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Glossary of Terms

Below are a number of useful terms that can better help you understand your healthcare experience in the Department of Anesthesiology. In our bid to make you as comfortable as possible, we included a short glossary of relevant terms. Take a moment to learn more about what we do, and what we treat:


Abscess: A mass comprised of inflammatory cells and debris that causes swelling and inflammation around it

Analgesia: A medical term for pain relief

Apgar score: A simple score of 0 to 10 assigned to all newborns at 1 and 5 minutes of life in order to assess the overall health status of the newborn; it takes into account the following criteria:

  • skin complexion
  • pulse rate
  • muscle tone
  • reflex irritability
  • breathing

BMI: (SEE “body mass index”)

Body Mass Index: Defined as an individual’s body mass (weight in kilograms) divided by the square of his or her height (height in meters, squared)

Catheter: A hollow tube that can be inserted into the body for administration of medications or for drainage of bodily fluids

Coagulopathy: A disorder of clotting or bleeding that can be inherited or acquired

Combined Spinal-Epidural: This refers to a technique that combines two procedures: a spinal anesthetic (SEE “spinal”) and an epidural anesthetic (SEE “epidural”)

CSE: (SEE “combined spinal-epidural”)

Dehydration: A condition or state of low intravascular volume; excessively low body fluid

Dilation: In pregnancy, this refers to a widening of the cervix that is the natural part of childbirth; measurements are made from 0 cm to 10 cm

Epidural: Referring to the epidural space, which is a potential space within the spinal canal lying outside the dura mater (which encloses the cerebrospinal fluid and the spinal cord). The word “epidural” is colloquially used as an all-inclusive term to refer to things such as an epidural catheter, or to techniques such as epidural analgesia and epidural anesthesia

Forceps: These are instruments that look like a pair of tongs that are sometimes used to assist with the delivery of the baby during vaginal childbirth

Harrington Rods: These are stainless steel surgical devices that were used up through the late 1990s to treat scoliosis

Hematoma: A collection of blood outside of blood vesselsInadvertent dural puncture – a known complication of epidural anesthetic placement during which an epidural needle punctures the dural membrane (the outermost membrane surrounding the spinal cord and cerebrospinal fluid)

Informed consent: A process of obtaining a patient’s permission which entails that the patient is given a clear understanding of the facts, implications, and future consequences of an action; the patient is not coerced into the decision and voluntarily gives permission to a procedure, treatment, or intervention

Intravenous: Within a blood vessel; often refers to a method of delivery of medication

IV: (SEE “intravenous”)

Local anesthetic: A medication with properties that confer numbing by way of interrupting transmission of sensory information via nerves

Macrosomia: The medical term describing a newborn who is significantly larger than average (above the 90th percentile)

Motor block: A corollary of local anesthetic use in which weakness is experienced, usually in the lower extremities (legs); a motor block resolves once the medication is eliminated

Neonatal: Pertaining to a neonate, which is defined as a newborn from 0 to 30 days of life

Neuraxial anesthesia: Refers to spinal, epidural, or combine spinal-epidural techniques (SEE “spinal,” “epidural,” and “combined spinal-epidural”)

Opioids: Synthetic medications designed to bind to human pain receptors, thereby conferring pain relief

PCA: An acronym for “Patient-Controlled Analgesia” in which pain relief is achieved by the use of a button operated directly by the patient, resulting in the intravenous delivery of pain medication

PCEA: An acronym for “Patient-Controlled Epidural Analgesia” in which pain relief is achieved by the use of a button operated directly by the patient, resulting in the delivery of pain medication through an epidural catheter

Peripheral nerve palsy: A weakness in the distribution of a peripheral nerve; for example, a palsy of the femoral nerve can manifest as weakness in lifting leg during stair climbing

Pharmacological: Pertaining to pharmacology, the science of medications

Platelet: A component of human blood that is involved in the normal process of forming blood clots

Post-dural puncture headache: A specific type of headache that is usually attributable to a neuraxial anesthetic (SEE “neuraxial anesthetic”) characterized by a severe headache upon standing or sitting with complete resolution upon lying flat

Postpartum: Referring to the period after delivery of a childPrecipitous labor – defined as labor that lasts 3 hours from the beginning of contractions to the delivery of the child

Second stage of labor: Also called the “active” stage of labor, this is the period of labor beginning from full cervical dilation (10 cm dilation) to delivery of the child

Spinal: Referring to the spinal anesthetic technique whereby pain relief or complete surgical anesthesia is achieved by depositing local anesthetic medication into the subarachnoid space

Spinal headache: (SEE “post-dural puncture headache”)

Last UpdateJune 24, 2013


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