Lapin Law Offices offers the following general definitions of commonly used medical words and phrases used in injury and disability cases by doctors and other medical providers. Some words and phrases may have a different definition depending on the situation. If you have specific questions about a particular word or phrase you should ask your doctor or other medical provider.
Acute: Three possible definitions: (1) characterized by sharpness or severity; (2) having a sudden onset, sharp rise, and short course; or (3) lasting a short time.
Arthritis: Inflammation of one or more joints in the body.
Cervical Spine: the part of the spine from the bottom of the back of the head to the neck. It consists of 7 vertebrae (C1 – C7).
Chronic: Possible definitions: (1) marked by long duration, by frequent recurrence over a long time, and often by slowly progressing seriousness; (2) not acute; or (3) suffering from a disease or ailment of long duration or frequent recurrence
Closed Head Injury: An injury to the brain without penetration into the head itself.
Coma: A profound or deep state of unconsciousness. The person is alive but is not able to react or respond to life around him or her.
Computerized Axial Tomography (CAT)/ Computed Tomography (CT) scan: X rays focused on a portion of the body from different directions to obtain a three-dimensional picture of that part of the body.
Conversion Disorder: A psychological condition in which a person has one or more symptoms of deficits effecting their physical or sensory functions that suggest a underlying medical condition. The condition is preceded by a conflicts or other stressors. The claimed symptoms or deficits do not have a have a underlying medical condition. A person does not intentionally produce the symptoms or deficits. A person with Conversion Disorder may have components of both primary and secondary gain, although the secondary gain benefits are unintentional.
Decerebrate Posture: An abnormal body posture that involves the arms and legs being held straight out, the toes being pointed downward, the head and neck being arched backwards, the muscles are tightened and held rigidly. Usually a sign of a severe brain injury.
Decorticate Posture: An abnormal body posture with rigidity, flexion of the arms, clenched fists, and extended legs (held out straight). Usually a sign of a severe brain injury.
Degenerative Disc Disease: a change in the composition of cartilage that cause the spinal discs and joints that stack the vertebrae (also known as facet joints) to wear and tear over time. Also called DDD or spondylosis.
Disability: An alteration of person’s capacity to meet personal, social, or occupational demands or statutory or regulatory requirements because of an impairment.
Disc Bulge: pushing out of a spinal disc, extending the disc from its normal position.
Disc Herniation: when the inner portion of a spinal disc protrudes and displaces surrounding anatomical structures like the spinal cord or nerve roots.
Discectomy: surgical procedure to remove a portion of the disc that rests between each vertebrae.
Facet Joint: the connecting joints of all of the spinal vertebrae and permits coordinated movement of the spine.
Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment: The Guide is a publication of the American Medical Association that sets forth standards for any medical provider to determine an impairment rating for an injury or condition. It imposes standardized testing and evaluation with the goal that two different medical providers, using the Guides, should reach the same impairment rating. Currently, the most recent version is the Sixth edition.
Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA): A federal act passed in 1996 that contains two major provisions. Title I relates to continuing insurance coverage for workers when they change or lose their job. Title II, relate to standards for health care providers and information. HIPAA is most widely known for its protection of health information.
Impairment: a loss, loss of use, or derangement of any body part, organ system, or organ function. It distinguished from disability. Usually, impairment ratings, given in terms of a percentage, are assigned after an injured person has reached medical maximum improvement.
Informed Consent: Consent to treatment if based on information that would be ordinarily provided to a patient under like circumstances by a health care practitioner engaged in a similar practice in the same or similar localities.
Lumbar Spine: the part of the spine from the area approximately at the level of the bottom of your rib care (immediately below the thoracic spine) to your mid-buttocks. Usually consists of 5 vertebrae (L1 – L5).
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): testing tool to view the structure of organs and tissues within the body.
Malingering: The intentional production of false or grossly exaggerated physical, mental or psychological symptoms by a person motivated by external benefits such as money, attention, sympathy, benefits, or release from unpleasant responsibilities. Malingering can be related to secondary gain.
Medical Maximum Improvement (MMI): There are a couple of different definitions of MMI. These definitions usually include when a medical condition has stabilized and is unlikely to substantially change (improve or worsen) in the future. A person can reach MMI even though they may require periodic medical care to prevent further deterioration of his or her condition. In addition, symptoms and signs of the condition may slightly increase or decrease over time, however, further overall recovery or deterioration is not expected. It can mean a full recovery or a person is left with a residual impairment and/or disability.
Persistent Vegetative State: A condition in which a person has lost cognitive neurological function and awareness of the environment but retain noncognitive function and a preserved sleep-wake cycle. The person individual loses the higher cerebral powers of the brain, but the functions of the brainstem, such as respiration (breathing) and circulation, remain relatively intact. Spontaneous movements may occur and the eyes may open in response to external stimuli, but the person does not speak or obey commands.
Primary Gain: a medical term used to describe a patient’s report of symptoms to a medical provider that may have psychological motivators. Is a psychological tool for a person to help, assist or motivate them due to their claimed symptoms. May manifest itself as a Conversion Disorder.
Radiculopathy: nerve irritation caused by damage to the disc between the vertebrae that can result of pain, burning and/or tingling into the arms or legs.
Sciatica: irritation of the sciatic nerve, which is the large nerve in the body that begins in the lumbar spine, extends through the buttocks into the nerve endings in the legs. Symptoms of sciatica are pain, a burning sensation, numbness, and/or tingling beginning in the lower back and upper buttock down the back of the thigh to the back of the leg.
Secondary Gain: a medical term used to describe a patient’s report of symptoms to a medical provider that may have psychological motivators. A person seeks money, attention, sympathy, benefits, or release from unpleasant responsibilities due to a claimed symptom, pain, injury or condition. The person may or may not note they are seeking these types of benefits. Patients who deliberately make up or exaggerate are considered to be malingering.
Spinal Disc: pads that act as “cushions” between each vertebral body that minimize the impact of movement of the spine. Each disc is designed like a jelly donut with a central softer component.
Spinal Fusion: surgical procedure that links vertebrae within the spine.
Spinal Stenosis: condition where the spinal canal is sufficiently reduced in size.
Spine: the spine consists of numerous parts including vertebrae, discs, muscle, ligaments and nerves.
Sprain: stretch or tear in one or more ligaments, which are slightly elastic bands of tissue that keep the bones in place while permitting movement at a joint.
Strain: stretch or tear of a muscle or tendon.
Subluxation (spinal): when one or more of the bones of the spine (vertebrae) are out of position and create pressure on or irritate spinal nerves.
Thoracic Spine: the part of the spine from the bottom of your neck (immediately below the cervical spine) to the area approximately at the level of the bottom of your rib cage. It consists of 12 vertebrae (T1 – T12).
Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI): an injury to the brain resulting from some trauma to the brain that can result in cognitive, physical, psychosocial dysfunction and/or diminished or altered states of consciousness.