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Spinal Glossary: A

  • activities of daily living (ADL): Activities and movements that people engage in on a day-to-day basis, including sitting, standing, reaching, lifting, and bending.
  • acute: Pain that is sudden in nature; categorized as lasting three months or less. Generally caused by an illness or injury, such as a broken bone or cut, that will naturally heal on its own once the underlying cause of the pain has been treated.
  • allograft: A tissue graft used during surgery that is taken from someone other than the patient being operated on, usually from a cadaver or a bone bank. Spinal fusion surgeries often use allografts to stimulate bone growth so that fusion can take place.
  • annulus fibrosis: The cartilaginous outer wall of an intervertebral disc; contains the inner gel-like fluid of the disc’s nucleus, called the nucleus pulposus. Over time, the annulus fibrosus can degenerate and become prone to tearing.
  • anterior: A term used to describe the front plane of the body. One of several anatomical terms of location, including posterior, dorsal, ventral, lateral, medial, proximal, and distal.
  • anterior interbody fusion (AIF): A spine surgery that is aimed at fusing two vertebral bodies into one solid segment of bone. An anterior fusion accesses the spine through the front of the body, usually with a large incision in the abdomen.
  • anterior lumbar interbody fusion (ALIF): A spine surgery that fuses two or more lumbar vertebrae together into a solid segment of bone. The fusion takes place between anterior vertebral bodies, meaning the posterior vertebral arch and spinous process is not fused.
  • arthritis: Commonly used term that describes a disorder that causes inflammation and pain of the joints. Inflammation of a joint.
  • arthroscopic microdiscectomy (AMD): A minimally invasive procedure that utilizes an arthroscope, which is a type of endoscope, to gain access to the interior of a spinal facet joint or an intervertebral disc that is causing neural compression. Arthroscopy uses a very small incision and does not require cutting of muscles, ligaments, or tendons.
  • artificial disc replacement (ADR): Also referred to as disc arthroplasty, ADR is a procedure that removes a degenerated intervertebral disc and replaces it with a prosthetic disc. The prosthetic can be made of hydrogel, polyethylene, rubber, titanium, or cobalt chromium.
  • autograft: A tissue or bone graft used during surgery where the graft is taken from another region of the patient’s body. In the case of an autograft for spinal fusion surgery, the bone is usually taken from the patient’s pelvic bone.
  • automated percutaneous lumbar discectomy (APLD): A minimally invasive procedure that uses a needle and cannula, or suction tube, to access a bulging or herniated intervertebral disc and remove disc fluid.
  • annular tear: This condition refers to a rip or tear in the annulus fibrosus (tough exterior) of an intervertebral disc.
  • anterior posterior fusion: A type of spinal surgery that permanently connects two or more vertebrae; this surgery also may involve the partial or total removal of one or more intervertebral discs
  • arachnoid mater: The middle layer of a three-layer membrane that surrounds the brain and spinal cord; the arachnoid mater is sandwiched by the dura mater on the outside and the pia mater on the inside.
  • arthritis of the spine: Degeneration of the joints of the spine (called facet joints).
  • acetaminophen: A common fever reducer and analgesic for mild to moderate pain.
  • aspirin: A widely available non-steroidal anti-inflammatory pain killer.
  • aerobic exercise: Exercise that increases the body’s need for oxygen. Aerobic exercise should be performed with moderate intensity for an extended period of time for best results.
  • anterior longitudinal ligament: A ligament that traverses the entire length of the spinal canal on the anterior (front) surface of the spine.
  • arthrodesis: The surgical fusion of two bones to alleviate joint or arthritic pain and stabilize the affected bones.
  • acupuncture: An alternative therapy that involves the insertion of tiny needles into specific parts of the body, called meridians.

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