Headway Essex

Providing Brain Injury Care & Support

Glossary of Brain Injury Terms

Acceleration/Deceleration injury

A closed head injury often sustained in car accidents. The brain is forced forwards then backwards, rebounding against the walls of the skull. Damage is caused both to the frontal lobe and to the back of the brain.

 

Amnesia

Partial or total loss of the ability to remember things. May be either retrograde (inability to remember events that happened before the injury) or anterograde (problems remembering things that happened after the injury).

 

Aneurism

A balloon like deformity in the wall of a blood vessel. This may eventually burst, causing haemorrhage.

 

Anoxia

Lack of oxygen supply to brain cells (also called hypoxia).

 

Aphasia

May be either expressive (inability to express oneself in speech) or receptive (inability to understand what is said).

 

Apraxia

Inability to plan and perform purposeful movements (whilst still having the ability to move and be aware of movements).

 

Ataxia

Abnormal and unsteady movements due to loss of co-ordination of the muscles.

 

Blood Clot

(see haematoma)

 

Cerebrospinal Fluid (CSF)

Clear, colourless fluid in the spaces inside and around the brain and spinal cord.

 

Closed head injury

Damage to the brain in which there is no penetration through the scalp or skull to the brain tissue. This is the most common type of brain injury and happens when the brain is thrown forwards and/ or backwards, or rotated sharply, e.g. in a car crash.

 

Cognition

General term used to cover all areas of intellectual functioning. Includes skills such as thinking, remembering, planning, understanding, concentrating and using language.

 

Coma

State of unconsciousness. Depth of coma is measured by the Glasgow Coma Scale.

 

Contractures

Stiffness and resistance to stretching in joints and muscles which are not used regularly.

 

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.

 

CT scan/ CAT scan

Computerised Axial Tomography. A series of X-rays taken at different levels of the brain. Used to identify bruising and clots on the brain.

 

Diffuse axonal injury

Widespread tearing of nerve fibres across the whole of the brain.

 

Disinhibition

Difficulty in controlling urges and impulses to speak, act, or show emotions.

 

Dysarthria

Difficulty speaking, due to weakness and lack of co-ordination of the muscles used for speech.

 

Dysgraphia

Difficulty in writing.

 

Dysphagia

Difficulty in swallowing

 

Dysphasia

May be either expressive (difficulty in expressing oneself in speech) or receptive (difficulty in understanding what is said.

 

Dyspraxia

Difficulty in planning and performing purposeful movements (whilst still having the ability to move and be aware of movements).

 

Dystonia

Abnormal muscle tone.

 

Epilepsy

Abnormal electric discharge in the brain. Involves seizures or fits, affecting parts or all of the body.

 

Executive functions

Planning, organising, problem solving, sequencing, self-monitoring and controlling behaviour.

 

Haematoma

The collection of blood into pools or clots. This forms a swelling, which compresses the brain around it.

 

Hemipareses

Weakness of one side of the body.

 

Hemiplegia

Paralysis of one side of the body.

 

Hydrocephalus

Build-up of fluid in the spaces inside and around the brain, which can cause injury to the brain.

 

Hypoxia

(see anoxia)

 

Infarct

Areas where brain cells have died as a result of loss of blood supply.

 

Intracranial

Inside the skull

 

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner

A scanning machine that enables highly detailed pictures of the brain to be taken. Uses a strong magnet rather than X-rays.

 

Oedema

Excess fluid in tissue, causing swelling.

 

Open head injury

An injury where the skull is broken open by a blow to the head.

 

Perseveration

Involuntary prolonged repetition of words or actions.

 

Post traumatic amnesia (PTA)

The period after being unconscious when there may be confused behaviour and inability to remember continuous events.

 

Proprioception

Perception of the position and movement of the body, limbs and head.

 

Shunt

Device to remove excess fluid or divert blood.

 

Skull fracture

May be either a compound fracture (a crack in the skull) or a depressed fracture (in which bone fragments are pushed inwards into the skull).

 

Spasticity

An involuntary increase in muscle tone (tension)

 

Tracheostomy

An operation to open up blocked airways by cutting through the neck and inserting a plastic tube into the windpipe.

 

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 creates best conditions for healing the brain.

 

Ventricle

A cavity in the brain that makes and contains cerebrospinal fluid.

 

 

Exert from “Hospital Treatment and Early Recovery and Brain Injury”.

By Dr Chris Maimaris and Esme Worthington

Booklet available from www.headway.org.uk

 

 

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