Diagnostics Tests Definition List

WORD DEFINITION
Anesthetic A pain killing agent applied topically (over skin), locally (injected directly around a nerve supplying a painful area in nerve root blocks), or regionally (as part of a surgical procedure).
Compression fractures A fracture of the inner aspect of bone caused by the impact of a heavy load.
Congenital spinal abnormalities A condition of the spine since birth, for example, an excessively narrowed spinal canal.
Contrast agent A liquid given orally or intravenously for imaging tests that improves the contrast and therefore ¾ the visibility of structures.
Contrast enhanced MRI MRI used with a nontoxic dye injected into an arm vein through a small needle to differentiate between tissue structures more accurately. More commonly applied in patients with recalcitrant pain who have had previous spinal surgery.
CT scan (Computed tomography) Radiographic study of the spinal canal with the introduction of a dye substance into the spinal fluid to facilitate the image of the nerve tissues, called a myelogram, which is immediately followed by a CT scan.
Degenerative disc disease Condition where the spinal disc loses structural integrity from wear and tear, aging, or trauma. Consequences may be: disc space narrowing, osteophyte formation, disc bulging, or herniation.
Electromyography Diagnostic test for conditions involving the nerves and muscles of the spine and neuromuscular function.
Facet joints Joints of the spine that connect all of the vertebrae and allow coordinated movement of the vertebral column.
Facet syndrome A condition where pain emanates from the facet joints. Pain is typically brought on suddenly by certain body positions and relieved by others.
Fluoroscopy A radiology technique that allows still or moving images of internal structures on a monitor or TV screen; alternative to conventional X-ray.
Herniated disc A condition where the center (nucleus pulposus) of the intervertebral disc is protruding through the outer fibrous layer (annulus fibrosus) of the disc. A frequent cause of low back and leg pain.¾ Distinguish from a disc bulge.
Intravenously A technique whereby fluids are introduced to the body through a tube placed within a vein.
Lumbar puncture Procedure whereby a needle is placed within the spinal canal to take samples of cerebrospinal fluid for diagnosis or to deliver medication, contrast agents, or anesthesia.
MRI (closed/open) Magnetic resonance imaging. A noninvasive imaging technology that uses magnets and radiofrequency waves to image the body.
Closed: Patient is placed in long tube for MRI procedure. Can uncomfortable physically or stressful for children or patients with claustrophobia.
Open: MRI is open on the sides and therefore more comfortable.
Myelogram An X-ray study of the spinal canal and spinal cord.
Myelography Radiographic study of the spinal canal with the introduction of a dye substance into the spinal fluid to facilitate the image of the nerve tissues. Usually followed immediately by a CT scan.
Nerve conduction studies Diagnostic test to measure the rate at which a nerve (sensory or motor) conducts an impulse.
Nerve root blocks A diagnostic procedure used to identify the nerve or nerves responsible for symptoms and a technique to block pain using an injection of anesthetic around the nerve supplying the painful area.
Noninvasive imaging technology Diagnostic imaging technology that does not impact tissues adversely or involve the use of instruments which enter the human body.
Nucleus pulposus The soft and gelatinous center of an intervertebral disc which has a high water content in younger persons.
Pedicles Short, thick bony structures which project backwards from each side of the vertebral body and are joined by the laminae to complete the back wall of the spinal canal.
Radiculopathy Radiating pain along the arm or leg due to dysfunction of a spinal nerve, often due to a herniated disc or spinal stenosis.
Radiopaque contrast medium A liquid given orally or intravenously for imaging tests that improves the contrast and therefore visibility of structures.
Regional anesthesia Anesthesia for a select region of the body produced by the injection of anesthesia around the sensory nerves supplying that area.
Somatosensory evoked potentials Diagnostic test for spinal cord injury involving the measurement of electrical signals generated by the stimulation of the peripheral nerves and recorded by electrodes placed on the skin over the cerebral cortex.¾ Also used during spine surgery to prevent neurologic injury.
Spinal cord That part of the central nervous system that connects all parts of the body with the brain and travels through the spinal canal of the vertebral column.
Spinal cord impingement Pressure placed on the spinal cord by a herniated intervertebral disc or abnormal bone growth from degenerative joint disease.
Spinal stenosis / Stenosis A condition where the spinal canal is sufficiently reduced in size (diameter from a variety of causes (nerve root impingement, osteophyte formation, disc herniation, etc.). Frequent cause of low back and leg pain.
Spinal tap Procedure whereby a needle is placed within the spinal canal to take samples of cerebrospinal fluid for diagnosis or to deliver medication, contrast agents, or anesthesia.
Spondylolisthesis Forward displacement (slippage or translation) of one vertebra over the vertebra below.
Spondylolysis A defect (usually fracture) of the vertebral arch in between the superior and inferior facet joints (specifically, the pars interarticularis), occurring on one or both sides.
Vertebral body A thick columnar-shaped bone comprising the front of each vertebra.