Understanding Brain Injury Claims: Glossary of Brain Injury Terms

by LibertyBen on June 18, 2013

If you’re looking to make a claim for a brain injury that you or someone close to you has sustained then you will need to understand basic brain injury terms. Doctors and lawyers tend to throw around complicated terms that you may not fully understand, which could hinder your claim. Here’s a collection of definitions of some of the most common words and phrases that are associated with brain injury.

Amnesia: is essentially a failure of memory, with head injury it is classed as Post-Traumatic Amnesia or PTA and signifies the time between your memory loss and when you can recall clearly.

Aneurism/ Aneurysm: regardless of the spelling, this describes a condition where an artery has become enlarged or dilated as a result of a weakened wall.

Anoxia / hypoxia: this is a serious situation where there is complete oxygen starvation to an organ or tissue. If the condition doesn’t involve complete oxygen deprivation it’s often called hypoxia. When referring to oxygen starvation of the brain this condition is called cerebral anoxia/ hypoxia.

Aphasia / Dysphasia: is the name given to the condition of having difficulty in understanding or communicating language due to brain injury. If the loss of language is only partial then it is referred to as dysphasia, whereas aphasia is complete loss.

Athetosis: refers to unusual wriggling movements normally seen in the hands. These movements occur in several brain disorders and can come on as a result of brain injury.

Basal Ganglia: is the name for the grey matter found deep in the brain below the cerebral cortex. The basal ganglia are involved in controlling movement, when injured they can cause movements that resemble Parkinson’s disease.

Brain Stem: the most vital parts of the brain are located in the brain stem – the part of the brain that is located next to the spinal cord. The brain stem is responsible for survival as it controls important activities like breathing, heart rate and arousal.

Cerebellum: is the area found at the back of the brain, below the cerebral hemispheres. The cerebellum is important as it controls movement, co-ordination and balance.

Cerebral: this is the medical term for talking about anything concerning the brain.

Cerebral Cortex: is the layer of grey matter which can be found on the top of the brain. The functions carried out by the cerebral cortex include perception, voluntary movement, thought, language and memory.

Cerebral Hemispheres: refers to the right and left sides of the brain which are divided by the longitudinal fissure (the line down the middle). Although most functions are carried out by both hemispheres each half tends to have a dominant responsibility for a particular function.

Contra Coup: is the term given to the bruising of brain tissue in the side opposite to where the trauma occurred.

CT scan/ CAT scan: a CT scan is several X-rays taken at different levels to build up a complete picture. This helps to see where the damaged area is, and what specifically is affected.

Diffuse Brain Injury: this is the medical term for a brain that has sustained injuries in many areas rather than in one specific location.

Diencephalon: is essentially the midbrain. This area contains the nerve centres which control appetite regulation, sexual arousal, thirst, temperature control and some aspects of memory. This area also contains the thalamus which is the body’s sensory gateway to the brain.

Diffuse Axonal Injury (DAI): is the name for an injury involving tearing of nerve fibres across the whole of the brain. This occurs in about half of all severe head traumas and is often linked with diffuse brain injuries.

Dyspraxia: this is the inability to carry out purposeful movements although maintaining the ability to move and be aware of the movements being made.

Electroencephalogram (EEG): EEG is a test that is used to measure changes in electrical activity within the brain. The brain’s cells emit tiny electrical signals when they send messages to each other, measurements help to diagnose and manage brain activity.

Frontal Lobes: are the biggest part of the brain, found at the front of both cerebral hemispheres. The frontal lobes control voluntary movement, speech, thinking and reasoning, decision making and planning. These actions give the frontal lobes a vital role in social behaviour, creating your personality and displaying and understanding emotion.

Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS): The GCS is a scoring system out of 15 that is given to patients with a head injury to determine their degree of unconsciousness. A score of 7 or less indicates that the person is in a coma, the maximum score of 15 suggests that the patient is able to respond to verbal or visual commands.

Grey Matter: is the term given to nerve cell bodies that are found in the brain. These nerve cells have a greyish appearance and help to make up the cerebral cortex.

Haematoma: refers to when blood pools in an area and swells resulting in the compression of the brain which can be damaged by this effect.

Hippocampus: is a structure on the inner surface of the temporal lobes largely made of grey matter. The hippocampus has an important role in the memory process, damage to this area can lead to memory problems.

Hypoxic-Ischaemic Injury: similar to hypoxia, this refers to damage that’s been caused by an interruption of oxygen supply that’s caused by reduction of blood flow to the brain. This commonly occurs when the heart stops beating during a cardiac arrest.

Intracranial Pressure Monitor (ICP): is a device that measures the pressure inside the head using a monitor that is inserted through the skull. Most serious and moderate head traumas will require intracranial pressure monitoring.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): this is a machine similar to the CT scan, however it uses a different technique in order to produce high resolution images of the brain providing much better detail. MRIs use a magnetic field rather than X-rays in order to produce an image.

Motor Cortex: is part of the brain which is involved in planning and executing voluntary movements. The motor cortex is found at the front of the primary sensory cortex on the upper surface of the brain.

Nasogastric Tube: is the tube that is put through the nose which goes down the throat and into the stomach to give liquid food to the patient.

Neuro-Transmitters: these are the chemicals used by the nervous system to send messages which aid or obstruct functions of the nerve cells.

Oedema: is a condition that means that there is increased water content in the brain, causing brain swellings.

Occipital Lobes: refers to the area at the back of the cerebral hemispheres which contains the main visual centres.

Persistent Vegetative State (PVS): if the patient has suffered a severe brain injury they may enter into a PVS after being in a coma. PVS means they will be able to carry out basic functions such as breathing and maintaining a heartbeat but they will not show any level of consciousness.

Respiratory Arrest: is the name given to the condition when breathing stops and no effective supply of oxygen is going to the blood from the lungs. Respiratory arrests can lead to cardiac arrests if breathing is not restored.

Sensory Cortex: is found on the upper surface of the cerebrum, behind the motor cortex. This is the part of the brain that is responsible for the sensations that are experienced in the body.

Somatosensory Evoked Potentials (SSEPs): are the electrical responses that a brain produces from an EEG following the stimulation of nerves in the limbs. Often used to gain an insight on a patient in a coma.

Temporal Lobes: are part of the cerebral hemispheres, found under the frontal and parietal lobes. The temporal lobes control functions largely associated with hearing, language, visual perception, memory and emotion.

Ventilator: is a machine that breathes for an unresponsive patient. It artificially breaths for the patient, delivering humidified air with the appropriate level of oxygen at a steady rate and pressure.

White Matter: this is the nerve tissue in the brain which is composed of myelin covered axons that transmit electrical signals through the nervous system. White matter is found under the grey matter in the cerebral cortex, it also travels down through the brainstem and into the spinal cord.

About the Author- Hugh James solicitors are a Top 100 law firm who specialise in spinal and brain injury claims. So if you’re planning on making a brain injury claim, Hugh James solicitors can provide you with the expert advice and guidance you need.

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