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The Cerebral Palsy Dictionary

In this section we will identify different terms and words that are used when referring to cerebral palsy

Cerebral palsy: An abnormality of motor function (the ability to move and control movements) that is acquired at an early age, usually less than a year of age, and is due to a brain lesion that is non-progressive. Cerebral palsy (CP) is frequently the result of abnormalities that occur in utero, while the fetus is developing inside the mother's womb. Such abnormalities may include accidents of brain development, genetic disorders, stroke due to abnormal blood vessels or blood clots, or infection of the brain. In rare instances, obstetrical accidents during particularly difficult deliveries can cause brain damage and result in CP. CP may be divided into spastic, choreoathetoid, and hypotonic (flaccid) CP. In spastic CP, there is an abnormality of muscle tone in which one or more extremities (arm or leg) is held in a rigid posture. Choreoathetoid CP is associated with abnormal, uncontrollable, writhing movements of the arms and/or legs. The child with hypotonic CP appears floppy -- like a rag doll. Treatment may include casting and braces to prevent further loss of limb function, speech therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy, the use of augmentative communication devices, and the use of medications of botox injections to treat spasticity.


acquired cerebral palsy - cerebral palsy that occurs as a result of injury to the brain after birth or during early childhood.

Apgar score - a numbered scoring system doctors use to assess a baby's physical state at the time of birth.

anticholinergic drugs - a family of drugs that inhibit parasympathetic neural activity by blocking the neurotransmitter acetylcholine.

asphyxia - a lack of oxygen due to trouble with breathing or poor oxygen supply in the air.

ataxia (ataxic) - the loss of muscle control.

athetoid - making slow, sinuous, involuntary, writhing movements, especially with the hands.

bilirubin - a bile pigment produced by the liver of the human body as a byproduct of digestion.

bisphosphonates - a family of drugs that strengthen bones and reduce the risk of bone fracture in elderly adults. 

botulinum toxin - a drug commonly used to relax spastic muscles; it blocks the release of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that energizes muscle tissue. 

cerebral - relating to the two hemispheres of the human brain.

cerebral dysgenesis - defective brain development.

chemodenervation - a treatment that relaxes spastic muscles by interrupting nerve impulse pathways via a drug, such as botulinum toxin, which prevents communication between neurons and muscle tissue. 

choreoathetoid - a condition characterized by aimless muscle movements and involuntary motions.

computed tomography (CT) scan - an imaging technique that uses X-rays and a computer to create a picture of the brain's tissues and structures.

congenital cerebral palsy - cerebral palsy that is present at birth from causes that have occurred during fetal development.

contracture - a condition in which muscles become fixed in a rigid, abnormal position, which causes distortion or deformity.

cytokines - messenger cells that play a role in the inflammatory response to infection. 

developmental delay - behind schedule in reaching the milestones of early childhood development.

disuse atrophy - muscle wasting caused by the inability to flex and exercise muscles. 

dyskinetic - the impairment of the ability to perform voluntary movements, which results in awkward or incomplete movements.

dystonia (dystonic)  a condition of abnormal muscle tone.   

electroencephalogram (EEG) - a technique for recording the pattern of electrical currents inside the brain.

electromyography - a special recording technique that detects muscle activity.

failure to thrive - a condition characterized by a lag in physical growth and development.

focal (partial) seizure - a brief and temporary alteration in movement, sensation, or autonomic nerve function caused by abnormal electrical activity in a localized area of the brain.  

gait analysis - a technique that uses cameras, force plates, electromyography, and computer analysis to objectively measure an individual's pattern of walking.

gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) - also known as heartburn, which happens when stomach acids back up into the esophagus.  

gastrostomy - a surgical procedure that creates an artificial opening in the stomach for the insertion of a feeding tube.

gestation - the period of fetal development from the time of conception until birth.

hemianopia - defective vision or blindness that impairs half of the normal field of vision.

hemiparesis - paralysis affecting only one side of the body.

homonymous - having the same description, name, or term.  

hypertonia - increased muscle tone.

hypotonia - decreased muscle tone.

hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy - brain damage caused by poor blood flow or insufficient oxygen supply to the brain.

intracranial hemorrhage - bleeding in the brain.   

intrapartum asphyxia - the reduction or total stoppage of oxygen circulating in a baby's brain during labor and delivery.

intrathecal baclofen - baclofen that is injected into the cerebrospinal fluid of the spinal cord to reduce spasticity. 
intrauterine infection - infection of the uterus, ovaries, or fallopian tubes (see pelvic inflammatory disease for a more detailed explanation).

jaundice - a blood disorder caused by the abnormal buildup of bilirubin in the bloodstream.

kernicterus - a neurological syndrome caused by deposition of bilirubin into brain tissues. Kernicterus develops in extremely jaundiced infants, especially those with severe Rh incompatibility.

kyphosis - a humpback-like outward curvature of the upper spine.

lordosis - an increased inward curvature of the lower spine. 

magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) - an imaging technique that uses radio waves, magnetic fields, and computer analysis to create a picture of body tissues and structures.

nerve entrapment - repeated or prolonged pressure on a nerve root or peripheral nerve.

neuronal migration - the process in the developing brain in which neurons migrate from where they are born to where they settle into neural circuits. Neuronal migration, which occurs as early as the second month of gestation, is controlled in the brain by chemical guides and signals.

neuroprotective - describes substances that protect nervous system cells from damage or death.

neurotrophins - a family of molecules that encourage survival of nervous system cells. 

off-label drugs - drugs prescribed to treat conditions other than those that have been   approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

orthotic devices - special devices, such as splints or braces, used to treat posture problems involving the muscles, ligaments, or bones.

osteopenia - reduced density and mass of the bones. 

overuse syndrome (also called repetitive strain injury) - a condition in which repetitive movements or constrained posture cause nerve and muscle damage, which results in discomfort or persistent pain in muscles, tendons, and other soft tissues.  This can happen in various parts of the body, but is most likely to happen in the arms, legs, or hands. 

palsy - paralysis, or the lack of control over voluntary movement.

-paresis or -plegia - weakness or paralysis.   In cerebral palsy, these terms are typically combined with other phrases that describe the distribution of paralysis and weakness; for example, quadriplegia means paralysis of all four limbs. 

pelvic inflammatory disease (PID, also sometimes called pelvic infection or intrauterine infection) - an infection of the upper genital tract (the uterus, ovaries, and fallopian tubes) caused by sexually transmitted infectious microorganisms. Symptoms of PID include fever, foul-smelling vaginal discharge, abdominal pain and pain during intercourse, and vaginal bleeding.  Many different organisms can cause PID, but most cases are associated with gonorrhea and chlamydia.

periventricular leukomalacia (PVL) - "peri" means near; "ventricular" refers to the ventricles or fluid spaces of the brain; and "leukomalacia" refers to softening of the white matter of the brain.   PVL is a condition in which the cells that make up white matter die near the ventricles.  Under a microscope, the tissue looks soft and sponge-like. 

placenta - an organ that joins a mother with her unborn baby and provides nourishment and sustenance.   

post-impairment syndrome - a combination of pain, fatigue, and weakness due to muscle abnormalities, bone deformities, overuse syndromes, or arthritis.

quadriplegia - paralysis of both the arms and legs.

respite care - rest or relief from caretaking obligations.

Rh incompatibility - a blood condition in which antibodies in a pregnant woman's blood attack fetal blood cells and impair an unborn baby's supply of oxygen and nutrients.

rubella - (also known as German measles)  a viral infection that can damage the nervous system of an unborn baby if a mother contracts the disease during pregnancy.

scoliosis - a disease of the spine in which the spinal column tilts or curves to one side of the body.

selective dorsal rhizotomy - a surgical procedure in which selected nerves are severed to reduce spasticity in the legs.

selective vulnerability - a term that describes why some neurons are more vulnerable than others to particular diseases or conditions.  For example, motor neurons are selectively vulnerable to the loss or reduction in levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which results in the weakness and paralysis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, commonly called Lou Gehrig's disease).

spastic (or spasticity) - describes stiff muscles and awkward movements. 

spastic diplegia (or diparesis) - a form of cerebral palsy in which spasticity affects both legs, but the arms are relatively or completely spared.

spastic hemiplegia (or hemiparesis) - a form of cerebral palsy in which spasticity affects an arm and leg on one side of the body.

spastic quadriplegia (or quadriparesis) - a form of cerebral palsy in which all four limbs are paralyzed or weakened equally.

stereognosia - difficulty perceiving and identifying objects using the sense of touch.

strabismus - misalignment of the eyes, also known as cross eyes.

telemetry wand - a hand-held device that acts as a remote control, directing the dosing level of a drug via a pump implanted beneath the skin. 

tonic-clonic seizure - a type of seizure that results in loss of consciousness, generalized convulsions, loss of bladder control, and tongue biting followed by confusion and lethargy when the convulsions end. 

tremor - an involuntary trembling or quivering.

ultrasound - a technique that bounces sound waves off tissue and bone and uses the pattern of echoes to form an image, called a sonogram


Source http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/cerebral_palsy/detail_cerebral_palsy.htm

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