Anatomy – Glossary of terms

A variety of terms and acronyms are used by medical staff. This glossary aims to help you understand this language

ADL
Activities of Daily Living – Things that you do on a day-to-day basis e.g. washing your face

Allodynia
Over-sensitivity of a painful area. Normal touch such as clothing may feel painful or unpleasant

Anterior
The front of the body or part

Avulsion injury
Nerve is pulled out from the spinal cord. Surgery cannot re-attach this nerve to the spinal cord and is therefore aimed at nerve transfers

Brachial plexus
Network of nerves that provide the movement and feeling to the arm

C5, C6, C7, C8, T1
Names given to the different levels of your spine which your nerves leave from. C refers to the cervical (neck) bones and the T refers to the thoracic (chest) bones. The numbers relate to the level that the nerve leaves from.

Cervical vertebrae
Bony parts of your neck

Chronic pain
Persistent pain that lasts longer than three months

CT
Computerised Tomography – a specialised scan that will give detailed pictures of the plexus

Distal
Any point of the body furthest from the head – e.g. the hand is distal to the elbow

Horner’s Syndrome
This is characterised by drooping of the eyelid and a small pupil on the same side as the injured arm. This occurs following damage of the T1 area

Lateral
Towards the side of the body

Medial
Situated towards the midline of the body

MRI
Magnetic Resonance Imaging – a specialised imaging technique using a magnet and radio waves to create detailed pictures of the plexus

Multi-Disciplinary Team (MDT)
A group of people which will include clinicians from different areas – such as doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, clinical psychologists

Nerve grafts
A nerve is taken out from somewhere else in the body (e.g. the sural nerve from your leg) and re-attached to bridge the gap between the damaged nerves in your arm

Nerve transfers
A nerve is re-directed from elsewhere in your body to the healthy distal part of your nerve e.g. intercostal nerves (from your chest) to musculocutaneous nerve (in your arm) that supplies the biceps muscle

Neuropathic pain
Pain caused by damage to the nerves

Neurapraxia
The nerve is damaged but intact and heals without surgery

OPD
Outpatients Department

PDC
Plastics Dressing Clinic

Posterior
The back of the body or part

Proximal
Any point of the body nearest to the head e.g. the elbow is proximal to the hand

Rupture
The nerve is completely torn in the neck and can be operated on by means of nerve grafts