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Understanding medical and technical terms

UNDERSTANDING MEDICAL AND
TECHNICAL TERMS

ACALCULIA
Inability to perform simple problems of arithmetic. Partial or total loss of the sense of taste. Failure to recognise familiar objects and know the
AGRAPHIA

AMBLYOPIA
Partial or total loss of the ability to remember things which have been done or experiences. (See post-traumatic amnesia and retrograde amnesia).
ANEURISM
A balloon-like deformity in the wall of a blood vessel may eventually burst, causing haemorrhage. Lack of oxygen to supply to brain cells.
ANTICONVULSANT
Medication used to decrease the possibility of a seizure (e.g. Dilantine, Phenobarbital, Mysoline, Tegretol). Reduction of the ability to communicate with others through the use of language. Receptive aphasia is not understanding the language of others. Expressive aphasia is a reduction in the ability to use Language, for example naming and making mistakes in word usage. Inability to plan and perform purposeful movements, while still having the ability to move and be aware of the movement. Unsteadiness of movement; muscular unco-ordination when voluntary movements are attempted.
BEHAVIOUR MODIFICATION
A form of therapy using the principle of learning, aimed at changing
BRAIN PLASTICITY
The ability of intact brain cells to take over functions of damaged cells; plasticity diminishes as we get older
BRAIN STEM/MID-BRAIN
A bundle of nerve tissues below the main hemisphere at the top of the spinal cord. Controls bodily functions such as consciousness, wakefulness and breathing.
BURR HOLE


CEREBELLUM
A lump of tissue behind the brain stem regulating fine motor movements. CEREBRAL HEMISPHERES
The two side-by-side halves of the cerebrum.
CEREBROSPINAL FLUID (CSF)
The clear, colourless fluid in the spaces inside and around the brain and the spinal cord.
CEREBRIUM
The large walnut-like part of the brain, divided into two Hemispheres (right and left) and different areas called Lobes (frontal, temporal, parietal, occipital).
CIRCUMLOCUTION
Use of other words to describe a specific word or idea which cannot be remembered; not getting to the point. Rapidly alternating involuntary contraction and Relaxation of a muscle in response to a sudden Stretch.
CLOSED HEAD INJURY
Damage to the brain where there is no penetration from the scalp or skull through to brain tissue. Often there is no injury to scalp or skull.
COGNITIVE ABILITIES
Mental abilities such as thinking, remembering, planning, understanding, concentrating and using language. State of unconsciousness, the depth of which can be measured by the Glasgow Coma Scale, allowing a grading of coma by observation of eye opening, limb movements and speech.
CONCRETE THINKING
A style of thinking in which the individual sees each situation as unique and is unable to generalise from the similarities between situations.
CONCUSSION
Unconsciousness after a blow to the head.
CONFABULATION
Verbalizations about people, places or events with no basis in reality.
CONTRACTURE
Joints and muscles that are not used regularly, quickly, become stiff, rendering them resistant to stretching. Eventually the joints become fixed, restricting movement and can be released only by surgery.
CONTRALATERAL

CONTRECOUP
Bruising of brain tissue on the opposite side to where the blow was struck.
CONTUSION
A bruise caused by a blow with a blunt object.
CRANIOTOMY
Operation to open the skull. Usually involves cutting a trap-door in the bone of the skull exactly over the blood clot and then washing the clot away. The bone is then put back into place and heals firmly usually after three to four weeks. The bony skull. (Intracranial – inside the skull). Computerised Axial Tomography (CAT for short). A large doughnut shaped machine which is actually an x-ray camera that can take pictures of a person’s brain in slices. Because it is able, photographically to ‘peel away’ layers of tissue, it can pinpoint problem areas, especially bruises and blood accumulation, and can help to determine if surgery is needed. DIFFUSE AXONAL INJURY (DAI)
Widespread tearing of nerve fibres across the whole of the brain.
DIPLOPIA

DISINHIBITION
Difficulty in controlling urges and impulses to speak, act or show emotion.
DURA MATER
The outermost of the three membranes covering the Brain.
DYSARTHRIA
Difficulty with articulation and pronunciation of words, due to slowness, weakness or unco-ordination of tone of muscles.
DYSLEXIA

DYSPHAGIA

DYSPHASIA

DYSPRAXIA

EEG (ELECTRO- ENCEPHALOGRAM) Electrodes attached to the scalp measure the electrical
activity (waves) in the brain and show the results, either on graph paper or a screen. If someone has a moderate or severe head injury, it is likely to show an abnormal brain wave pattern or an irregular brain wave speed.
EMBOLISM

EMOTIONAL LABILITY
Rapid and drastic changes in emotional state (laughing, crying, anger) that are inappropriate.
EXECUTIVE FUNCTIONS
prioritising, self-monitoring, self-correcting, controlling or altering behaviour and judgement.
EXTRADURAL

FRONTAL LOBE
The part of each cerebral hemisphere primarily concerned with planning and organising, attention and the control and regulation of behaviour and emotion.
FRUSTRATION TOLERANCE
The ability to persist in completing a task despite apparent difficulty.
GASTROSTOMY
The creation of an opening into the stomach for the administration of foods and fluids when swallowing is impossible.
GLASGOW COMA SCALE
A numerical score given to head-injured patients, staring immediately unconsciousness. A score of seven or less indicates that the person is in a coma. A maximum score of 15 indicates that the person can speak coherently, obey commands to move, and can spontaneously open his eyes.
HAEMATOMA
Blood clot. When the brain is bruised, it may bleed. The collection of this blood into ‘pools’ or ‘clots’ is known as haematoma. When the pool of blood actually forms within the brain, it is known as ‘intra-cerebral haematoma’. When the blood collects between the brain and the dura membrane, it is called a ‘subdural haematoma’. These clots of blood press against the brain tissue, causing damage.
HAEMORRHAGE

HEMIANOPIA
Loss of one side of the field of vision.
HEMIPLEGIA

HYDROCEPHALUS
Accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid within the brain, sometimes at high pressure, causing expansion of the ventricles and possible injury to the brain.
HYPOTHALAMUS
A nerve centre deep in the diencephalon area which controls the autonomic nervous system, food intake, sexual rhythms, emotions and memory. Diminished availability of oxygen to body tissues. An area where brain cells have died as a result of loss of blood supply.
INTENSIVE CARE
An area of the hospital where the patient is monitored very carefully by connecting him via tubes and wires to several machines. The activity of the heart shows continually on an electrocardiogram. Blood pressure is recorded by attaching a fine tube to a small artery in the ankle or arm. Pressure inside the skull is measured with a lead from inside the skull. A drip transfusion is put into a vein in the arm, carrying food and fluids. A mechanical ventilator controls breathing.
INTRACRANIAL PRESSURE (ICP)

INTRAVENOUS
Tubing inserted into a vein through which fluids and medication can be given.
LIMBIC SYSTEM
A group of deep cortical structures connected to the hypothalamus, governing memory, emotions and basic drives, including sex drive.
MAGNETIC RESONANCE IMAGING
The latest diagnostic device combines computer technology and physics. THE MRI uses radio frequency and a magnet to chart electrical changes created in the brain. It then converts them into computerised, highly detailed pictures of the brain. MRI’s can display both specific and general nerve damage.
MUSCLE TONE
The muscle’s readiness to contract or the degree of resistance to movement in a limb or group of muscles. Muscle tone can be normal, increased or decreased.
NASOGASTRIC TUBE
A very fine tube passed down through the nose and throat into the stomach for giving liquid food and pureed meals. Used if there are swallowing difficulties.
NEURO-TRANSMITTERS
Chemicals in the nervous system that serve as messengers throughout the nervous system, aiding or interfering with the function of nerve cells.
NYSTAGMUS
Jerking of the eyes, usually following damage to the brain stem. OCCIPITAL LOBE
The part of each cerebral hemisphere primarily concerned with perception and interpretation of visual information. Excess fluid in tissues, causing swelling.
OPEN HEAD INJURY
An injury where there is a penetration of the scalp and skull through to brain tissue.
PARALYSIS

PARAPLEGIA
Paralysis of the lower extremities only. More likely to result from damage to the spinal cord than from a head injury.
PARIETAL LOBE
The part of each cerebral hemisphere primarily concerned with the perception and interpretation of sensation and movement.
PERCEPTION
The ability to make sense out of what one sees, hears, feels, tastes or smells.
PERSEVERATION
Involuntary prolonged repetition of words or actions.
PERSISTENT VEGETATIVE STATE
A long-standing condition in which the patient utters no words and does not follow commands or make any response that is meaningful.
PHOTOPHOBIA
Abnormal sensitivity of the eyes to light.
POST-CONCUSSION SYNDROME
A group of symptoms occurring after mild head injury that may persist for days, weeks or months.
POST-TRAUMATIC AMNESIA (PTA) Inability to remember continuous events after a blow to the
head which causes an alteration of consciousness, even when the patient is apparently awake.
PROGNOSIS
The outlook for improvement of lack of it.
PSYCHOMETRIC TESTS
Standardised tests which measure mental functioning.
REHABILITATION
An active process by which a disabled person realises his optimal physical, mental and social potential.
RETROGRADE AMNESIA
Inability to remember events that happened for a period before a blow to the head.
SUBDURAL
Between the dura membrane and the brain. (Ventriculovenous shunt). A device to remove excess fluid or divert blood. Basically is a U-shaped piece of plastic tube with a valve, which opens at pressure, which can be inserted between an artery and a vein, bypassing the capillary network. Having stiffness or weakness of the limbs, from loss of higher nervous functioning.
SPINAL CORD
The extension of the central nervous system from the brain stem lodged within the spine; contains long neural pathways to and from the brain.
TEMPORAL LOBE
The part of each cerebral hemisphere concerned with sound and language interpretation, and important in memory function.
TRACHEOSTOMY
A small operation usually with local anaesthetic, carried out if there is an obstruction of the airways. The windpipe is opened through an incision in the neck just below the Adam’s apple and a plastic tube threaded in to facilitate the passage of air and the evacuation of secretions.
TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY
Damage to the brain and/or brain stem due to mechanical injury. Most frequent causes are vehicle accidents, followed by domestic and industrial accidents, sports injuries and assaults. Regular repetitive movements which may be worse either at rest or on attempted movement.
UNILATERAL

VENTILATOR
Also called a respirator. A machine which pumps oxygen enriched air into the lungs when they are not working efficiently. This encourages quiet breathing and the prevention of coughing and straining, gives the right amount of carbon dioxide to the blood and creates the best conditions for healing the brain.
VESTIBULAR
System in the middle ear which senses movement. Injury can lead to dizziness. Ordinary X-rays show the bone of the skull. They are useful for ascertaining whether there has been a fracture to the skull, or whether any fragments of bone have been pushed into the brain. Taken from “Headway – Head Injury – A Practical Guide” by Trevor Powell

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