Acetylcholine, norepinephrine, serotonin, and somato statin: Brain chemicals necessary for communication between nerve cells.
Acoustic nerve: The eighth cranial never includes branches that mediate the sense of balance and head position (the vestibular nerve), as well as hearing (the cochlear nerve).
Acoustic neuromas: Benign tumors that grow from the sheath of a cranial nerve.
ADLs: Activities of daily living
Amniocentesis, chorionic villus sampling (CVS): A procedure during which the doctor inserts a needle through the mother's lower abdomen, or passes a catheter up through her cervix into the chorionic villi, which forms the lining of the placenta. A small sample of cells is then removed to be tested for genetic disorders, including PKU.
Ankylosing spondylitis: A form of arthritis in the spine, one of the most common spinal inflammatory disorders.
Arachnoiditis: An infection of the membrane that surrounds the spinal cord.
Arteriogram: This test involves injecting dye into the arteries, which makes them visible on x-ray. Useful in diagnosing vasculitis which affects the larger vessels.
Artificial lumbar disk surgery: An artificial lumbar disc is a device inserted between two lumbar vertebrae after an intervertebral disc has been surgically removeed in the process of decompressing the spinal cord or a nerve root. The intent of the device is to preserve motion at the disc space. It is an alternative to the use of bone grafts, plates and screws in pursuit of a fusion following such a disc removal, which necessarily eliminates motion at the operated disc space.
Astrocytoma: See Glioma
Astrocytoma: Tumor that arises from the glial cells that support the neurons in the central nervous system.
Aura: A neurological warning sign, such as a sense of fear, an unpleasant smell, or change in perception.
Autoimmune disorder: A disorder wherein the body's immune system attacks its own healthy cells and tissues, due to the overproduction of certain antibodies.
Autonomic neuropathy: Damage to the nerves that regulate the part of your nervous system that you can't control ó the nerves that regulate your heart rate, blood pressure, perspiration and digestion, among other functions. Your nerves transmit messages between your brain and your muscles, blood vessels, skin and internal organs.
Autosomal dominant disorder: Autosomal means that both males and females are affected, and dominant means that one copy of the gene is necessary to have the condition.
Bbradykinesia: Slowness of movement, a symptom of Parkinsonís Disease and progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP).
Brainstem: The connection between the brain and spinal cord, containing the origin of nerves involved in the control of breathing, blood pressure, eye movements, swallowing, etc.
Cauterize: To cut and seal or clip something within the body.
Central nervous system: The brain and spinal cord.
Cerebellum: Portion of the brainstem lying behind the foramen magnum, involved with coordination and balance.
Cerebral angiography: A study that can show arteries and vascular structures around the tumor may also be used. This imaging study can help direct the surgical approach to the tumor by showing which blood vessels are affected by the tumor.
Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) : fluid surrounding and supporting brain and spinal cord. The CSF helps support and cushion the brain and has a role in clearing potentially harmful substances. Structures in the brain, called the choroid plexuses, create CSF from blood.
Chest x-ray: Diagnostic test which uses invisible electromagnetic energy beams to produce images of internal tissues, bones, and organs onto film.
Chorionic villus sampling (CVS): See Amniocentesis
Choroid plexus: A structure in the brain that creates cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) from blood.
Chronic: A condition or symptoms that persists over a long period of time.
Clonus: Repetitive jerky movements.
Complex partial seizures (psychomotor attacks): These seizures often begin with an aura, or a neurological warning, such as a sense of fear, an unpleasant smell, or change in perception. After the aura, consciousness may be altered; speech stops and the person may perform automatic repetitive movements such as chewing, swallowing, hand fidgeting, or purposeless movement from place to place.
Computed tomography scan (CT or CAT scan): A diagnostic imaging procedure that uses a combination of x-rays and computer technology to produce cross-sectional images (often called slices), both horizontally and vertically, of the body. A CT scan shows detailed images of any part of the body, including the bones, muscles, fat, and organs. CT scans are more detailed than general x-rays.
Computer-assisted spinal navigation: Spinal navigation nechnology enables the surgeon to more accurately place spinal instrumentation, perform decompression (e.g. eliminate pressure on nerves) and find and remove tumors. Three-dimensional models of a petient's own spine ppear on a computer screen with virtual representations of real surgical instruments that the surgeons have in their hand. Surgeries can even be planned "virtually" on the computer before a patient even goes to sleep under anesthesia. For example, screw diameter, length, and other measurements can be made with greater accuracy.
Corpus callosotomy: The major type of disconnection surgery, in which a structure that separates the two halves (hemispheres) of the brain is disrupted. This procedure is used particularly in children who experience drop attacks.
Countrecoup: An injury that can occur in response to shaking of the brain within the confines of the skull; when a baby is shaken forcibly enough to cause extreme countrecoup injury, it is known as shaken baby syndrome.
Craniotomy: An open neurosurgical procedure that requires removal of a portion of the skull in order to gain access to the brain and other intracranial structures.
Dementia: a disorder in which mental functions deteriorate and breakdown.
Discitis: An infection in the space in between vertebrae.
Discoid rash: A raised rash usually found on the head, arms, chest, or back.
Disconnection surgery: Neurological surgery to disrupt pathways that spread seizures. Disconnection surgery is done more frequently in children than adults.
Drop attacks: Generalized epileptic seizures, usually in children, that cause falls due to loss of muscle control.
Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG): A diagnostic test that records the electrical activity of the heart, shows abnormal rhythms (arrhythmias or dysrhythmias), and detects heart muscle stress.
Electroencephalogram (EEG): A procedure that involves placement of electrodes on a patientís scalp to measure and record the brain's continuous electrical.
Electromyogram: Diagnostic test of muscle function.
Endoscope: A tiny video camera.
Endoscopic third ventriculostomy (ETV): A treatment that enables surgeons treating patients with hydrocephalus to avoid placing a shunt, a device that drains fluid from the brain that was until recently the mainstay of treatment for hydrocephalus. Surgeons at MASC perform these procedures through a one-inch incision, and each procedure requires less than one hour of surgery. Depending upon their condition, patients are able to return home the same day or the following day.
Ependyma: The lining (epithelium) of the walls of the cavities (ventricles) inside the brain and the central canal of the spinal cord.
Ependymoma: Tumor of the lining of the cavities in the brain; ependymomas arise from the cells that line cavities within the brain and spinal cord.
Extradural tumor, vertebral column tumor: By far the most common spinal tumor, it occurs outside of the protective sheath of the spinal cord and usually involve the bones and cartilage of the vertebrae; it may be either benign or malignant. Most extradural tumors are metastatic — they spread to the spinal column from tumors that arise in other areas, most commonly the lungs, breasts, prostate, and kidneys.
Extradural tumor: A tumor occurring outside of the protective sheath of the spinal cord. Also called vertebral column tumors, these tumors usually involve the bones and cartilage of the vertebrae and may be either benign or malignant.
Facial nerve: The seventh cranial nerve.
Fiducial: See Frameless stereotactic guidance
Focal epilepsy: See Partial epilepsy
Foramen magnum: Large hole within the center of the posterior compartment of the brainstem.
Frameless stereotactic guidance: For this study, a contrast MRI is performed after special markers (called fiducials) are placed on the patient's scalp. The fiducials are processed by a computer, which calculates the location of the tumor and creates a three-dimensional reconstruction. This image then is used at the time of surgery to help locate the tumor precisely, maximize tumor removal, and minimize injury to the surrounding brain.
Generalized epilepsy: Because these seizures are generalized and have no clear initiation point, they often cannot be cured with surgery, but still can be treated with surgery, such as vagal nerve stimulation and corpus callosotomy, that alleviates symptoms. Some patients, particularly those with idiopathic generalized seizures, will respond well to anticonvulsant medication.
Glasgow Coma Scale: Definition to come
Glioma, astrocytoma, or hemangioblastoma: Tumors that arise from glial cells, the supportive cells of the brain.
Glomus tumor: Tumor associated with nerves of the head and neck.
Hemangioblastoma: Tumor of the vascular system.
Hemangiomas: Benign growth that consists of blood vessels.
Hemifacial spasm, or tic convulsif: A neuromuscular disorder characterized by frequent involuntary contractions of the muscles on one side of the face.
Hemispherectomy: Neurological surgery that involves components of both resective and disconnection surgery, which is done almost exclusively in children.
High-grade: Fast-growing or malignant
Hippocampus: A region of the temporal lobe
House and Brackmann Scale: Assesses the degree of function of the facial nerves and helps to provide a detailed picture of the functional involvement of a tumor so that surgery can be tailored to preserve this level of function.
House and Brackmann Scale: Diagnostic technique that assesses the degree of function of the facial nerves.
Hypervascular Tumor: A tumor that has become entangled in a complex network of blood vessels, a condition that can make resection both risky and complicated.
Ictal: Neuronal activity during a seizure
Idiopathic: A type of epilepsy in which the brain behaves normally between seizures and the cause of seizures is unknown. The term for a disorder for which no cause has yet been identified.
Infarction: Death of some or all of an organ due to absent blood flow
Interictal: Neuronal activity between seizures
Intracranial: Of the brain
Intradural-extramedullary tumor: A tumor occurring outside the spinal cord but within its protective covering.
Intramedullary tumor: Tumor that arises within the spinal cord itself, usually benign, but may be malignant and can be significant because of their location.
Ischemia: Decreased function due to decreased blood flow.
Juvenile nasopharyngeal angiofibroma: Tumor of the nose that occurs in young males.
Lobe: Division of the brain including the frontal, temporal, occipital, and parietal lobes.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan: diagnostic imaging technique that detects the magnetic spin of various particles in the body, used to gather information about the biochemistry of the brain.
Malar rash: A rash shaped like a butterfly that is usually found of the bridge of the nose and the cheeks.
Medulloblastoma: Malignant tumor that arises from incompletely developed cells.
Meninges: Protective membrane that line the skull and enclose the brain; consists of three layers: the dura mater, the arachnoid membrane, and the pia matter.
Meningioma: Tumor of the protective cover of the brain; meningiomas arise from the meninges, the leathery protective layer that covers the brain and spinal cord. Meningiomas may arise from any location where meninges exist (eg, nasal cavity, paranasal sinuses, middle ear, mediastinum).
Minimally invasive spine surgery (MISS): Minimally invasive surgery utilizes sdmall skin incisions, minimizes the damaging effects of large muscle retraction, and attempts to leave the body as naturally intact as it was prior to surgery. The goal is to achieve rapid recovery, lessen post-operative pain, and leave cosmetically satisfying incisional scars. We use these techniques for the treatment of degenerative spine disorders including back pain and lumbar and thoracic disk herniations, for spinal tumors, palmar hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating of the hands), and spine trauma.
Multifactorial inheritance: Refers to the fact that ìmany factors" are involved in causing a health problem. The factors are usually both genetic and environmental, where a combination of genes from both parents, in addition to unknown environmental factors, produces the trait or condition. Often one gender (either male or female) is affected more frequently than the other in multifactorial traits. Multifactorial traits do recur in families because they are partly caused by genes.
Multiple subpial transections: A procedure to sever the pathways along which epileptic seizures propagate. Vertical connections between nerve cells are thought to be associated with normal brain function, while horizontal connections appear to help seizures spread. Subpial transections are the cutting of the horizontal connections to prevent seizures from spreading.
Myelin: The protective sheathing that insulates and protects nerve cell fibers in the brain, optic nerve, and spinal cord.
Neocortex: Part of the external surface layer of the brain.
Neuritic plaques: Clusters of degenerating nerve endings.
Neurofibrillary tangles: Fiber tangles within nerve cells.
Neurofibroma: Skin nodule (see Schwannoma).
Neurologic: Concerning the brain, spine, and peripheral nerves.
Neurology: Study and care of problems of the neurologic system, including the brain and spinal cord.
Norepinephrine: See Acetylcholine
Osteoporosis: Progressive loss of bone mass.
Osteosarcoma, osteoblastoma, osteoid osteoma: Tumors that arise from within the vertebrae.
Palmar hyperhidrosis: Excessive sweating of the hands.
Paraganglioma: Tumor associated with nerves of the head and neck.
Partial (focal) epilepsy: A type of epilepsy in which the seizure initiation point can be identified within the temporal lobe of the brain; thus the cause of seizures can be isolated and treated or removed. Often defined by their point of origin, partial epilepsy includes frontal lobe epilepsy, occipital lobe epilepsy, mesial temporal lobe epilepsy, and parietal lobe epilepsy.
Peripheral nervous system: The portion of the nervous system that branches off from the spinal cord to the rest of the body.
Pineoblastoma: Malignant tumor of the pineal gland
Plasmapheresis: Process in which whole blood is removed from the body; the red and white blood cells are separated from the plasma and are returned to the body.
Plasticity: The unique ability of a young child's brain to re-organize, re-assign important functions, and relearn tasks.
Progressive: A condition or symptoms that grow worse over time.
PSP: Progressive supranuclear palsy .
Psychomotor attack: See Complex partial seizures.
Radioisotope cisternography: A somewhat invasive diagnostic test requiring injection of material into the spinal canal.
Radionuclide bone scan: A nuclear imaging technique that uses a very small amount of radioactive material, which is injected into the patient's bloodstream to be detected by a scanner. This test shows blood flow to the bone and cell activity within the bone.
Remission: Partial or complete lack of symptoms.
Resective surgery: Neurological surgery to remove the source of a patientís seizures. Resective surgery is done on adults and children alike.
Sacroiliitis: Inflammation of the joint between the lower back and the pelvis.
Schwannoma, neurofibroma: Tumor that arises from the sheaths that cover nerves and improve the conduction of nerve impulses. This type of tumor usually is benign and slow-growing.
Sciatica: A sharp pain along the distribution of a nerve, usually due to compression of the nerve by a herniated intervertebral disc. Scissoring: Uncontrolled and sometimes extreme crossing of the arms or legs.
Sella turcica: A bony compartment at the base of the skull on which the pituitary gland sits.
Serotonin: See Acetylcholine
Shunt: An implantable tube that allows the excess fluid to drain to other parts of the brain or elsewhere in the body.
Simple partial seizures: These seizures affect the motor or sensory areas of the brain, causing jerking movements in the hand or facial muscles, or sensory symptoms such as flashing lights or a buzzing sound, but without altering consciousness.
Somato statin: See Acetylcholine.
Sphenoid meningioma: Meningioma growing on the optic nerve behind the eyes.
Spinal fusion surgery: Fusion is a surgical technique in which one or more of the vertebrae of the spine as united ("fused") so that the motion no longer occurs between them. This can effectively treat chronic pain in the cervical or lumbar spine. In patients with spinal fractures or tumors , iot can restore stability of the spine and prevent further injury to the spinal cord and/or nerves. During surgery, titanium instrumentation is placed into the bone to hold the vertegrae together. Bone grafts are placed around the spine and the body then heals the grafts over several months -- similar to healing a fracture -- which joins or "welds" the vertebrae together.
Spinal osteoarthritis: Cartilage breakdown at spinal joints.
Spinal stenosis: A narrowing of the spinal canal.
Status epilepticus: Frequent, repeated seizures occurring at a rate of more than three per hour.
Symptomatic: A type of epilepsy in which there is a clear structural abnormality that contributes to seizures.
Syndrome: Medical condition characterized by a collection of symptoms (what the patient feels) and signs (what a physician can observe or measure). A syndrome is distinct from a disease because it is not clear that a specific disease-causing agent is involved. The signs and symptoms of the syndrome can be quite varied, so physicians may, on rare occasions, find it difficult to diagnose Guillain-BarrÈ in its earliest stages.
TBI: Traumatic brain injury
TIA: Transient ischemic attack (or "mini-stroke")
Tinnitus: Ringing in the ears.
Transection: Complete tear in the spinal cord
Tremor: Trembling of the arms, jaw, legs, and face
Urinalysis: Laboratory examination of urine for various cells and chemicals, such as red blood cells, white blood cells, infection, or excessive protein.
Vascular malformation: Abnormal collection or tangle of blood vessels that restricts or alters blood flow and is associated with the degeneration of neurons.
This page was last updated on 04/20/05.