20 MEDICAL TERMS YOU SHOULD KNOW

AUTHOR: ROBERT TALAC, MD, PhD

TL;DR

Anterior – The front aspect of the spine or body.Posterior – The back aspect of the spine or body.Disc – A tire-like structure laying between the vertebral bodies. It consists of an outer layer called the annulus fibrosus and an inner gel-like substance called the nucleus pulposus. It functions as a energy converter.Degenerated disc disease […]
  1. Anterior – The front aspect of the spine or body.
  2. Posterior – The back aspect of the spine or body.
  3. Disc – A tire-like structure laying between the vertebral bodies. It consists of an outer layer called the annulus fibrosus and an inner gel-like substance called the nucleus pulposus. It functions as a energy converter.
  4. Degenerated disc disease –  A disc that shows a loss of height, water content, and structural damage (such as cracks or tears).
  5. Herniated Disc – A condition when the fragment of the inner part of the disc (nucleus) comes out through the outer part of the disc (annulus fibrosus). The condition may not be painful until the fragment presses on an adjacent spinal nerve.
  6. Bulging disc – If the inner part of the disc pushes out the outer layer but does not penetrate it. Most often the result of aging, but may indicate early structural damage.
  7. Decompression – The removal of a portion of the disc that is pressing on an adjacent spinal nerve or decreases the space for the spinal cord.
  8. Spinal Stenosis – The narrowing of the spinal canal causing pressure on the spinal nerve(s) which results in pain and neural dysfunction such as weakness, numbness and tingling, or the inability to stand or walk.  
  9. Vertebral Body – The cube-shaped bony structure in your spine.  Identified by a letter, referring to section of the spine (Cervical, Thoracic and Lumbar), and number (referring to the level). i.e. C5 – referring to 5th cervical vertebral body.  
  10. Spondylolisthesis – A shift in one vertebral body in respect to another one causing mal-alignment of the vertebral bodies. This condition is often present as a back pain radiating to lower extremities.
  11. Discectomy – The partial or complete removal of a disc that is pressing on an adjacent spinal nerve.
  12. Laminectomy – A removal of the back portion of the vertebral body and sculpting of the spinal canal to enlarge the space available for the spinal cord and spinal nerves.
  13. Fusion or Arthrodesis – A Procedure that immobilizes two adjacent vertebral segments through a bony bridge created between them by a surgeon. The fused segment is immobilized with screws and hardware to the keep segment stationary until the bony bridge heals.
  14. MRI (Magnetic Resonance Image) – An advanced imaging technique depicting bone, discs, spinal cord and spinal nerve and their spatial anatomy using a magnetic field.
  15. Pain Block or Steroid Injection – An injection of a mixture of local anesthetic agent and steroid around the spinal nerves or spinal cord to suppress pain and identify the source of the pain. An Epidural Steroid Injection or Transforaminal Injection are referring only to a different anatomic placement of the solution.
  16. Spine Surgery – Surgical procedure to either relieve pressure on spinal nerves (decompression) and/or to stabilize the segment (fusion).  Each spine procedure has 2 parts: approach (getting to the affected segment or pathology) and the procedure (often a combination of decompression or fusion).
  17. Minimally Invasive Surgery (aka MIS) – A spine procedure that uses a smaller incision and a specialized retractor system to access the pathology. It is often associated with less pain, blood loss and a quicker recovery as “collateral damage” is limited. The treatment of the pathology is often same.
  18. Endoscopic or Microscopic Spine Surgery – These are procedures during which the surgeon visualizes the spinal canal and pathology using either a microscope or endoscope. Again this is another modification of the approach. The treatment of the pathology remains the same.  These techniques allow the surgeons to further minimize the incision and collateral damage of healthy tissues and further decrease post-op pain, blood loss, and speed up the recovery. An advanced visualization technique allows the surgeon to use a more precise cutting tools such as lasers or radio-frequency probes and further refine the procedure and minimize collateral damage to healthy tissues.
  19. Robotic Spine Surgery – An advanced technology that allows the surgeon a more precise and safer placement of hardware (i.e. screws)
  20. Artificial Disc –  A mechanical device that is placed between the two adjacent vertebral bodies preserving motion between them.

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