Glossary of Trauma Terms

The following are words that healthcare professionals use in the course of providng treatment for traumatic injuries.

Anoxia - A lack of oxygen which can cause damage to the brain. This can result when blood flow is reduced.

Antibiotic - Medicine used to treat infections in the blood, urine, lungs and other areas of the body.

Anticoagulation - Preventing or delaying the clotting of the blood.

Aphasia - An abnormal neurologic condition in which language function is defective or absent relating to an injury to the cerebral cortex of the brain. The deficiency may be receptive, in which language is not understood. It may be expressive, in which words cannot be formed or expressed. It is sometimes transient, as when the swelling in the brain subsides. Intensive speech therapy by the patient and the patient's family has many times been successful in restoring language function.

Arterial blood gas (ABGs or gases) - A blood test that determines how well a patient is breathing and how well the lungs are working by measuring the oxygen, carbon dioxide and pH of the blood.

Arterial line (art line) - A very small tube (catheter) put into an artery so that blood pressure can be measured at all times. Blood can be removed from this catheter for lab testing.

Arteriogram(angiogram) - An X-ray of an artery injected with radiopaque contrast (dye) through a catheter.

Basilar skull fracture - Fracture or break at the base of the skull.

Brain death - Death caused by complete and irreversible loss of function of the entire brain, including the brain stem. The heart may continue as long as the breathing machine (ventilator) is in place, but without the breathing machine, the brain no longer signals the body to breath and the heart soon stops from lack of oxygen.

Cast - A stiff, solid dressing formed with plaster of Paris or fiberglass around a limb or other body part to keep it from moving during healing.

Catheter - A hollow, flexible tube that can be inserted into a vessel or cavity of the body to withdraw or instill fluids.

Cervical collar (C-collar) - Firm brace worn to support the neck. The main reason your doctor wants you to wear this collar is to limit the movement of the bones in your neck, either to prevent injury or to allow an injury to heal.

Chest tube - A catheter inserted through the chest wall into the chest cavity for removing air or fluid. It is used following chest surgery or lung collapse.

Colostomy - A surgical creation of an opening (stoma) on the abdominal wall by cutting the colon and bringing it out to the surface.

Coma - A state of profound unconsciousness in which a person cannot open eyes, obey commands or speak words that can be understood.

Computerized axial tomography (CAT) or computed tomography (CT) scan - A radiology technique in which a scanner is used to take a series of detailed visualizations of tissues, body organs and bones. The procedure is painless, non-invasive and requires no special preparation.

Concussion - A mild brain injury often caused by a blow to the head or a sudden, violent motion that causes the brain to bump up against the skull. Also called a traumatic brain injury or closed head injury.

Contusion - A bruise.

Cultures - Lab tests to check blood or other body fluids for bacteria and to determine which antibiotics are best for fighting the infection.

Drain - A small catheter to remove extra blood/fluid from inside the body.

Edema - Swelling that happens when too much fluid collects in the body's tissues or organs.

EEG (Electroencephalogram) - An evaluation of electrical activity of the brain.

EKG (Electrocardiogram) - Recordings of the electrical activity of the heart used to diagnose specific cardiac abnormalities.

Endotracheal tube (ET tube) - A plastic tube that is passed through the mouth or nose into the windpipe (trachea). The tube can be used to deliver extra oxygen to the lungs, help make breathing easier and help remove fluid from the lungs. The patient cannot talk while this tube is in place.

Extubate - Removing the endotracheal tube from the windpipe (trachea).

FAST - Focused Assessment with Sonography for Trauma (FAST) is a limited ultrasound examination directed solely at identifying the presence of free intraperitoneal or pericardial fluid. In the context of traumatic injury, free fluid is usually due to hemorrhage and contributes to the assessment of the circulation.

Feeding tube - Small plastic tube that goes into the nose to the stomach or intestine to give liquid food to a patient who cannot eat or drink.

Foley catheter - Soft rubber catheter that has been placed in the bladder for continuous drainage of urine from the bladder.

Hypertension - High blood pressure.

Hypotension - Low blood pressure.

Intercranial pressure line (ICP) - A small tube that is placed in specific areas of the brain to measure the pressure inside the skull.

Intraosseous - is a needle inserted directly into bone marrow when percutaneous peripheral venous cannulation has failed on two attempts.

Intravenous puncture - A very small tube put into a vein to deliver fluids and medicines to the bloodstream.

Intubate - Passing a tube through the mouth or nose into the windpipe (trachea) to make sure the patient gets enough oxygen.

Nasogastic tube / gastric tube - A tube that goes through the nose or mouth down into the stomach to remove air or fluids. Liquid medicines and liquid food formulas can also be given through the tube.

Neurological - Having to do with the brain, spinal cord and nerves.

NPO - Nothing by mouth.

Paralysis - The inability to move a group of muscles.

Pneumonia - A lung infection often caused by bacteria (germs). It causes a patient to have severe chills, a high fever, headache, cough with phlegm and chest pain.

Post-concussive syndrome - Group of symptoms that occur after a blow to the head. Symptoms can be vague and last for days or months. These may include headache, dizziness, change in emotion, memory, thinking and personality.

Pulmonary - Having to do with the lungs and breathing.

Rapid warmer infuser - When lives are at stake from significant blood loss due to trauma or major surgery, the Level 1 machine provides a rapid flow of normothermic blood and I.V. fluids to the patient.

Reflex - The way the body reacts to light, noise or touch, which a person cannot control.

Rehabilitation - Process of restoring a person to the best possible level of functioning after a disabling event.

Respirator - A machine that helps the patient breathe (also called a ventilator or breathing machine).

Seizure - Jerky movements that a person cannot control.

Septic / sepsis - Infection due to germs in patient's blood.

Spasm / spasticity - State of continuous muscle contraction that a person cannot control.

Splint - Metal or plaster brace to position a body part.

TEDS - Elastic stockings applied to the legs to help prevent clots from forming in the deep veins of the legs.

Thoracotomy - is an incision into the pleural space of the chest. It is performed by surgeons (or emergency physicians under certain circumstances) to gain access to the thoracic organs, most commonly the heart, the lungs, or the esophagus, or for access to the thoracic aorta or the anterior spine

Tracheotomy tube (trach) - A tube that goes through a hole made in the front of the neck, into the windpipe (trachea). This tube is used for the same reason as the endotracheal tube (ET tube). The patient cannot talk with this tube in place.

Traction - Heavy weights that help pull the ends of broken bones together in a straight normal position. Traction is used until the broken bone is repaired with a cast or an operation.

Ventilator - A machine that helps the patient breathe (also called a breathing machine or respirator).

Vital Signs - Measurement of blood pressure, heart rate (pulse), breathing and temperature.