA
The outer membrane of the meninges.
ENDOCRINOLOGIST
A physician specializing in diabetes, the thyroid, and the endocrine gland. Most children with spina bifida and/or hydrocephalus experience delays in growth or premature puberty and would benefit from this specialist’s care.
ELECTROENCEPHALOGRAM
A graphic picture of the electrical impulses of the brain, or brainwaves.
ENCEPHALOCELE
See cranium bifidum.
ENEMA
Installation of fluid into the rectum to empty the bowel.
EQUINOVARUS
Similar to equinus, with additional inward turning of the forefoot.
EQUINUS
Deformity of the foot in which the heel is pulled up and the forefoot is pulled down.
ESOPHAGUS
The muscular tube extending from the back of the throat to the stomach.
EVERSION
Movement of the foot in which the sole turns outward away from the midline.
EXPRESSIVE LANGUAGE
The ability to express ideas in words and sentences.
EXTENSION
The straightening of a joint.
FEMUR
The thighbone, extending from the pelvis to the knee.
FERTILITY
Capable of reproducing.
FLEXION
The bending of a joint.
FOLIC ACID
A “B” vitamin that is necessary to form essential body proteins and genetic materials. It promotes the synthesis of the oxygen-carrying blood protein hemoglobin.
FONTANEL
The soft spot on a baby’s skull where the bones have not yet grown firmly together.
GAIT
The manner of walking.
GASTROCS
The calf muscles.
GASTROESOPHAGEAL REFLUX
Excessive regurgitation from the stomach into the esophagus.
GENETICIST
A physician or professional person who counsels parents on the risk of having an infant with a particular inherited disorder.
HAMSTRINGS
The large muscles at the back of the thigh.
HANDICAP
An environmental or attitudinal barrier facing a person with a disability.
HEEL CORD
The Achilles tendon below the calf muscle.
HERNIATE
A protrusion of a loop of tissue through an abnormal opening.
HIP ADDUCTORS
The muscles on the inside of the thigh that move the leg sideways toward the midline.
HYDROCEPHALUS
The increased accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) within the ventricles of the brain, resulting from interference with normal circulation and absorption of the fluid.
HYDROMYELIA
The increase of fluid in the central canal of the spinal cord.
HYDRONEPHROSIS
The swelling of a kidney due to a build-up of urine. It happens when urine cannot drain out from the kidney to the bladder from a blockage or obstruction.
HYPERTONIA
A neurological condition of low tone, that is, floppiness.
I.E.P.
Individual education plan (school age).
ILEAL CONDUIT
Surgical procedure to drain the kidneys through an opening on the abdomen, thus bypassing the bladder.
I.P.P.
Individual planning program (preschool age).
IMPACTION
An accumulation of feces in the rectum causing severe constipation.
INCONTINENCE
The inability to control urine or bowel movements.
INTRACRANIAL PRESSURE
A build up of pressure within the skull cavity.
INVERSION
Movement of the foot in which the sole turns toward the midline.
I.V. (Intravenous)
Used to inject fluid into a vein. An I.V. may be used to provide nutrition or may be a means of injecting medicine into the blood stream.
I.V.P. (Intravenous pyelogram)
A test that takes an x-ray of the kidneys. The person is given an injection c -dye through the I.V. which “I lights up” the kidneys on the x-ray.
KYPHOSIS
An exaggerated outward curvature of the spine.
LEARNING DISABILITY
A specific difference in learning that leads to underachievement in school.
LIPOMA
Swelling made of fat; sometimes found with myelomeningocele.
LOCOMOTION
Moving by walking, crawling, or the like.
LORDOSIS
An exaggerated inward curvature of the spine.
LUMBAR VERTEBRAE
The five vertebrae in the low back area.
MACROCEPHALY
An abnormally large head size.
MAGNETIC RESONANCE IMAGERY (MRI)
A scan that uses magnetic energy to give a clear black and white picture of the brain, cervical canal, and spine. It does not involve radiation.
MENINGES
Three layers of membranes covering the brain and spinal cord.
MENINGITIS
Infection or inflammation of the meninges.
MENINGOCELE
A protrusion of the meninges out or an opening in the vertebral column. A meningocele contains only cerebrospinal fluid and no neural tissue.
MICRCOCEPHALY
An abnormally small head, usually accompanied by developmental delay.
MYELOMENINGOCELE
or “open spine”
A protrusion of the meninges, spinal cord and nerves out of an opening in the vertebral column. Skin or a thin membrane may cover this spinal cord defect. It is also known as spina bifida.
NEURAL PLACODE
Abnormal, splayed-open nerve tissue at the site of the neural tube defect.
NEURAL TUBE DEFECT
A birth defect somewhere in the neural tube, which consists of the brain, spinal cord, and nervous system.
NEUROGENIC BLADDER
Loss of nerve supply to the bladder resulting in an inability to voluntarily control the bladder.
NEUROLOGICAL
Pertaining to the nervous system.
NEUROLOGIST
A physician who specializes in the physiologic functions of the brain and nervous system, la. this doctor may run tests if seizures are suspected.
NEUROSURGEON
N physician who specializes in surgery to the brain and nervous system. A neurosurgeon performs the initial closure surgery in the spina bifida and a placement of a ventricular shunt, if necessary.
N.P.O.
Nothing by mouth (literally nothing passed orally).
OCCUPATIONAL THERAPIST
A therapist who specializes in child development and who will evaluate your child’s skills, especially in the areas of fine motor and eye-hand coordination, and general development. The OT can assist you and your child in daily living skills and is mainly concerned with hand strength and use of arms and hands.
OPHTHALMOLOGIST
A physician who specializes in the treatment of disorders of the eye.
OPISTHOTONOS
Backward arching of the head, neck or back with stiffness of the entire body(Chiari II symptom).
OPPOSING MUSCLES
Muscles that pull in opposite directions.
ORTHOPEDIST
A physician specializing in problems relating to bones, joints and muscles.
ORTHOSIS
An appliance used to correct, prevent, or support deformities to improve function of movable body parts.
ORTHOTIST
A person specially trained in making and modifying orthoses to meet an individual’s needs.
OSTEOPOROSIS
Brittle bones with deficient calcium; bones can fracture easily.
OSTEOTOMY
A surgical procedure involving the cutting of the bone to improve alignment.
PARALYSIS
A loss of voluntary movement.
PARAPLEGIA
A condition in which both lower limbs are paralyzed.
PARAPODIUM
A crutchless standing device utilized for young children with paraplegia.
PATELLA
The kneecap.
PEDIATRICIAN
A medical doctor who specializes in care of children. This physician may help coordinate your child’s care, and during regular office visits may check your child’s weight, head size and take a urine specimen to check for bladder infections, as well as treat your child for illness.
PERITONEAL CAVITY
The abdominal cavity.
PHYSIATRIST
A physician who specializes in rehabilitation and may plan and coordinate physical, occupational, speech and other types of therapy. This doctor may also coordinate the treatment and evaluation of an individual, with the other members of a health-care team.
PHYSICAL THERAPIST
A developmental specialist who evaluates the range of motion of joints, muscle strength and development, and functional level of the child. The physical therapist uses the information from the evaluation to design an appropriate treatment and activity program.
PLANTAR FLEXION
Ankle flexed so that the foot is pointing upward.
PRECOCIOUS PUBERTY
The premature onset of puberty, usually defined as before eight years of age in girls and before the age of nine in boys.
PRENATAL
Before birth.
PRONE
Describing the position of a person lying horizontally on the abdomen, with the face turned downward.
PROXIMAL
The end of a shunt catheter closest to the head.
PULMONARY
Pertaining to the lungs.
PULSE
The rate and power of the heartbeat.
PYRAMIDAL TRACT
A band of nerve fibers originating in the cortex and connecting with cell bodies in the spinal cord. It plays an important part in the control of voluntary movement.
QUADRICEPS
The group of muscles on the front of the thigh that extend the knee.
QUADRIPLEGIA
Paralysis of all four limbs.
RACHISCHISIS
A congenital condition in which the spinal cord is completely exposed and deformed.
RANGE OF MOTION
The full extent of movement of a particular joint.
RECEPTIVE LANGUAGE
The ability to understand spoken language.
RECIPROCAL
Alternating, as feet alternate in walking.
RECTUM
The lower part of the large bowel that terminates in the anus.
REFLEX
A response mediated by the nervous system.
REFLUX
Abnormal backward flow of urine from the bladder up the ureters toward the kidneys.
RELATED SERVICES
Special services other than regular teaching that children may need to function effectively in school, for example, speech therapy, physical therapy, and adaptive physical education.
RENAL DAMAGE
Damage to the kidneys that may occur in children with spina bifida as a result of repeated urinary infections or reflux (back flow) of urine up the ureters into the kidneys.
RESPIRATORY DISTRESS
Noisy, congested breathing brought on by difficulty in breathing and retractions of the chest wall.
RETARDATION
Slowness in development.
RETRACTIONS
The breastbone and area below the ribcage sink in on inspiration when a child is having difficulty breathing.
REVISION
The operative procedure for replacing a shunt.
ROCKER-BOTTOM FOOT
A foot deformity in which the sole of the foot is curved.
SACRAL VERTEBRAE
The five lowest vertebrae that are firmly bound to the pelvis.
SCOLIOSIS
A lateral curvature of the spine, often in an S-shape.
SEIZURES
Convulsions.
SHUNT
A system to control hydrocephalus. It consists of a one-way valve and a small plastic tube, one end of which is placed on one of the ventricles where the cerebrospinal fluid is formed. The plastic tube is then placed under the skin behind the ear, where it is passed between the skin and underlying bone and muscle and into the abdominal cavity. The cerebrospinal fluid that is passed into the abdominal cavity is then reabsorbed into the bloodstream.
SOFT TISSUE SURGERY
Operations that involve lengthening muscles or tendons or releasing tight ligaments.
SPASTICITY
Stiffness or position that is difficult to release.
SPHINCTER
A circular muscle constricting an opening. Sphincter muscles control bowel and bladder evacuation.
SPINA BIFIDA
Failure of the bones of the spine to close. Lay-term for myelomeningocele.
SPINA BIFIDA CYSTICA
A term covering both meningocele and myelomeningocele where the meninges protrude through the bifida (split) spinal column forming a sac or cyst filled with cerebrospinal fluid.
SPINA BIFIDA OCCULTA
Failure of one or more vertebrae to close with the skin intact and no sac visible on the back. A child with spine bifida occulta usually has no problems, and the defect may go undetected until a routine x-ray is taken.
SPINAL CORD
A column of nervous tissue that is located within the vertebral column and directly connected to the brain. All nerves to the trunk and extremities are located within the spinal cord. The brain controls muscles of the body through nerves in the spinal cord.
SPINAL FUSION
An operation to make the spine stronger or straighter.
SPINOUS PROCESSES
The bony projections at the back of the vertebrae.
STANDING FRAME
Braces attached to platform..
STOMA
That part of the loop of bowel to which the ureters are attached in an ileostomy and which is visible on the abdomen. It is sometimes referred to (non-medically) as a “cherry” because of its red color.
STRABISMUS
Squint or deviation of the eye.
STRIDOR
Harsh croupy noise associated with breathing.
SUBLUXATION
Incomplete or partial dislocation of a joint.
SUNSETTING
A condition in which an infant’s eye seems to always be looking downward.
SUPINE
Positioned lying horizontally on the back, with the face upward.
SUPPOSITORY
Medicated mass inserted into the rectum to aid bowel movement.
SWING-TO GAIT
Walking by putting both crutches forward and then lifting both feet and swinging them forward.
SYRINX
A fluid-filled space in the spinal cord, usually in the neck, that can cause neurological symptoms.
TALIPES EQUINOVARUS
Typical clubfoot deformity, with heel inversion and foot plantar flexion.
TALUS
The bone of the foot that meets the tibia and fibula to form the main ankle joint.
TENDON TRANSFER
A surgical procedure for moving the tendon of a muscle to another so that it will pull in another direction.
TETHERING
Binding of spinal cord to surrounding tissue.
TENOTOMY
Cutting the tendon of a muscle to weaken its pull.
THORACIC
The twelve vertebrae between the neck and waist.
TIBIA
The larger bone in the lower leg, the shinbone.
TONE
The degree of resistance of muscle to stretch.
TRACHEA
Windpipe.
TWO-POINT GAIT
Walking by moving the right crutch and left leg together, then the left crutch and right leg together.
ULTRASOUND
The use of high frequency sound wave echoes to outline the shape of various tissues and organs in the body. Ultrasound is frequently used in prenatal care to establish the baby’s due date, whether there is more than one baby, or detect some birth defects such as spina bifida and hydrocephalus.
URETER
Either of the two tubes through which urine passes from the kidneys into the bladder.
URETHRA
The tube that routes urine from the bladder to the outside of the body. The urethra goes through the penis in the male and to the perineum in the female.
URINALYSIS
Examination of the urine as an aid in detecting and diagnosing infection.
URINARY BLADDER
A sac in the pelvic cavity that serves as a reservoir for urine.
URINE CULTURE AND SENSITIVITY
A sample of urine is placed in a culture to grow out the colonies of bacteria that will be identified and tested for their sensitivity to various antibiotic medicines.
URODYNAMICS
A detailed study of bladder pressures and urine flow.
UROLOGIST
A physician who specializes in the treatment of urinary tract problems, which include the kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra.
VALGUS
Bent outward, away from the midline.
VARUS
Bent inward, toward the midline.
VCUG (Voiding cystourethrogram)
An x-ray test to show the flow of urine from the bladder; through the urethra.
VENTRICLES
Fluid-filled spaces within the brain. They become swollen in hydrocephalus.
VENTRICLE SHUNT
A tube placed within the ventricles and used to prevent brain damage by draining excess fluid from the ventricles- to another part of the body.
VENTRICULITIS
An inflammation of the ventricle.
VENTRICULO-PERITONEAL SHUNT
Plastic tube connecting the ventricles to the abdomen to treat hydrocephalus.
VERTEBRA
The bony segment of the spinal column. 33 vertebrae make up the vertebral column or backbone.
VESICOSTOMY
An incision made in the bladder allowing urine to pass through an opening in the abdominal wall.
VESTIBULAR SYSTEM
The inner ear and neurological system that controls balance.
WALKER
Movable aid used to provide stability in walking.