Glossary of medical terminology
annulus fibrosis: tough, fibrous rings surrounding nucleus pulposus of discs
anteroposterior: from front to back
arachnoid: middle layer of the membranes which cover the brain and spinal cord
arachnoiditis: pain disorder caused by the inflammation of the arachnoid
atlas: first cervical vertebra unique for having no body, allows head to move forward and backward
axis: second cervical vertebra forming a pivotal joint with the atlas, allows side to side movements of head
cauda equina: collection of nerves which branch from the lumbar and sacral levels of the spinal cord and must run a distance in the vertebral column before they can exit
caudal: towards the tail; when referring to the spine, down
central canal: very center of the spinal cord, so named because it starts as a hollow tube which closes in most people as they age
cerebellar tonsils: portion of the cerebellum located at the bottom, so named because of their shape
cerebellum: part of the brain located at the bottom of the skull, near the opening to the spinal area; important for muscle control, movement, and balance
cerebral spinal fluid (CSF): clear liquid in the brain and spinal cord, acts as a shock absorber
cervical: relating to the upper part of the spine, neck area
Chiari malformation (CM): condition where the cerebellar tonsils are displaced out of the skull area into the spinal area, causing compression of brain tissue and disruption of CSF flow
choroid plexus: lines the walls of the lateral ventricles of the brain and roof of the third and fourth ventricles, produces CSF
cine MRI: a type of MRI which can measure the flow of moving fluid in the body.
coccygeal: lowest region of spine containing 4 fused vertebrae to form the coccyx or tailbone
decompression surgery: common term for any of several variations of a surgical procedure to alleviate a Chiari malformation
discs: parts of the spine which separate and cushion vertebral bodies
dorsal nerve root: one of two nerve fiber bundles of a spinal nerve that carries sensory information to the central nervous system
dorsiflex: to bend a body part backward.
dura: thick, outer covering of the brain and spinal cord
duraplasty: surgical procedure where a patch - or graft - is sewn into the dura
ectopia: abnormal position; refers to the cerebellar tonsils being displaced
epidural cavity: the space between the walls of the vertebral canal and the dura
fasciculi (or tracts): related bundles of nerve fibers in the spinal cord which transmit motor and sensory signals to and from the brain
foramen magnum: large opening at the base of the skull, through which the spinal cord passes and joins with the brain
glia: connective tissue of the brain and spine; cells which provide structure and serve other functions
gliosis: abnormal thickening and hardening of the glia
intracranial hypertension: condition where a person's intracranial pressure is chronically, abnormally high
intracranial pressure: the pressure of the CSF inside the skull
laminae: two broad plates which form the back part of the vertebral arch
laminectomy: surgical removal of part (the bony arch) of one or more vertebrae
lumbar: lower part of the spine
meninges: the three membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord
meningitis: inflammation of the lining around the brain and spinal cord.
myelopathy: spinal cord injury.
MRI: Magnetic Resonance Imaging; diagnostic device which uses a strong magnetic field to create images of the body's internal parts nucleus pulposus: gel-like substance found in the central core of each disc of a healthy spine
parenchyma: Animal tissue that constitutes the essential part of an organ, as contrasted with, for example, connective tissue and blood vessels..
pedicles: two short, thick parts of vertebral arch which joins with the vertebral body
phase contrast MR: a type of MR that is capable of obtaining fluid velocity
pia mater: membrane which adheres to the surface of the spinal cord
plasma: the liquid part of blood in which blood cells float
pronate: to turn or rotate (the hand or forearm) so that the palm faces down or back.
pseudotumor cerebri (PTC): another name for intracranial hypertension
rostral: towards the mouth; when referring to the spine, up
sacral: region of spine containing five vertebrae united to form the sacrum
scoliosis: abnormal curvature of the spine.
spinal nerves: 31 pairs of nerves which branch off from the spinal cord and exit through openings between vertebrae
spinous process: part of the vertebral arch which juts out and serves for the attachment of ligaments and muscles
subarachnoid space (SAS): the space between the arachnoid and the pia mater containing cerebrospinal fluid
suboccipital craniectomy: surgical removal of part of the skull, or cranium, in the back of the head, near the base
superior facets: two large oval, cup-like areas of the atlas which articulate with the occipital bone of the skull
supinate: to turn or rotate (the hand or forearm) so that the palm faces up or forward.
syringomyelia (SM): neurological condition where a fluid filled cyst forms in the spinal cord
syrinx: fluid filled cyst in the spinal cord
thoracic: middle part of the spine, the chest area
transverse processes: two projections one at either side of the vertebral arch which serve for attachment of ligaments and muscles
valsalva maneuver: straining
ventral nerve root: the other nerve fiber bundle of a spinal nerve, consisting of motor fibers, that branches off from the spinal cord
vertebrae: 33 bones which form the flexible spinal column
vertebral arch: part of vertebra which joins with body of a vertebra to enclose spinal cord
vertebral body: largest part of a vertebra, when joined in a column the bodies form strong support
vertebral foramen: opening in spinal column through which spinal cord passes
- a number of glossary terms are courtesy of Rick Labuda and the Chiari-syrigo-news web site,