Translating Medical Terminology: Definitions for people with communication disorders and their loved ones to understand exactly what is going on.

So many times during aphasia treatment, TBI rehabilitation, and treatment for other communication disorders, medical language sounds more like what aliens on Jupiter might speak! Read on for a translation of the most relevant medical terms for communication disorders!

For each of the categories below, remember that these may not apply to everyone – everyone’s communication disorder is different!

Terms – make sense of the alphabet soup of medical language

  • ADL (activities of daily living) – these refer to skill or activity that people perform everyday; often goals for persons with communication disorders include performing ADLs independently (these might include cooking, driving, toileting, bathing, etc.)
  • Aphasia – loss of language (but NOT intellect) after a stroke or brain injury; all aphasias are a little different – it can affect production and/or understanding of language at the sound, word, sentence, and/or conversation level (read more here)
  • AVM (arteriovenous malformation) – a tangle of blood vessels in the brain; these can rupture and cause bleeding in the brain (read more here)
  • CHI (closed head injury) – a type of TBI in which the skull is not damaged
  • Cog (cognition or cognitive skills) – this refers to attention, memory, problem solving, and planning/monitoring; it can be affected along with communication disorders, but NOT all perosns with communication disorders have cognitive difficulties
  • CVA (cerebral vascular accident) – stroke (read more here); this can be caused by a clot (material being stuck in a blood vessel that prevents blood from moving past, and thus keeps part of the brain from receiving oxygen) or a hemmorrhage (bleeding in the brain); it causes part of the brain to be damaged, which can lead to many physical, emotional, cognitive, and language difficulties)
  • D/C (discharge) – this means to release someone from a specific service; you can be discharged from a facility or from a specific therapy
  • Dx (diagnosis) – this is either the process of figuring out what’s wrong, or the particular disease or condition that is diagnosed
  • Dysphagia – trouble swallowing; this is common after strokes as the swallow muscles are powered by the brain, and require a lot of coordination to function properly (read more here)
  • Hemorrhage – bleeding; if this happens in the brain it is a particularly serious issue, as blood is poisonous to brain tissue (read more here)
  • Hx (history) – taking a full history is essential for any healthcare provider to make sure they understand exactly
  • ICU (intensive care unit) – sometimes after a serious surgery, illness, or injury patients need more significant and closely monitored care
  • Ischemia – when a blood vessel is blocked by a clot; this causes a stroke if this happens in the brain; the clot can either develop in the brain or can break off from another part of the body and travel through the blood stream to the brain (read more here)
  • NPO (nill per oral) – this means nothing by mouth, meaning that a person is not safe to have food or medicine by mouth; this can be due to swallow difficulties, gastrointestinal difficulties, or preparation for a surgery or procedure
  • po (per oral) – this refers to whether medication or food is taken by mouth
  • TBI (traumatic brain injury) – an injury to the head; can be caused by car accidents, falls, or any blow to the head (read more here)
  • TIA (transient ischemic attack) – a “mini-stroke”; these can be warnings of full stroke and should be taken quite seriously (read more here)
  • tPA (tissue plasminogen activator) – this can be injected to help disolve clots that have caused a stroke; the sooner this is administered, the better, though this is not an option for hemorrhagic strokes (read more here)
  • Trach (tracheostomy) – this refers to a hole that is created in a person’s neck that can enable doctors to put in a tube that bypasses the mouth and throat and goes straight to the lungs; it can assist with breathing and getting mucous and other secretions out of the lungs; these may be temporary or more long-term depending on patient needs (read more here)
  • Tx (treatment) – this refers to what healthcare professionals
  • WNL (within normal limits) – this means that a particular function is as it should be and operating typically

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