Calendar Volunteer Donate Contact Us Contact Donate Calendar

Medical Terminology Relevant to ABI

An explanation of all the acronyms and terms that medical professionals often use that you may not understand or you may wish to find out more about. On the Families4Families management committee we are lucky to have someone who is a qualified nurse so if you require additional information please call us to arrange a conversation with her.


Adynamia – A lack of motivation after trauma to the frontal lobe. Characterized by difficulty initiating activities or completing tasks. Gives the appearance of lethargy.

Agnosia – A disorder of recognition from an injury to the higher order information processing cells which can result in an inability to recognise or distinguish faces or objects.

Agraphia – Inability to write that can arise from trauma to areas of brain responsible for cognitive or motor skills necessary to write.

Alculia – A disorder characterised by an inability to comprehend or write numbers or perform arithmetic operations.

Alexia – Inability to read due to brain damage causing cognitive or visual problems.

Amnesia – Inability to remember learned information. Traumatic Brain Injury can cause retrograde amnesia (loss of recall of events right before the trauma) and/ or anterograde amnesia (loss of recall of events for some period of time after the trauma). Another term for anterograde amnesia is post-traumatic amnesia or PTA. This refers to the period following brain trauma when the victim is unable to effectively imprint and retain a stable, continuous memory of events.

Anathric – inability to talk properly

Anoneiria – Inability to dream due to trauma of the areas of the brain responsible for creating dreams, which may include the medio-basal forebrain, inferior parietal cortex, medial temporal lobe or occipito temporal cortex.

Anosmia – Loss of the sense of smell by either mechanical damage to the olfactory nerve or damage to areas in the anterior temporal or oribito-frontal lobes that process the sense of smell.

Anoxia – No oxygen in cells of the body. If prolonged, will cause cell death. Can be due to no oxygen reaching the blood, e.g. through strangulation or suffocation, or can be due to no blood reaching the cells, e.g. through the heart stopping or blood flow being stopped in one area by an embolism.

Aphasia – Difficulty understanding or expressing language as a result of damage to the brain.

Aphonic – no voice

Apraxia – Inability to voluntarily perform skilled movements.

Arterial line – A thin tube (catheter) inserted into an artery to allow direct measurement of the blood pressure, amounts of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood.

Ataxia – Abnormal movements due to the loss of coordination of the muscles.

Auditory – Relating to the ear or the sense of hearing


Bilateral – Relating to or affecting both sides of the body.

Blood clot -A solidified localised collection of blood.

Brain stem – The lower extension of the brain where it extends to the spinal cord. Neurological functions located in the brain stem include those necessary for survival (breathing, heart rate) and for arousal (being awake and alert).

Burr hole – A 10-20mm surgical drill hole   made through the skull.


CAT Scan -Computerised Axial Tomography, also known as Computerised Tomography or CT Scan. A scanning technique that uses a rotating X-ray machine to record slices of your body.

Catheter – A tube which is inserted into anybody part to withdraw or introduce fluids.

Cerebellum – The portion of the brain (located at the back) which helps coordinate movement. Damage may result in ataxia.

Cerebral -Concerning the brain.

Cerebral Angiogram – X-ray picture of the blood vessels inside the head. A drug is injected via the groin artery which outlines these cerebral vessels.

Cerebral Cortex – The outer layer of the brain, responsible for cognitive processes including reasoning, mood, perception of stimuli and other thought processes.

Cerebro-Spinal Fluid – Liquid which fills the ventricles of the brain and surrounds the brain and spinal cord.

Cognitive – The function of the mind by which we become aware of all aspects of perceiving, thinking and remembering

Coma – The state of not being responsive or able to be aroused. Person does not open their eyes, follow commands or speak.

Concussion – Disruption of brain function usually from a blunt impact to the head causing the brain to bounce inside the skull.

Contusion – Bruise

CSF – or Cerebro-Spinal Fluid is liquid which fills the ventricles of the brain and surrounds the brain and spinal cord.

CT scan – see CAT scan


Diffuse Brain Injury – Injury to cells in many areas of the brain rather than in one specific location.

Disinhibition – Lack of control over impulses due to frontal lobe trauma. Anti social behaviours that arise usually lead to social isolation

Dysarthria – Speech disorder in which the pronunciation is unclear although the linguistic content and meaning are normal

Dysexecutive Syndrome – Impaired executive abilities, usually resulting from damage to the frontal lobes. Executive abilities including attention and concentration, planning and initiation, problem solving and monitoring of goal directed activities

Dysphagia -Difficulty with swallowing.

Dysphasia – Difficulty understanding or expressing language as a result of damage to the brain.

Dyspraxia -Difficulty performing voluntary movements not due to weakness but because of motor coordinating problems.


Echolalia – Imitation of sounds or words without comprehension.

EEG –  or Electroencephalogram is a test used to record any changes in the electrical activity of the brain by placing electrodes on the scalp.

Embolus – Blood clots are the clumps that result from coagulation of the blood (blood hardens from liquid to solid). A blood clot that forms in a blood vessel or within the heart and remains there is called a thrombus. A thrombus that travels to another location in the body is called an embolus. The disorder is called an embolism. For example, an embolus that occurs in the brain is called a cerebral embolism

Executive Function -Range of abilities to plan, monitor oneself, learning from experience and accomplish steps to reach a goal. Often affected by frontal lobe injury


Focal Brain Injury Injury restricted to one region.

Frontal Lobes -The region of the brain directly behind the forehead. Responsible for planning, organising, problem solving, selective attention, personality and a variety of “higher cognitive functions”. Damage can cause changes to personality, dysexecutive syndrome, problems with spoken language and impaired social skills.


Gait – A manner of walking or running

Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) -Measures the degree of disturbed consciousness arising from trauma


Heamorrhage – Escape of blood from a ruptured blood vessel externally or internally

Hemianopia -Blindness in the same sides of both eyes which can follow damage to the brain. This can cause an inability to see on the left or right side.

Hemiparesis – Weakness, partial paralysis or loss of movement that only affects one side of the body.

Hemiplegia – Paralysis of one side of the body. May be associated with spasticity – increased muscle tension and spasms.

Hypothalamus – Small region of the brain at the top of the brain stem which regulates the Autonomic Nervous System.

Hypoxia – An insufficient supply of oxygen to cells of the body. May result in cell death if severe. Can be through not enough oxygen reaching the blood, e.g. due to drowning or carbon monoxide poisoning, or not enough blood reaching the cells, e.g. due to bleeding or constricted blood vessels such as a blood clot causing a stroke.


ICP – See Intracranial Pressure Monitors

Impulsivity – A tendency to rush into something without thinking or reflecting first.

Infarction – the death of part or the whole of an organ that occurs when the artery carrying its blood supply is obstructed by a blood clot

Intracranial Pressure Monitor – A monitoring device to determine the pressure within the brain. It consists of a small tube (catheter) in contact with the pulsating brain or the fluid cavity within it. ICP is measured by means of a metal screw or a plastic catheter connected to an electronic measuring device

IV – Intravenous fluid or drip fed


MRI (Magnetic Resonance) – Imaging enables detailed pictures of the brain to be acquired using a scanning machine. It uses a strong magnet rather than X-rays.


Neuro – Pertains to the Brain and Nervous System

Neurological – the structure, functioning and diseases of the nervous system (including the brain, spinal cord and all peripheral nerves)

Neuropsychologist -A psychologist with further studies in brain function, personality and behaviour.

Nasogastric Tube – A tube passed through the nose into the stomach


Occipital Lobes – Region in the back of the brain which processes visual information. Damage to this lobe can cause visual deficits.

Oedema – Increased fluid content in the brain causing swelling.


Parietal Lobes – Left and right lobes located in the middle and top of the brain. Responsible for visual attention and processing, spatial awareness, touch perception and manipulation, voluntary movements, and the integration of different senses. Damage can cause difficulty with identifying or naming objects, difficulty with writing or mathematics and difficulty with motor coordination or being aware of space and distance.

Pathology – the study of disease processes with the aim of understanding their nature and causes

Peg Tube – Short for “Percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy” tube. A tube inserted into the stomach through the abdominal wall to provide food or other nutrients when eating by mouth is not possible. Commonly used for patients in a COMA or PERSISTENT VEGETATIVE STATE.

Persistent Vegetative State – (PVS) A state in which the CEREBRAL CORTEX stops working. A person in a PVS may open their eyes but cannot understand what is happening around them, communicate or make voluntary movements.

Petechial – A small haemorrhage appearing as a non-raised purplish-red spot of the skin

Post-Traumatic Amnesia – (PTA) The period after being in a coma when there is confused behaviour and no continuous memory of day-to-day events.

Premorbid – before the Acquired Brain Injury

Proprioception – The sensory awareness of the position of body parts with or without movement


Seizure – An uncontrolled discharge of nerve cells, usually lasting only a few minutes. It may be associated with loss of consciousness, loss of bowel and bladder control, and tremors.

Sequela – Occurring as a result of an illness or injury e.g., a loss in short-term memory following a brain injury

Symptom – Evidence of an illness or injury e.g., anything that the patient experiences as a result of that illness or injury


Temporal Lobes -Two lobes, one on each side of the brain located at about the level of the ears. Responsible for interpreting and understanding sounds, categorisation of objects, some visual processing and short and long term memory. Damage can result in impaired memory, hearing and recognition of objects.

Tracheostomy – This is a breathing tube inserted through the middle of the neck just below the voice box. Through this tube an adequate air passage can be maintained. It may be necessary to leave the tube in the windpipe for a prolonged period.


Ventilator – This is a machine that does the breathing work for the unresponsive patient. It delivers moistened (humidified) air with the appropriate percentage of oxygen and at the appropriate rate and pressure.

Ventricles -Cavities (spaces) inside the brain which contain cerebro-spinal fluid.

Back to Top