Glossary of Terms
Clinical negligence glossary
A&E: Accident and Emergency, the department in UK hospitals that deals with emergency medical cases.
Abortion: Most commonly, the purposeful removal or expulsion of a foetus from the uterus.
Accidental nerve damage: The accidental damage of essential nerves during a medical procedure. Examples of situations that may result in accidental damage include: accidental injection of certain drugs, bleeding from a punctured artery or traction during manipulation of the back or neck.
Action Against Medical Accidents (AvMA): The independent charity responsible for promoting improvements in patient safety and justice for people who have been adversely affected by a medical accident.
Allergies: A hypersensitivity to certain drugs, foods or any other environmental substance. Failure to confirm whether a patient has any allergies to commonly prescribed drugs may result in a medical accident.
Amenorrhoea: The lack of a menstrual period in women of reproductive age.
Antenatal: Antenatal literally means ‘before birth’, and is used to refer to the care a pregnant mother receives in the run up to birth.
Anterior Cruciate Ligament: One of the four major ligaments in the human knee. The ACL is integral to full and proper movement of the knee; injuries can therefore be extremely debilitating.
Basal cell carcinoma (or rodent ulcer): A slow-growing, skin based tumour. The consequences of a missed or a misdiagnosis can be grave.
Benign: In a clinical negligence context, benign refers to a tumour which lacks the ability to metastasize. This means the tumour cannot spread to new sites in the body.
Birth injury: Can relate to an injury caused to the baby or mother during the birthing process. Injuries suffered at birth can have long term consequences for both the child and the mother.
Brain injury: damage to the brain caused by the negligence of a medical professional.
Caesarean section: The surgical delivery of a baby. Surgeons make one or more incisions through a mother's abdomen and uterus in order to deliver the baby.
Carpal tunnel syndrome: The result of nerve entrapment in the wrist; symptoms include intermittent numbness of the thumb, index, long and radial half of the ring finger, and if not treated can lead to permanent numbness and muscular atrophy.
Cauda Equina: A bundle of nerves located in the spinal column. Damage to the Cauda Equina nerves can result in Cauda Equina Syndrome.
Cauda Equina Syndrome: a serious neurologic condition; sufferers experience acute loss of function of the lumbar plexus. Patients suffering from Cauda Equina Syndrome may require treatment for lower limb dysfunction and obesity.
Cerebral Artery Aneurysm: A weakness in the wall of an artery that causes the dilation or ballooning of a blood vessel. Cerebral aneurysms can be extremely difficult to diagnose and, in the most severe cases, can cause coma when they rupture.
Cerebral Palsy: Cerebral Palsy is an umbrella term for a range of conditions which affect movement, posture and coordination. It is caused by damage to the brain during or immediately after childbirth.
Cerebro-spinal fluid (CSF): A clear bodily fluid, the primary function of which is to act as protection for the brain inside the skull.
Coroner: A government-appointed official responsible for confirming and certifying deaths and, in some instances, conducting investigations into the circumstances surrounding a death.
Coroner’s inquest: When a coroner is tasked with investigating the circumstances surrounding a death, a coroner’s inquest is launched. The inquest will look into who has died, and how, when and where the death occurred.
Deep vein thrombosis: A blood clot in a deep vein, most commonly in the legs. The consequences of misdiagnosis can be severe, with the worst possible outcome a potentially fatal pulmonary embolism.
Diagnosis: The process of observing symptoms and identifying the nature of an illness.
Diagnostic blood tests: Blood tests, carried out during the diagnostic process.
Dispensing errors: Providing a patient with the incorrect medication.
Drug interactions: A situation in which more than one drug has been administered and the two medications affect each other in a positive or negative way. Sometimes, such interactions are the aim of the medical professional however, when they occur by accident, they can have devastating repercussions for the patient.
Drug Side Effects: The unpleasant and debilitating results of taking a particular medication which occur in addition to the drug’s desired effect.
Ectopic pregnancy: a complication of pregnancy in which the embryo implants outside the uterine cavity. As a rule, ectopic pregnancies are not viable and can have very serious repercussions for the mother if not identified and treated immediately.
Epilepsy: The name for a diverse set of chronic neurological disorders characterised by seizures
Erb’s Palsy: Damage to the upper group of nerves in the arm, resulting in paralysis.
Foetal abnormalities: A catch-all term for any unusual aspects of a foetus’s development; for example, severe brain damage.
Foetal Abnormality Screening: The process of screening unborn foetuses for any warning signs of future physical or mental defects.
Gallstones: The build up of bile components in the gall bladder, forming a small ‘stone’. Once formed, gallstones may pass into other areas of the body or remain in the gall bladder, causing medical complications.
Gastric band surgery: An operation which reduces the size of the stomach, meaning the patient can only eat small meals. The aim of the surgery is weight loss.
General Practice: GPs are on the front line of medicine in the UK, providing a complete spectrum of care within the local community and dealing with problems that often combine physical, psychological and social components.
Gentamicin toxicity: A severe reaction to Gentamicin, an antibiotic used to treat many types of bacterial infections. Symptoms can include difficulty balancing and ringing in the ears.
Glaucoma: An eye disease which involves damage to the optic nerve. If left untreated, Glaucoma can permanently damage a patient’s vision.
Gynaecology: the medical practice that deals with the health of the female reproductive system.
Hiatus hernia: The protrusion of the upper part of the stomach into the chest cavity, caused by a tear in the diaphragm. Hiatus hernias are notoriously hard to diagnose.
Hip dysplasia: A misalignment of the hip joint; hip dysplasia may be a birth defect, or can be caused by outside influences such as overly restrictive baby seats.
Hip-Slipped Upper Femoral Epiphysis (SUFE): A separation of the ball of the hip joint from the thigh bone (femur) at the upper growing end (growth plate) of the bone. A relatively rare condition, more common in obese children.
Intra-uterine contraceptive (IUCD): Any female contraceptive device that is placed in the uterus; such devices are typically long-lasting, yet reversible.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome: A common disorder of the gut, characterised by abdominal pain, a bloated feeling, diarrhoea or constipation. There is currently no cure however treatments are available to ease the symptoms.
IVF: In Vitro Fertilisation is the process by which an egg is fertilised by sperm outside of the body.
IVF mix ups: An administrative mix up during the In Vitro Fertilisation process, which often leads to the wrong sperm and egg being combined, leaving the parents with children fathered or mothered by a parent outside their relationship.
Kernicterus Bilirubinaemia: A form of brain damage caused by excessive jaundice in babies.
Laparoscope: An instrument which allows surgeons to see inside the abdomen and pelvis, without having to perform invasive surgery.
Lasik Eye Surgery: Commonly referred to as Laser Eye Surgery, Lasik Eye Surgery is a type of refractive surgery performed to correct sight problems, such as long and short sightedness.
Liposuction: A type of cosmetic surgery, the aim of which is to remove fat from many different sites on the human body, such as the abdomen, thighs and buttocks.
Lumbar laminectomy: A surgical procedure to relieve pressure on the spinal nerves.
Malignant: In medicine, typically refers to a tumour which demonstrates uncontrolled growth, is cancerous, invasive, or metastatic.
Medical / Clinical Negligence: A lack of appropriate care on the part of a medical, nursing or midwifery professional, which leads to an injury or illness in a patient.
Meningitis: Inflammation of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord. Untreated, bacterial meningitis is almost always fatal.
Metastatic: the spread of a disease from one organ or area of the body to another non-adjacent organ or area.
Midwife: The branch of the healthcare profession responsible for caring for women during childbirth and immediately after.
Misdiagnosis: The incorrect identification of a disease, injury or illness by a doctor or healthcare professional.
Monitoring errors: Any error in the monitoring of a patient that leads to a worsening of their condition.
MRSA: Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, a bacterium responsible for several infections in humans which are notoriously difficult to treat. Especially troublesome in hospitals, prisons, schools, and nursing homes.
Neonatal nursing: The provision of nursing care for newborn infants up to 28 days after birth.
Neonatal Hypoglycaemia: A condition that occurs in children when blood sugar (glucose) is too low.
No Win No Fee: An agreement between a solicitor and their client that, in the event that the case is lost, no legal fees will be taken.
Obstetrics: The branch of medicine which specialises in caring for women’s reproductive systems and their children during pregnancy, childbirth and immediately after.
Obstetric Cholestasis: A rare complication of pregnancy, which manifests itself as a persistent itch during the last third of pregnancy.
Opthalmology: The branch of medicine which handles the anatomy, physiology and diseases of the eye.
Orthopaedic: Specialists in Orthopaedics perform surgery to correct conditions affecting the musculoskeletal system.
Overdose: The application of a drug or other substance in quantities greater than recommended by medical professionals. Drug overdoses can often lead to severe illness and death.
Perineal Tear: A tear in the region of the perineum, which generally includes the areas surrounding the genitals and anus. Perineal tears can occur as a complication during childbirth.
Pressure sores: Also known as pressure ulcers, pressure sores are injuries to the skin and underlying tissue which are the direct result of the affected area being put under too much pressure. Such injuries are often the result of neglect combined with a lack of mobility.
Preventive care: Steps taken to prevent a disease or injury from developing, rather than treating and/or curing the after-effects.
Prognosis: A doctor’s prediction as to the likely outcome of a medical procedure, illness or injury.
Pulmonary embolism: A blood clot in the pulmonary artery, the blood vessel that transports blood from the heart to the lungs.
Retinal detachment: An emergency medical problem in which the retina detaches from its supporting tissue; failure to treat the problem can lead to blindness.
Scaphoid Fracture: The scaphoid is one of the smallest bones in the wrist, and is also the most likely to break.
Sciatic Nerve Damage: The sciatic nerve originates in the spinal cord and runs between the bones of the lower back and the muscles of the buttocks. Damage to the nerve can cause leg pain, tingling, numbness or weakness in the affected area.
Secondary care services: The service tasked with providing and maintaining all in-patient hospital facilities for those over the age of 65.
Spastic Quadriplegia: A form of cerebral palsy which affects all four limbs (arms and legs); sufferers experience extreme tightness and stiffness in their limbs and must work extremely hard in order to use their limbs successfully.
Spondylolisthesis: A condition in which a bone in the spine slips out of its proper position and rests on the bone below it. Symptoms can range from almost non-existent to severe back pain and stiffness.
Stillbirth: The result of a foetus dying in the uterus. The mother may still experience contractions and go through the childbirth process.
Sub-Arachnoid Haemorrhage: A stroke caused by bleeding in, or immediately surrounding, the brain.
Suturing: A medical device used to hold tissue together following surgery or an injury.
Temporal Arteritis: Inflammation and damage to blood vessels that supply the head area and can lead to visual loss if not treated promptly.
Testicular Torsion: When the spermatic cord is twisted, blood supply to the testicle and surrounding structures within the scrotum is cut off. Symptoms include the sudden onset of severe pain in one testicle. The condition is more common in adolescence and during infancy.
Vasectomy: A permanent birth control procedure performed on men, effectively preventing them from having any further children.
Vesico-vaginal Fistula: An abnormal fistulous tract extending between the bladder and the vagina that allows the continuous and involuntary discharge of urine into the vaginal vault. Vesico-vaginal Fistula may occur as a complication of childbirth.
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