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Glossary of Stroke Terminology


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ACALCULIA ay-cal-COOL-ee-uh A form of aphasia involving difficulty doing simple arithmetic calculations.
ACTIVITIES OF DAILY LIVING (ADLs) Basic activities of daily life, such as bathing, shaving, grooming, dressing, preparing food, etc.
AGNOSIA ag-NO-zee-uh A form of receptive aphasia involving difficulty recognizing incoming information (due to central sensory-perceptual deficits) such as printed letters (visual agnosia) or spoken sounds (auditory agnosia).
AGRAPHIA ay-GRAFF-ee-uh A form of expressive aphasia involving loss of ability to express thoughts through writing.
ALEXIA ay-LEX-ee-uh A form of receptive aphasia involving difficulty understanding written or printed information (reading comprehension).
AMBULATION am-b'you-LAY-shun Ability to walk from place to place.
ANOMIA ay-NO-mee-uh A form of expressive aphasia characterized by word-finding difficulty (e.g., specific names of people, objects, colors, etc.).
APHASIA ay-FAY-zhee-uh Difficulty with receptive and/or expressive language due to acquired brain dysfunction (from stroke, head injury, etc.).
APRAXIA ay-PRAX-ee-uh Difficulty with volitional (deliberate) movement planning and sequencing, in the absence of actual muscle weakness or incoordination. Limb Apraxia involves arm or leg movements; Oral Apraxia involves oral mechanism (tongue, lips, jaws) movements; Verbal Apraxia (also known as Apraxia of Speech) involves speech sound production and sequencing difficulties.
ARTERIOGRAPHY ar-teer-ee-AH-graff-ee A testing procedure in which an X-ray opaque dye is injected into the bloodstream and then pictures are taken and studied to see if the arteries are damaged.
ARTICULATION ar-tick-you-LAY-shun Ability to produce (enunciate) speech clearly and distinctly.
ATAXIA ay-TAX-ee-uh Lack of coordination during purposeful movement.
ATHEROSCLEROSIS ath-er-oh-skler-OH-sis A form of arteriosclerosis in which the inner layers of artery walls become thick and irregular due to deposits of fat, cholesterol, fibrin (a clotting material found in the blood), cellular waste products and calcium. As interior artery walls become lined with layers of these deposits, the arteries are narrowed and the flow of blood through the arteries is reduced.
ATROPHY AT-roh-fee Reduction in size of a muscle or an organ resulting from disease or lack of use.
BLOOD PRESSURE The force of pressure exerted by the heart in pumping blood in the arteries.
BRAIN ATTACK New name for a stroke, designed to help stroke victims seek immediate medical help.
BRAIN SCAN Nuclear Medicine procedure sometimes used for the evaluation and diagnosis of cerebrovascular disease.
CARDIOVASCULAR Pertaining to the heart (cardio) and blood vessels (vascular).
CAROTID ARTERY A major artery in the neck.
CEREBRAL EMBOLISM A blood clot that has formed in one part of the body and then been carried by the bloodstream to the brain, where is has become lodged in an artery.
CEREBRAL HEMORRHAGE Bleeding within the brain, resulting from a ruptured aneurysm or a head injury.
CEREBRAL THROMBOSIS Formation of a blood clot in an artery that supplies blood to part of the brain.
CEREBROVASCULAR ACCIDENT (CVA) Also called cerebral vascular accident, apoplexy, or stroke; involves an impeded blood supply to some part of the brain.
CEREBROVASCULAR OCCLUSION The obstruction of a blood vessel in the brain.
CEREBRUM The largest portion of the brain, divided into two hemispheres, left and right, each of which controls the muscles and integrates sensations on the opposite side of the body. Cognitive, intellectual and creative functioning take place here, with each hemisphere taking primary responsibility for certain types of functions.
CHOLESTEROL ko-LESS-ter-all A fat-like substance that is both produced by the body and found in foods of animal origin.
CHRONIC KRON-ik Lasting a long time (the opposite of acute); not a new condition.
COMA Loss of a person's ability to consciously interact with the environment.
COMMUNICATION BOARD Use of pictures, letters, numbers, and/or printed words in a notebook or chart to help a person communicate without talking (by pointing to, or looking at, or otherwise indicating the desired item on the board).
COMPUTERIZED AXIAL TOMOGRAPHY (C.A.T.) SCAN Diagnostic technique which uses X-ray to scan the patient's head (or other body parts) and uses a computer to make images of thin "slices" of the body. The radiologist may choose to administer an intravenous solution which will help make certain lesions stand out.
CONTRACTURE An abnormal shortening of muscles or other soft tissue about a joint, which may cause loss of full motion and may reduce independence.
DEMENTIA Impairment of many or all higher brain functions; mental deterioration with impaired orientation to time/place/person, along with impaired memory and judgement. Multi-infarct dementia can be caused by a series of strokes.
DIABETES MELLITUS A chronic disorder of carbohydrate metabolism due to a disturbance of the normal insulin mechanism.
DIASTOLIC BLOOD PRESSURE The blood pressure in the arteries when the heart muscle is relaxed.
DISORIENTATION Confusion as to time, place, and/or person.
DOMINANT HEMISPHERE The hemisphere (side) of the brain controlling language. This is generally the left hemisphere in right-handed people and is variable for left-handed people (sometimes in right hemisphere, sometimes in left hemisphere).
DYSARTHRIA dis-AR-three-uh Speech output difficulty due to muscle weakness or incoordination (may involve articulation, resonation, voice, and/or fluency).
DYSESTHESIA dis-ess-THEE-zhee-uh Altered sensation, due to nerve or brain injury, which is usually painful.
DYSLEXIA dis-LEX-ee-uh A mild form of alexia (reading difficulty).
DYSNOMIA dis-NO-mee-uh A mild form of anomia (word-recall difficulty).
DYSPHAGIA dis-FAY-gee-uh Difficulty swallowing solids or liquids.
DYSPHASIA dis-FAY-zhee-uh A mild form of aphasia (language difficulty).
EDEMA eh-DEE-muh Swelling due to collection of fluid in tissues of the body.
ELECTROCARDIOGRAM (EKG or ECG) A recording of heart activity which can provide information about heart functioning.
ELECTROENCEPHALOGRAM (EEG) A graphic record of the electrical impulses produced by the brain.
EMBOLISM EM-bo-liz-um The blocking of an artery by a wandering clot, which was carried in the blood from some other part of the body and then became lodged in the artery.
EMBOLUS EM-bo-lus A blood clot that forms in the blood vessels in one part of the body and then is carried to another part of the body.
EMOTIONAL LABILITY lay-BILL-it-ee A form of emotional instability in which a person laughs or cries, often without control, without apparent cause.
ENDARTERECTOMY en-dar-ter-ECK-toh-mee Surgical removal of plaque deposits in an artery. A carotid endarterectomy is done on the carotid artery in the neck.
EXPRESSIVE LANGUAGE Out-going linguistic message, such as talking, writing, or gesturing modes of communication.
FIBRIN The substance that enmeshes blood corpuscles with blood clots.
FLACCID/FLACCIDITY Without muscle tone; flail, limp, or flabby.
FLUENCY Smooth flow of speech; rate and rhythm (prosody) of speech.
FUNCTIONAL The ability to carry out a purposeful activity which is relevant to daily living and helps a person be more independent.
GESTURAL COMMUNICATION Use of facial expression, body language, sign language (hand signals), pantomime, etc., to express a message non-verbally.
HEMIANOPSIA heh-mee-an-OP-see-uh Reduced vision or blindness in one half of the field of vision in either or both eyes.
HEMIPARESIS heh-mee-pa-REE-sis Weakness of one side of the body (opposite side from where the brain damage occurred).
HEMIPLEGIA heh-mee-PLEE-gee-uh Paralysis of one side of the body (opposite side from where the brain damage occurred).
HEMORRHAGE Bleeding. Hemorrhagic stroke is caused by a bleeding artery in the brain.
HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE Unstable or persistent elevation of blood pressure above the normal range.
HYPERBARIC OXYGEN THERAPY HI-per-BARE-ick Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is a procedure which enables a person to breathe pure oxygen under increased atmospheric pressure within a controlled chamber. This oxygen saturation reportedly enhances the body's immune and healing responses to renew tissue and accelerate healing. Increased oxygen therapy is said to be extremely safe and to have no long-term side effects
HYPERTENSION Same as High Blood Pressure. A leading cause of stroke.
INCONTINENT in-KAHN-tin-ent Inability to control bowel or bladder emptying.
ISCHEMIA is-KEY-mee-uh Local anemia due to mechanical obstruction (usually arterial narrowing) of the blood supply. See transient ischemic attack (TIA). An ischemic stroke involves a blood clot that forms and blocks the flow of blood to the brain.
JARGON Meaningless speech, often a combination of real words and gibberish. May occur in some cases of expressive aphasia.
LANGUAGE Comprehension and expression of ideas through the use of an arbitrary, symbolic communication system; involves skills such as listening (auditory comprehension), talking (oral expression), reading (visual comprehension), writing (graphic expression), and gesturing.
LARYNX LAR-inks Source of phonation; the "voice box" in the throat.
LATENCY LAY-ten-see Delayed (slow) response time.
LIPID A fatty substance.
MEMORY The ability to recall past information.
MOBILITY Ambulation and transfer skills. The ability to get about.
NEGLECT The problem, often seen after a stroke, of ignoring the paralyzed side. Visual neglect involves not attending to a particular field of vision.
OBESITY The condition of being significantly overweight. This puts a strain on the heart and increases the chance of developing two major stroke risk factors -high blood pressure and diabetes.
OCCLUSION Blockage or obstruction.
OCCUPATIONAL THERAPY (O.T.) O.T. programs include training to regain ADL skills such as dressing, bathing, and eating, with use of assistive devices and adaptive equipment when indicated. Upper extremity exercises are designed to help individuals regain lost function and maintain range of motion. Other more specialized services include driver's training and writer retraining.
PARAPLEGIA Paralysis of the lower half of the body on both sides, usually associated with spinal cord injury.
PARESIS Partial loss of muscle power and/or sensation.
PERSEVERATION per-seh-ver-AY-shun Inappropriate repetition of an act.
PHYSIATRIST fizz-EYE-at-rist An M.D. with extensive training in physical medicine and rehabilitation who deals with the medical problems and disability seen after a stroke.
PHYSICAL THERAPY (P.T.) P.T. programs are directed toward the prevention and treatment of pain, muscle weakness, and associated problems. Treatment may include exercise, instruction in walking and posture, biofeedback, and the use of heat, cold or electrical stimulation to help a person stand, walk, or transfer from place to place (such as from a bed to a chair).
PLAQUE plack Also called atheroma, this is a deposit of fatty (and other) substances on the inner lining of the artery wall, characteristic of atherosclerosis.
PLATELETS One of the three kinds of formed elements found in the blood, and one that aids in the clotting of the blood.
QUADRIPLEGIA Paralysis of all four extremities. This may be caused by spinal cord injury, but it can also be due to damage to both hemispheres of the brain.
RANGE OF MOTION (R.O.M.) The degree of motion in a joint. Passive range of motion (P.R.O.M.) is the degree of motion in a joint when the joint is moved by some other person. Active range of motion (A.R.O.M.) is the degree of motion accomplished by the efforts of a person in moving his or her own limb.
RECREATIONAL THERAPY (R.T.) A service which provides a variety of recreational activities for people with disabilities. Positive interventions help persons achieve independence and acquire personally-rewarding leisure functioning.
REFLEX or DEEP TENDON REFLEX An involuntary response to a stimulus. Assessment of reflexes is done to evaluate neurologic functioning.
REHABILITATION The treatment and retraining of a disabled person with the goal of maximizing independence, often with a team of specialists working together with the patient who had the stroke and with the family members.
RESISTIVE EXERCISE A means of strengthening a muscle by having it work against resistance; an isometric exercise.
RETENTION SPAN (MEMORY SPAN) The number of pieces of information heard or read that a person can retain at one time.
SEIZURE Abnormal brain-wave activity causing changes in behavior, sometimes as severe as convulsions or epileptic "fits".
SPASM A sudden involuntary muscle contraction.
SPASTIC/SPASTICITY Increased tension (tightness) in a muscle.
SPEECH-LANGUAGE PATHOLOGY (S.L.P.) S.L.P. services focus on the rehabilitation of listening, speaking, reading, writing, and/or swallowing skills. Treatment may be provided individually or in groups. It may include family education to maximize communicative effectiveness and may involve use of alternative communication systems (e.g., spelling boards, word/picture charts, computerized devices).
STROKE Also referred to as a "brain attack", CVA (cerebrovascular accident or cerebral vascular accident), or apoplexy: A destruction of a part of the brain due to blockage of blood flow caused by a clogged or ruptured blood vessel.
SUBARACHNOID HEMORRHAGE Bleeding from a blood vessel on the surface of the brain into the space between the brain and the skull.
SYSTOLIC BLOOD PRESSURE Pressure inside the arteries when the heart contracts at each beat.
t-PA The term "t-PA" refers to a drug that can help reduce brain damage and improve recovery in a person who is having a stroke if it is not a hemorrhagic stroke and if the drug is administered within 3 hours of the onset of the stroke.
THALAMIC PAIN SYNDROME Thuh-LAM-ick Thalamic Pain Syndrom refers to pain felt by the brain but not caused by an actual injury to the body part experiencing the pain. TPS is caused by a small stroke in a particular part of the brain called the thalamus. TPS is also called "Central Pain" (referring to the Central Nervous System) and Dejerine-Roussy Syndrome. This condition occurs rarely and causes intractable pain that is difficult to treat.
THROMBOSIS The formation or presence of a blood clot (thrombus) inside a blood vessel or cavity of the heart.
THROMBUS A blood clot that forms inside a blood vessel or cavity of the heart.
TRANSFERS Movements as from bed to wheelchair, toilet, bathtub or shower, and from wheelchair, bed, chair, or toilet to standing position.
TRANSIENT ISCHEMIC ATTACK (TIA) A "mini stroke" causing symptoms that last for several minutes to several hours (but less than 24 hours), due to by a blood vessel that is temporarily blocked or is in spasm.
TTY or TDD Abbreviation used to designate a special "Teletype" communication system available for use by deaf or hearing-impaired persons (or individuals with other handicaps) to help them communicate by phone.
VASCULAR Pertaining to the blood vessels.
VEIN Any one of a series of vessels of the vascular system which carries blood from various parts of the body back to the heart.
VENTRICLE One of the two lower chambers of the heart.
VISUAL FIELD DEFICIT A loss of vision, generally on the side that is paralyzed, after a stroke.
VISUAL-SPACIAL-PERCEPTUAL SKILLS The ability to judge distance, size, shape, rate of movement, and relationship of parts to a whole.
VOCATIONAL REHABILITATION Retraining an individual to perform job-related activities.

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