Glossary of Terms

AAC:  Augmentative and Alternate Communication.  See Augmentative Communication.

Acetylcholine: 
A neurotransmitter that conveys messages through the nervous system.

Acidosis: 
Increased acidity of the blood.

Adrenal Glands: 
Endocrine glands that sit on top of the kidneys and produce stress hormones, particularly adrenaline and cortisol.

Antegrade Colonic Enema (ACE): 
A procedure which may also be called a Malone or MACE procedure that places a stoma into the caecum (first part of the large intestine).  This stoma, which is sometimes made out of the appendix, is used to flush out the large intestine to evacuate stool.

Antroduodenal Manometry: 
A motility test that looks at the stomach and upper part of the small intestine (duodenum).  The strength, frequency, and coordination of contractions (peristalsis) is measured.  See this article for more information.

Apnea:  Stopping or disturbance in breathing.

Apraxia: 
The inability to carry out a motor movement (such as speech or licking the lips), even if you want to, due to neurological issues.

ASL signs: 
American sign language signs.  A set of standardized signs used by people who are deaf or disabled.

Aspiration: 
The inhalation of food, liquids, or secretions into the lungs.

Assistive Technology:  The selection and use of any device or method to improve or assist in the lives of people with disabilities.  This category includes many things, ranging from wheelchairs, communicators, and adapted telephones, to closed captioning or a reacher.

Astigmatism: 
A problem of the eye that results in blurring due to a misshapen or irregularly curved lens or cornea.

Ataxia: 
Lack of coordination in muscle movements.

Atrial Septal Defects (ASD): 
Defects or "holes" between the upper two chambers of the heart (the atria).

Augmentative Communication: 
Any method of communication that is used to "augment" or replace typical verbal communication.  This category includes many types of communication, including signing, gestures, communication devices, and communication boards.

Autonomic Dysfunction: 
A general term describing a nervous system that does not work properly.  It may affect the sympathetic nervous system, the parasympathetic nervous system, or both.  In some children, it can affect the heart rate, blood pressure, circulation, temperature regulation, ability to sense pain, function of muscles particularly in the bladder and gut, etc.  It can range from very mild (such as a drop in blood pressure when standing) to very severe, impacting all aspects of life.  Some forms of autonomic dysfunction are genetic, while others are the result of brain injuries or other disorders.  See this article.

Autonomic Nervous System:  The part of the nervous system that controls "automatic" functions such as digestion, heart rate, etc.  See this article

Bacterial Overgrowth: 
An increase in "bad" bacteria usually in the small intestine, most frequently due to poor motility or anti-reducing medications, that causes symptoms such as bloating and distension, pain, or diarrhea.

Bacterial Translocation: 
Passage of bacteria from the gut into the bloodstream, usually due to a weakened barrier in the gut.  Typically causes sepsis and can be life-threatening.

Barrett's Esophagus: 
A pre-cancerous condition of the esophagus, often caused by reflux.

BiPAP:  Abbreviation for Bilevel Positive Airway Pressure.  A breathing apparatus that helps patients with sleep apnea and other conditions to keep their airways open by providing airway pressure.  It differs from CPAP in that it provides two different pressure settings instead of one.

Bronchiolitis:  Inflammation and/or infection of the small passages in the lungs (bronchioles), usually caused by viral infection, and leading to shortness of breath, coughing, and wheezing.

Bronchoscopy: 
A test that uses a thin camera to look at the airway and lungs.  See this article for more information.

Cannula:  Generally, any small tube that can be inserted into the body.  It usually refers to a nasal cannula, a pair of small tubes in the nostrils that deliver oxygen into the nose.

Cathing
or Catheterization:  Removal of urine from the bladder by inserting a small catheter into the urethra and up into the bladder.

Central Nervous System: 
The part of the nervous system consisting of the brain and spinal cord.

Chiari Malformation: 
A congenital defect in which the cerebellum and is pushed or herniated into the opening at the base of the skull, putting pressure on the brain and spinal cord, and causing a wide variety of symptoms, ranging from pain, respiratory problems, and muscle problems to dizziness, choking, and many other symptoms.

Cholestasis: 
A condition of the biliary system when bile is unable to flow ("stasis") between the liver and the small intestine.  May be caused by gallstones, anatomical abnormalities, or medications, among other causes. 

Colonoscopy: 
A procedure in which a small camera is inserted through the anus to view the rectum, colon, and lower part of the small intestine.

Colostomy: 
A surgical procedure in which the large intestine is stitched to the abdominal wall, creating a stoma or opening where stool can exit  the body.

Cortex: 
The cerebral cortex is the part of the brain with "gray matter" and controls thinking, language, and the senses.  It contains the frontal, parietal, occipital, and temporal lobes.

Cortical Visual Impairment: 
A form of visual impairment in which the brain is unable to interpret information it receives from the eye properly. 

CPAP: 
Abbreviation for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure.  A breathing apparatus that helps patients with sleep apnea and other conditions to keep their airways open by providing airway pressure.

Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome:  A condition characterized by sudden episodes of severe vomiting and nausea that typically last for a few hours or days.  The vomiting occurs on a regular repeating basis, with many symptom-free days between episodes.

Cystic Fibrosis:  A genetic disease that causes the body to produce thick mucus, causing respiratory problems, and affecting other organs such as the pancreas, gastrointestinal tract, and liver.

Direct Access Communication Device: 
A communicator that is activated by directly pushing buttons or areas of the screen. 

Duodenum: 
The first part of the small intestine.

Dynamic Display Communication Device: 
A customizable, computerized communication device with that uses pictures or text to display words/sentences and hanges from page to page electronically.

Dysautonomia: 
See Autonomic Dysfunction and this article.

Dysmotility: 
A general term that refers to poor or irregular motility within the gut.  See this article on motility.

Dysphagia:  A general term for difficulty swallowing.  See this article for more information.

Dystonia:  A movement disorder that causes involuntary muscles spasms or contractions.

EEG:  Electroencephalogram, a test that uses electrodes to measure the electrical activity in the brain.

EMG: 
Abbreviation for Electromyography, a test that detects the electrical signals muscles send out while contracting and at rest. 

Encephalopathy: 
A generic term referring to a wide range of brain injuries or damage to the brain that may be permanent, reversible, static, or progressive.

Endoscopy: 
Technically, any procedure using a small camera to look inside the body.  In colloquial terms, it usually refers to a esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD), a procedure in which a small camera is threaded down the esophagus and into the stomach and the beginning of the small intestine.

Enteral: 
Given via the digestive tract, usually used to indicate administration of feeds or medications.

Enteric Nervous System: 
A division of the Peripheral Nervous System that controls gastrointestinal function.  It is found within the lining of the GI tract.

Eosinophil: 
A type of white blood cell that attacks parasites and infection.  While they are found in larger numbers in the lower gut, they are present throughout the body.

Eosinophilic Esophagitis: 
A condition that is often mistaken for reflux in which there is an immune inflammation of the esophagus, typically caused by certain foods or other allergens.

Epinephrine:  Also known as adrenaline.  A hormone and neurotransmitter sometimes known as the "fight or flight" hormone.

Esophageal Atresia: 
A malformed esophagus, usually non-continuous, or a narrowing of the esophagus.  While it is most often a congenital malformation or anomaly, it can also be acquired in some children.

Farrell Bag or Valve:  A device used for venting the air out of the belly or draining the belly.  It allows a child to simultaneously feed while venting.

Foley catheter:  A catheter that is placed in the bladder to allow it to continuously empty.  It is held in place by a balloon.  It typically remains in place overnight or for an extended period of time.

Fundoplication:  A surgical procedure in which the stomach is wrapped around the sphincter between the esophagus and stomach to prevent reflux from occurring.

G tube:  Abbreviation for Gastrostomy.  A tube placed into the stomach for feeding or venting.

Gastroparesis:  Also known as delayed gastric emptying.  A condition in which food or liquid passes very slowly from the stomach into the small intestine, causing nausea, vomiting, bloating, pain, and other symptoms.  See this article for more information.

Gastrostomy:  See G tube.

GJ Tube:  A type of feeding tube with two ports, one into the stomach (G) and a second one threaded through the stomach and into the small intestine or jejunum (J).

Hirschsprung Disease:  A disease characterized by bowel obstruction and enlargement of the colon, due to the abscence of nerve fibers in part or all of the large intestine.

Hydronephrosis: 
Swelling of the area of the kidney where urine collects, usually due to obstruction of the urine flow.

Hypertonia: 
High or tight muscle tone.  Often called high tone.

Hypotonia:  Poor or floppy muscle tone.  Often called low tone.

Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy:  A form of static encephalopathy or damage to the brain and organs resulting from lack of oxygen.  Often due to asphyxiation during birth or lack of blood flow to the brain.

Ileostomy: 
A surgical procedure that attaches the end of the small intestine to the abdominal wall, forming an oening or stoma, and allowing the contents of the intestine to exit the body.

Intermittent Catheterization: 
Placing a catheter into the bladder every few hours to remove urine.  The catheter is removed once the procedure is complete.

J tube: 
A feeding tube that is placed into the jejunum or small intestine.  It can be placed directly into the jejunum, or it can be threaded through the stomach (GJ tube).

Jejunostomy:  See J tube.

Jejunum:  The middle portion of the small intestine, between the duodenum and ileum.

Ketoacidosis:  A build-up of ketones in the body, resulting in acidity of the blood.

Ketogenic Diet: 
A high fat, low carbohydrate diet used to treat seizures and several other conditions.

Laryngomalacia: 
A condition in which the larynx flops into the airway, closing it and causing a noisy sound (stridor) when a child breathes in.  It is usually a congenital disorder in babies, but may also be caused by neurological issues.  It can be caused by excess tissue in the larynx, an omega-shaped epiglottis, a floppy larynx that collapses, or several other variants.  See this article, which discusses laryngomalacia in part.

Lightbox:  A lighted box used to present images or words for people with low vision.

Lipid: 
Usually used as a synonym for fats, and commonly used to reference fat given parenterally (by IV).

Lower Esophageal Sphincter: 
The valve between the esophagus and stomach that prevents stomach contents from being refluxed upwards.

Medical Home: 
A concept in which a child receives comprehensive and coordinated primary medical care that is family-centered, proactive, and continuous.

MEG: 
Magnetoencephalography, or an imagine technique that measures electrical activity in the brain by sensing the faint magnetic fields it produces.

Mito: 
See Mitochondrial disorders

Mitochondria: 
Compartments contained within each cell that produce energy for the cell and body.

Mitochondrial disorders: 
A collection of disorders that affect the mitochondria, which are contained in all cells with genetic material and are used to create energy for cells in the body.

Mitochondrial DNA:  The DNA inside the mitochondria in a cell, almost all of which is inherited from the mother alone.

Mosaic Down Syndrome:  A form of Down syndrome in which children have an extra Chromosome 21 in some of their cells, but lack it in others. 

mtDNA: 
See Mitochondrial DNA

Mucosal Barrier:  The barrier between the gut and the bloodstream, made of gel-like mucus, that prevents bacteria and other toxins from leaving the gut.

Myopathic: 
Relating to the muscles and usually used to refer to weakness of the muscles.

Neurogenic bladder: 
A condition common in children with spina bifida or cerebral palsy in which the bladder muscles do not work properly, causing incontinence, retention, and other disorders.

Neurons:  Nerve cells in the nervous system that process and transmit information.

Neuropathic: 
Relating to the nerves, and often used to mean dysfunction or pain resulting from the nervous system.

NG Tube:  Abbreviation for Nasogastric Tube, a feeding tube passed through the nose and into the stomach.

NICU: 
Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

NJ Tube:  A feeding tube passed through the nose that feeds into the jejunum, or the intestine.


Norepinephrine: 
A stress hormone that is released in "fight or flight" situations.

Nuclear DNA: 
Genetic material contained within the nucleus of the cell, which is passed on by both parents.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea: 
Pauses in breathing during sleep caused by a mechanical obstruction, such as enlarged tonsils or adenoids or the tongue falling into the airway. 

Ostomy: 
Any surgically created opening into the body, such as a colostomy, ileostomy, or urostomy.

Parasympathetic Nervous System: 
A division of the Autonomic Nervous System that controls "resting" functions such as digestion and urination.  See this article.

Parenteral Nutrition: 
Intravenous or IV feeding.

PECS: 
Picture Exchange Communication System.  A system of augmentative communication that uses picture symbols that are initially exchanged for the actual item.  As children advance, they may use the picture cards to form sentences and create stories.

Peripheral Nervous System: 
The system comprised of all the nerves except the brain and spinal cord. 

Peristalsis: 
The rhythmic contractions or waves that propel food through the digestive tract.

Pharyngomalacia:
A collapsing or narrowing pharynx that often produces noisy breathing or stridor.  See this article.

Phytosterols:  Steroid alcohols which occur in plants that are akin to cholesterol in humans.  Found widely in plant oils (such as soybean oil) and used as an additive in many foods.

Plagiocephaly: 
Asymmetric formation of the head, often causing a flatten or misshapen head.

Polymorphism: 
Different variants or traits that are available within a species, such as different blood types or eye colors.

Port-a-cath: 
Also called a Port.  A type of central line for IV access that is implanted under the skin and must be accessed using a special needle.

PPIs - Proton Pump Inhibitors: 
Medications used to treat reflux.  See this article.

Premature Adrenarche:  Early activation of the maturation process controlled by the adrenal glands, and resulting in early pubic hair growth, with or without body odor, acne, and armpit hair.  Considered a benign condition for most children.

Pyloroplasty: 
A surgery in which the sphincter between the stomach and small intestine (pylorus) is opened and widened to improve motility.

Pylorus:  The sphincter or valve between the stomach and the small intestine.

Refractive Errors: 
Vision problems often causing blurry vision that include nearsightedness (myopia), farsightedness (hyperopia), and astigmatism.  Errors involve an inability to focus light by the eye.

Restless Leg Syndrome: 
A neurological condition in which the legs experience unpleasant tingling or burning sensations, a well as the urge to move.  Usually accompanied by periodic leg or limb movements, jerking movements of the extremities.

RSV: 
Abbreviation for Respiratory Syncytial Virus, a virus causing infection of the respiratory tract that may be extremely serious for premature babies or infants with medical problems.

Rumination: 
An eating disorder in which food is refluxed into the mouth, rechewed, and reswallowed.

Scoliosis:  Abnormal curvature of the spine, typically greater than 25-30% curvature.

Sepsis: 
Once called "blood poisoning," a condition in which bacteria, fungi, or viruses grow in the body tissues and blood.  May be extremely life threatening.

Somatic Nervous System: 
Part of the Peripheral Nervous System that allows voluntary control of muscle.

Spasticity: 
High muscle tone in one or more areas of the body, caused by the brain sending incorrect signals to the muscles.  May include or lead to very high tone, stiff joints, contractures (fixed joints), muscle spasms, clonus (rapid muscle contractions), and difficult with balance, gait, and functional skills.  Typically affects the arms, legs, hands, and feet, but may affect any muscles/joints in the body.

Stander: 
A device used by children who are unable to stand or walk on their own that supports them in an upright position.

Steatosis (hepatic): 
Also called fatty liver.  The accumulation of fat in the liver, often caused by alcoholism or obesity.

Stem Cells: 
Cells that are able to renew themselves and differentiate into a wide variety of other cell types.  Present in emryos as well as in tissues throughout the body.  They cells have the potential to heal many ailments in the future.

Stoma: 
Any surgically created opening, such as the hole for a G-tube or a colostomy.

Stridor: 
Noisy breathing, usually caused by the collapse of the larynx or trachea.  See this article.

Switch:  A button of any shape or size that allows someone with limited mobility or other disabilities to simply access toys, communication devices, computers, and other items.

Sympathetic Nervous System: 
Part of the Autonomic Nervous System that controls "fight or flight" or stress responses.  See this article.

Synapse: 
The junction between two neurons (or a neuron and a muscle/gland cell) that allows information to be transmitted through a nerve impulse.

Tethered Cord: 
A spinal cord that has become attached to body tissues, usually at the base of the vertebrae.  Symptoms may include pain, tingling, and problems with bowel and bladder control. 

Tetralogy of Fallot: 
A collection of four heart defects that occur together, including a ventricular septal defect, narrowing at or below the pulmonary valve (blocking bloodflow to the lungs), a more muscular right ventricle, and an aorta that lies directly above the ventricular septal defect.  The most common symptom is cyanosis or blue color of the skin and lips.

TLSO: 
Thoracic Lumbar Sacral Orthosis.  A brace for the back used for support or correction of curvature in any direction, such as in scoliosis, kyphosis, or lordosis.

TPN: 
Abbreviation for Total Parenteral Nutrition, or total nutrition provided in intravenous form.

Trace elements: 
Elements that appear in the diet in very small quantities, such as selenium, copper, iron, manganese, and zinc.  Also called micronutrients.

Tracheomalacia: 
Floppy trachea that collapses, causing noisy breathing and difficulty breathing.  It may be a congenital condition or occur in children with low muscle tone.

Tracheotomy or Tracheostomy
A surgical opening in the neck and into the trachea that allows a child to breathe.

Umbilical Cord Blood:  Blood rich in stem cells that is saved from the umbilical cord after a baby is born.  Ued to treat several diseases, including leukemia, leukodystrophies, anemias, immune disorders, and, most recently, cerebral palsy.

Vasoconstriction: 
The constriction of blood vessels, causing less blood flow.

Ventilator: 
A machine that breathes for a child when he or she is unable to breathe on his own without assistance.

Ventricular Septal Defects (VSD): 
Defects or "holes" between the lower two chambers of the heart (the ventricles).

Vesicostomy:  A surgical opening or stoma from the bladder to the abdominal wall that allows urine to be removed from the body directly.

Villi: 
Tiny projections from the wall of the intestine that aid in digestion and absorption.

Visceral hyperalgesia: 
Also called visceral hypersensitivity.  A term used to describe a gut which is extra sensitive, usually to food, volume (stretching of the stomach), or the contractions of the stomach.  The gut feels pain at a lower threshold than would be expected.  See this article for extensive information.