Glossary of Terms

“How do I understand my own medical records and what my doctors are telling me?”

Medical terminology can be exceedingly complex and confusing.  To most people it’s a foreign language.  We see our clients understandably struggle to learn this language every day, so we thought to do something about that.

While this is not a fully comprehensive list, here are over 200 medical terms and specialties associated with traumatic brain injury often found in medical literature and patient medical records.  We hope you find this helpful.  Should you have any questions about the content in this Traumatic Brain Injury Glossary, we encourage you to reach out to us.


Acquired brain injury (ABI):
Is an injury to the brain which is not hereditary, congenital or degenerative, or induced by birth trauma. An acquired brain injury commonly results in a change in neuronal activity, which effects the physical integrity, the metabolic activity, or the functional ability of the cell. Results may vary from mild, moderate, or severe impairments in one or more areas, including cognition, speech-language communication; memory; attention and concentration; reasoning; abstract thinking; physical functions; psychosocial behavior; and information processing.

Acute Care:
A skilled service delivery, hospital-based, that optimizes medical condition. May or may not receive therapies.
Acute Rehabilitation: Early phase of rehabilitation beginning as soon as patient is medically stable. Includes an interdisclinary term of professionals.

Activities of Daily Living. Routine activities carried out for personal hygiene and health such as eating, dressing, grooming, shaving, etc. Nurses, occupational and physical therapists are the main coaches for ADL, which is sometimes called DLS or daily living skills.

Adaptive/assistive equipment:
A special device, which assists in the performance of self-care, work, play or leisure activities.

A state of irritability; combativeness.

Uncontrolled restlessness, upset or excitement in response to internal or external factors.

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

Inability to express thoughts in writing.

A blood-filled sac formed by disease related stretching of an artery or blood vessel. The artery or vessel wall weakens as the sac grows larger, and may eventually burst, causing a hemorrhage.

To walk.

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

A blood-filled sac formed by disease related stretching of an artery or blood vessel. The artery or vessel wall weakens as the sac grows larger, and may eventually burst, causing a hemorrhage.

Inability to recall names of objects. Persons with this problem often can speak fluently but have to use other words to describe familiar objects.

Loss of the sense of smell.

Lack of oxygen to the brain.

Anterograde Amnesia:
Inability to consolidate information about ongoing events. Difficulty with new learning.

Medication to decrease possibility of seizures.

Anti-Social Behavior:
Behavior that is contrary to the customs, standards and moral principles accepted by society.

Feelings of apprehension, uneasiness, agitation, uncertainty and fear because of threat or danger.

The inability to produce voluntary speech due to a deficit in motor (muscle) programming caused by brain damage.

Cell Death That Occurs Naturally As Part Of Normal Development, Maintenance, and renewal of tissues within an organism.

Loss of the ability to execute or carry out learned purposeful movements, despite having the desire to perform the movements.

Arachnoid Membrane:
One of the three membranes that cover the brain; it is between the pia mater and the dura. Collectively, these three membranes form the meninges.

Condition caused by insufficient intake of oxygen.

A problem of muscle coordination not due to apraxia, weakness, rigidity, spasticity or sensory loss. Caused by lesion of the cerebellum or basal ganglia. Can interfere with a person’s ability to walk, talk, eat and to perform other self-care tasks.

A wasting away or decrease in size of a cell, tissue, organ, or part of the body caused by lack of nourishment, inactivity or loss of nerve supply.

Ability to focus on a given task for an appropriate period of time.

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

The study of hearing disorders through identification and evaluation of hearing loss, and the rehabilitation of persons with hearing loss, esp. that which cannot be improved by medical or surgical means.

Understanding the problems resulting from a brain injury.


The ability to use appropriate righting and equilibrium reactions to maintain an upright position. It is usually tested in sitting and standing positions.

Behavior Disorders:
For the patient exhibiting patterns of behavior preventing participation in active rehabilitation, including destructive patient behavior to self and others; continuum of controlled settings.

Pertaining to both sides of the body.

Brain Death:
An irreversible cessation of measurable brain function.

Brain Plasticitya:
The ability of intact brain cells to take over functions of damaged cells; plasticity diminishes with maturation.

Brain Scan:
An imaging technique in which a radioactive dye (radionucleide) is injected into the blood stream and then pictures of the brain are taken to detect tumors, hemorrhages, blood clots, abscesses or abnormal anatomy.

Brain Stem:
The Stemlike part of the brain that connects the cerebral hemispheres with the spinal cord. Neurological functions of the brain stem are necessary for survival (breathing, heart rate) and for arousal (being awake and alert).


Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities.

Located in the back of the brain, the cerebellum is involved in synergic control of muscles and plays an important role in the coordination of volunary muscular movements. Damage may result in ataxia.

Cerebral-spinal fluid (CSF):
A colorless solution similar to plasma protecting the brain and spinal cord from physical impact. Usually shrinking or expanding of the cranial contents is quickly balanced by increase or decrease of this fluid. CSF circulates through the subarachnoid space. For diagnosis purposes, a lumbar puncture (spinal tap) is used to draw CSF.

Marked by long duration or frequent recurrence.

Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE):
A progressive neurological disorder associated with a variety of symptoms, including cognition and communication problems, motor disorders, problems with impulse control and depression, confusion, and irritability.

Closed head injury:
Trauma to the head without penetration of the skull regardless of severity. Also see Traumatic Brain Injury, Minor Head Injury and Concussion.

Cognitive impairment:
Difficulty with basic brain functions- perception, memory, attention or reasoning.

Cognitive Process:
Higher mental functioning; learning, memory, imagination, comprehension, decision making. The means by which an individual becomes aware of people, objects and situations in the environment and their subjective, symbolic meaning.

Cognitive Rehabilitation:
Therapy programs that aid persons in the management of specific problems in thinking and perception. Skills are practiced and strategies are taught to help improve function and/or compensate for remaining deficits.

State of unconsciousness from which the patient cannot be awakened or aroused, even by powerful stimulation; lack of any response to one’s environment. Defined clinically as an inability to follow a one-step command consistently. Glasgow Coma Scale of 8 or less.

Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE):
A progressive neurological disorder associated with a variety of symptoms, including cognition and communication problems, motor disorders, problems with impulse control and depression, confusion, and irritability.

Ability to understand spoken, written, or general communication.

Compressive Cranial Neuropathies:
Degeneration of nerves in the brain caused by pressure on those nerves.

Concrete Thinking:
A style of thinking in which the individual sees each situation as unique and is unable to generalize from the similarities between situations. Language and perceptions are interpreted literally so that a proverb such as “a stitch in time saves nine” cannot be readily grasped.

A violent blow, jarring, shaking or other non-penetrating injury to the brain. Frequently, but not always, accompanied by a loss of consciousness. Also called Minor Head Injury and Mild Traumatic Brain Injury.

A state in which a person is bewildered, perplexed, or unable to self-orient.

Conjugate Movement:
Both eyes move simultaneously in the same direction. Convergence of the eyes toward the midline (crossed eyes) is a disconjugate movement.

CSF Fistula:
A tear between two of the three membranes – the dura and arachnoid membranes – that encase the brain.

Bruising of brain tissue on side opposite where the blow was struck.

Cortical Blindness:
Loss of vision resulting from a lesion of the primary visual areas of the occipital lobe. Light reflex is preserved.

CT Scan:
Computerized Tomography (like an X-Ray) is a test which takes a close look at the functioning of the brain by projecting an accurate picture. This test helps locate physical damage to the brain.


See Diffuse Axonal Injury.

Pressure area, bed sore, skin opening, skin breakdown. A discolored or open area of skin damage caused by pressure. Common areas most prone to breakdown are buttocks or backside, hips, shoulder blades, heels, ankles and elbows.

Deep Vein Thrombosis:
Formation of a blood clot deep within a vein.

Thought disturbances; hallucinations.

Dementia Pugilistica:
Brain damage caused by cumulative and repetitive head trauma; common in career boxers.

Defense mechanism allowing an individual to maintain that a problem has been resolved with an increase in personal competence, although the problem still remains. It protects against physical or emotional conflict or loss. Many rehab professionals over ascribe denial to their patients. Hoping for functional improvement should not be misunderstood as denying disability.

Depressed Skull Fracture:
A fracture occurring when pieces of broken skull press into the tissues of the brain.

An abnormal emotional state in which the individual experiences an exaggerated feeling of sadness, worthlessness and hopelessness, inappropriate and out of proportion to some personal loss or tragedy.

Diffuse axonal injury (DAI):
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.

Diffuse Brain Injury:
Injury to cells in many areas of the brain rather than in one specific location.

The loss, absence or impairment of physical or mental fitness that can be seen or measured.

The inability to hold attention on an activity.

Inability to control impulsive behavior and emotions.

Not knowing where you are, who you are, or current date.

A tough, fibrous membrane lining the brain; the outermost of the three membranes collectively called the meninges.

Difficulty in forming words or speaking them because of weakness of muscles used in speaking. Speech is characterized by slurred, imprecise articulation. Tongue movements are usually labored and the rate of speaking may be very slow. Voice quality may be abnormal, usually excessively nasal; volume may be weak; drooling may occur. Dysarthria may accompany aphasia or occur alone.

Difficulty in swallowing. It also includes difficulty in moving material from the mouth to the stomach. This definition also includes problems in positioning food in the mouth.

Impairment of speech resulting from a brain lesion.


Collection of fluid in the tissue causing swelling.

EEG (Electroencephalogram):
The electroencephalogram measures “electrical” currents from nerve cells of the brain. This test helps diagnose specific neurological conditions, especially the presence of a seizure disorder.

EKG (Electrocardiogram):
The electrocardiogram measures variations in the heart and heart muscle by connecting electrodes to the chest. Patients in the emergency room and intensive care units often are monitored with a EKG to assure normal heart functioning.

Endotracheal tube:
A tube that serves as an artificial airway that is inserted through the patient’s moth or nose.

Epidural Hematoma:
Bleeding into the area between the skull and the dura.

Episodic Memory:
Memory for ongoing events in a person’s life. More easily impaired than semantic memory, perhaps because rehearsal or repetition tends to be minimal.

Evoked Potential:
Registration of the electrical responses of active 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.

Executive functions:
The capacities necessary to formulate, plan and carry out effectively. These functions are essential for independent, creative and socially constructive behavior. These are controlled by the frontal lobe.


A state of exhaustion; the loss of strength or endurance.
Fatigue with sudden onset such as occurs following excessive exertion; relieved by rest.
Long-continued fatigue not relieved by rest. Indicative of disease such as tuberculosis or diabetes or other conditions of altered body metabolism.
The reduced capacity of a muscle to perform work as a result of repeated contractions. Fatigue may be partial or complete.

Fluent Aphasia:
A condition in which patients display little meaning in their speech even though they speak in complete sentences. Also called Wernicke’s or motor aphasia.

Frontal Lobe:
Front part of the brain; involved in planning, organizing, problem solving, selective attention, personality, and a variety of higher level thinking.

Frustration Tolerance:
The ability to persist in completing a task despite apparent difficulty. Individuals with a poor frustration tolerance will often refuse to complete tasks which are the least bit difficult. Angry behavior, such as yelling or throwing things while attempting a task is also indicative of poor frustration tolerance.

The ability to carry out a purposeful activity.


Gait Training:
Instruction in walking, with or without equipment; also called “ambulation training.”

GI Tube:
A tube inserted through a surgical opening into the stomach. It is used to introduce liquids, food or medication into the stomach when the person is unable to take these substances by mouth.

Glasgow Coma Scale:
A standardized system used to assess the degree of brain impairment and to identify the seriousness of injury in relation to outcome. The system involves three determinants: eye opening, verbal responses and motor response. These three determinants are evaluated independently according to a numerical value. The resultant value indicates the level of consciousness and degree of dysfunction. Scores run from a high of 15 to a low of 3. Persons are considered to have experienced a ‘mild brain’ injury when their score is 13 to 15. A score of 9 to 12 is considered to reflect a ‘moderate’ brain injury and a score of 8 or less reflects a ‘severe’ brain injury.

Global Aphasia:
A condition in which patients suffer severe communication disabilities as a result of extensive damage to portions of the brain responsible for language.


Head Injury:
Any traumatic injury to the head regardless of severity. Types of head injury include penetration of the skull by a foreign object such as a bullet. Others result from a blow to the head as in an impact injury. Others are caused by a violent shaking or whiplash of the head.

Collection of blood in tissue or a space following the rupture of blood vessel.
Types include:
Epidural Hematoma- Outside the brain and its fibrous covering but under the skull.
Subdural Hematoma- Between the brain and its fibrous covering (dura).
Intracerebral Hematoma- In the brain tissue.
Subarachnoid Hematoma- Around surface of the brain, between the dura and arachnoid membranes.

Weakness of one side of the body.

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.

Weakness, paralysis or loss of movement on one side of the body.

Abnormal internal or external discharge of blood. May be venous, arterial or capillary from blood vessels into tissues, into or from the body.

Hemorrhagic Stroke:
Stroke caused by bleeding out of one of the major arteries leading to the brain.

Enlargement of fluid-filled cavities in the brain, not due to brain atrophy.

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


ICP Monitor:
Intracranial Pressure Monitor indicates pressure within the brain. It consists of a small tube attached to the patient at the skull and then to a monitoring device. The ICP monitor helps assure close observation of activity within the brain which may result in swelling of the brain.

Immediate Memory:
The ability to recall numbers, pictures, or words immediately following presentation. Patients with immediate memory problems have difficulty learning new tasks because they cannot remember instructions. Relies upon concentration and attention.

Immediate Seizures:
Seizures that occur within 24 hours of a traumatic brain injury.

Impulse Control:
Ability to withhold inappropriate verbal or motor responses while completing a task.

A tendency to act without thinking; the acting out of a sudden, irresistible and irrational urge or desire; the spontaneous physical activity that results when an irritation caused by stimuli passes through tissue, especially muscle and nerve tissue.

Intracranial Pressure:
Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) pressure measured from a needle or bolt introduced into the CSF space surrounding the brain. It reflects the pressure buildup of pressure in the skull as a result of injury.

Interdisciplinary Approach:
A method of diagnosis, evaluation, and individual program planning in which two or more specialists, such as medical doctors, psychologists, recreational therapists, social workers, etc., participate as a team, contributing their skills, competencies, insights, and perspectives to focus on identifying the developmental needs of the person with a disability and on devising ways to meet those needs.

Intracerebral Hematoma:
Bleeding within the brain caused by damage to a major blood vessel.


The ability to form a correct conclusion based on knowledge and experience.


Sensory awareness of body parts as they move.


Notable shifts in emotional state (e.g., uncontrolled laughing or crying)

Awakens with stimulation; drowsy but awake.

Locked-in Syndrome:
A condition in which a patient is aware and awake, but cannot move or communicate due to complete paralysis of the body. A condition resulting from interruption of motor pathways in the ventral pons, usually by infarction. This disconnection of the motor cells in the lower brain stem and spinal cord from controlling signals issued by the brain leaves the patient completely paralyzed and mute, but able to receive and understand sensory stimuli; communication may be possible by code using blinking, or movements of the jaw or eyes, which can be spared.

Long-term memory:
Ability to easily recall feelings, events, ideas, and other information from a long time ago.


Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI):
A noninvasive diagnostic technique that uses magnetic fields to create an image of soft tissue, central nervous system and musculoskeletal systems. Used to detect subtle changes in brain tissue.

Major head injury:
Trauma to the brain resulting in loss of consciousness. Such head injuries frequently result from due to penetration of the brain by a foreign object such as a bullet wound or a crushing blow. However, the brain may sustain a major injury without a penetrating injury of the skull.

State and federal program of public assistance to persons of all ages whose income and resources are insufficient to pay for health care.

Hospital and supplementary medical insurance for disabled or aged persons under the Social Security Act.

Ability to retain and recall information.

Inflammation of the three membranes that envelop the brain and spinal cord, collectively known as the meninges; the meninges include the dura, pia mater, and arachnoid.

Mild Traumatic Brain Injury (MTBI):
A patient with a mild traumatic brain injury is a person who has had a traumatically-induced physiological disruption of brain function, as manifested by at least one of the following: 1) any period of loss of consciousness, 2) any loss of memory for events immediately before or after the accident, 3) any alteration in mental state at the time of the accident (e.g., feeling dazed, disoriented, or confused), 4) focal neurological deficit(s) which may or may not be transient; but where the severity of the injury does not exceed the following: a) loss of consciousness of approximately 30 minutes or less; b) after 30 minutes, an initial Glasgow Coma Scale score of 13-15; c) Post Traumatic Amnesia not greater than 24 hours.

Ability of an individual to move within, and interact with the environment.

Muscle Tone:
Used in clinical practice to describe the resistance of a muscle to being stretched. When the peripheral nerve to a muscle is severed, the muscle becomes flaccid (limp). When nerve fibers in the brain or spinal cord are damaged, the balance between facilitation and inhibition of muscle tone is disturbed. The tone of some muscles may become increased and they resist being stretched–a condition called hypertonicity or spasticity.


Nasogastric tube (NG tube):
Tube that passes through the person’s nose and throat and ends in the person’s stomach. This tube allows for direct “tube feeding” to maintain the nutritional status of the person or removal of stomach acids.

Neural Stem Cells:
Cells found only in adult neural tissue that can develop into several different cell types in the central nervous system.

The electrical activation of cells in the brain; neuroexcitation is part of the normal functioning of the brain or can also be the result of abnormal activity related to an injury.

A nerve cell that is one of the main functional cells of the brain and nervous system.

Neuropsychological Assessment:
An evaluation of the patient’s brain functions relating to behavior; based on the results of standardized tests, history, present circumstances, attitudes and the expectations of the patient was well as the patient’s behavior during the examination.

A specialist involved in evaluation and treatment in the functional behavioral aspects of rehabilitation. The neuropsychologist evaluates actual brain functioning in relation to real life activities, behavior and social adjustment.

A physician who specializes in the treatment of patients with a variety of brain functioning difficulties. The surgeon may perform brain or spinal cord surgery when indicated.

Chemicals that transmit nerve signals from one neuron to another.

Non-Fluent Aphasia:
A condition in which patients have trouble recalling words and speaking in complete sentences. Also called Broca’s or motor aphasia.

Latin initials for “nothing by mouth”. This means no liquids or foods for a set period, usually in preparation for certain tests, or when a person cannot safely swallow.

Involuntary horizontal, vertical, or rotary movement of the eyeballs. See also vision after head injury.


Occipital lobe:
Region in the back of the brain which processes visual information.

Occupational Therapist:
A professional who uses purposeful activity in the treatment of physically impaired individuals and helps them achieve maximum optimal functioning. The following areas are evaluated and addressed in the treatment of the brain-injured person as appropriate: self care skills; cognitive/visual perceptual retraining; sensory stimulation; splint fabrication; upper extremity gross and fine motor activities; practical community skills such as prevocational training, money management and home visits to adapt physical environments to specific needs.

A type of support cell in the brain that produces myelin, the fatty sheath that surrounds and insulates axons.

Open Head Injury:
Trauma to the brain resulting in loss of consciousness due to the penetration of the brain by a foreign object such as a bullet. Also called Major Head Injury, Acute Head Injury, or Severe Head Injury.

A sense of what is going on around you. This includes knowing the day, date, month and year; knowing things about yourself; knowing where you are and how to get around; and knowing what happened to you; along with the ability to use this information appropriately in a functional setting.


Weakness of lower limbs.

Paralysis of the legs (from the waist down).

Parietal lobe:
One of the two parietal lobes of the brain located behind the frontal lobe at the top of the brain.

Penetrating Head Injury:
A brain injury in which an object pierces the skull and enters the brain tissue.

Penetrating Skull Fracture:
A brain injury in which an object pierces the skull and injures brain tissue.

Ability to make sense of what one sees, hears, feels, tastes or smells. Perceptual losses are often very subtle and the patient and/or family are unaware of them.

The inappropriate persistence of a response in a current task which may have been appropriate for a former task. Perseverations may be verbal or motoric.

A physician specializing in physical medicine and rehabilitation is involved in the evaluation of physical functioning of the body following injury and during the patient’s rehabilitation.

Physical Therapist:
A professional who evaluates and treats the brain injured patient for neuromuscular deficits to maximize the patient’s return to functional activities. Interventions include posturing, adaptive equipment, therapeutic exercise, motor planning activities, transfer and gait training.

The ability of the brain to adapt to deficits and injury.

A condition in which air or gas is trapped within the intracranial cavity.

A temporary or permanent leveling off in the recovery process.

Post-Concussion Syndrome:
Group of symptoms after a concussion that may include memory changes, mood swings, poor concentration, headache, dizziness, depression, and anxiety.

Pneumocepost-Traumatic Amnesia:
A state of acute confusion due to a traumatic brain injury, marked by difficulty with perception, thinking, remembering, and concentration; during this acute stage, patients often cannot form new memories. May also be called Anterograde Amnesia.

Post-Traumatic Epilepsy:
Recurrent seizures occurring more than 1 week after a traumatic brain injury.

Pre-Morbid Condition:
Characteristics of an individual present before the disease or injury occurred.

Ability to bring cognitive process to figure out how to do a task.

Prospect for recovery from a disease or injury based on nature and symptoms of the case.

The sensory awareness of the position of body parts with or without movement. Combination of kinesthesia and position sense.

Prosodic Dysfunction:
Problems with speech intonation or inflection.

Process whereby an injury destroys an important neural network in children, and another less useful neural network that would have eventually died takes over the responsibilities of the damaged network.

Professional specializing in counseling, including adjustment to disability. Uses tests to identify personality and cognitive functioning.


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

Loss of function of any injured or diseased cervical spinal cord segment, affecting all four body limbs.


Range of motion (ROM):
The normal range of movement of any body joint. Range of motion also refers to exercises designed to maintain this range and prevent contractures.

The ability to think out logically.

Recreation therapist:
Responsible for developing a program to help persons with disabilities plan and manage leisure activities.

In brain or spinal cord injury, regeneration is the regrowth of nerve fiber tissue by way of some as yet unknown biologic process. In the peripheral system, nerves do regenerate after damage, and reform functional connections. Regeneration researchers are confident central nerves can be induced to grow, provided the proper environment is created. The challenge remains to restore functional connections to effectively restore function.

Comprehensive program to help individuals reach optimal mental and physical abilities or adjustment after an illness or disability.

Retrograde Amnesia:
Inability to recall events that occurred prior to the accident; may be a specific span of time or type of information.

Respite Care:
A means for taking over the care of a person temporarily (for a few hours to a few days) to provide a period of relief for the primary caregiver.

See Range of Motion.


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.

Refers to all aspects of movement and sensation and the interaction of the two.

Sensory Integration:
Interaction of two or more sensory processes in a manner that enhances the adaptiveness of the brain.

Reading, listening, expressing thoughts, describing events or contracting muscles in an orderly and meaningful manner.

Shaken Baby Syndrome:
A severe form of head injury that occurs when an infant or small child is shaken forcibly enough to cause the brain to bounce against the skull; the degree of brain damage depends on the extent and duration of the shaking. Minor symptoms include irritability, lethargy, tremors, or vomiting; major symptoms include seizures, coma, stupor, or death.

Shearing (or Diffuse Axonal Injury):
Damage to individual neurons resulting in disruption of neural networks and the breakdown of overall communication among neurons in the brain. See also Diffuse Axonal Injury.

Short Term Memory:
Primary or ‘working’ memory; its contents are in conscious awareness. A limited capacity system that holds up to seven chunks of information over periods of 30 seconds to several minutes, depending upon the person’s attention to the task.

Procedures to draw off excess fluid in brain. Surgically-placed tube running from ventricles deposits fluid into abdominal cavity, heart or large veins of the neck.

Social worker:
Acts as liaison between professionals and others including: family, funding sources, friends, and representatives of past or future placements.

Involuntary increase in muscle tone that occurs following injury to the brain or spinal cord, causing muscles to resist being moved.

Speech-Language Pathologist:
A Professional who evaluates and treats disorders of comprehension, reading, memory, orientation, oral-motor functioning, writing and cognition which may be present following a closed brain injury.

Spinal Shock:
Similar to a concussion in the brain, spinal shock causes the system to shut 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.

May follow a period of acute rehabilitation; not necessarily hospital based; typical length of rehabilitation stay 6-24 months (short to intermediate term); stay based on demonstrated improvement; identifiable team and program with specialized unit.

Beneath the dura (tough membrane) covering the brain and spinal cord.

Subdural Hematoma:
Bleeding confined to the area between the dura and the arachnoid membranes.

Subdural Hygroma:
A buildup of protein rich fluid in the area between the dura and the arachnoid membranes, usually caused by a tear in the arachnoid membrane.


See Traumatic Brain Injury.

Temporal Lobes:
There are two temporal lobes, one on each side of the brain located about level with the ears. These lobes allow a person to tell one smell form another and one sound from another. They also help sort new information.

Thrombosis or Thrombus:
The formation of a blood clot at the site of an injury.

Temporary surgical opening at the front of the throat providing access to the trachea or windpipe to assist in breathing.

Traumatic Brain Injury:
(TBI) means an acquired injury to the brain caused by an external physical force, resulting in total or partial functional disability or psychosocial impairment. The term applies to open or closed head injuries resulting in impairments in one or more areas, such as cognition, language, memory, attention, reasoning, abstract thinking, judgement, problem-solving, sensory, perceptual and motor abilities, psychosocial behavior, physical functions, information processing, and speech.


Pertaining to one side of the body.


Exaggerated, persistent contraction of the walls of a blood vessel.

Vegetative State:
Condition in which the person utters no words and does not follow commands or make any response that is psychologically meaningful.

Machine which helps an individual breathe, keeps airway passages in the throat clear and provides adequate oxygen to the body.

A surgical procedure that drains cerebrospinal fluid from the brain by creating an opening in one of the small cavities called ventricles.

Verbal Apraxia:
Impaired control of proper sequencing of muscles used in speech (tongue, lips, jaw muscles, vocal cords). These muscles are not weak but their control is defective. Speech is labored and characterized by sound reversals, additions and word approximations.

Ventricles, Brain:
Four natural cavities in the brain filled with spinal fluid. Outline of one or more of these cavities may change when a space occupying lesion (hemorrhage, tumor) develops.

Pertaining to the vestibular system in the middle ear and the brain which senses movements of the head. Disorders of the vestibular system can lead to dizziness, poor regulation of postural muscle tone and inability to detect quick movements of the head.

Visual Tracking:
Visually following an object as it moves through space. See also vision after head injury.

Vocational evaluation:
Comprehensive process that systemically uses work, real or simulated, as a focal point for assessment and vocational exploration.


Wheelchair tolerance:
Amount of time a person is able to sit in a wheelchair, determined by the skin’s response to pressure while sitting and ability to sit without excessive fatigue.

A response to physical danger or severe stress characterized by a state of apathy, lethargy, depression and retreat into oneself.





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