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Glossary of Children's Hospital Terms


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SVC or Superior Vena Cava: This is the large vein responsible for bring blood back to the heart after it has circulated to the brain and upper body.

Saline: Relating to salt. In medicine, saline is a salt solution that is adjusted to the normal salinity of the human body. Certain concentrations of both sodium and chloride in the blood are essential for normal body functions. Saline solutions are commonly used in medicine as fluid replacements to treat or prevent dehydration.
Sats: Short for saturation levels (of oxygen in the blood).
Sedative: A drug that calms a patient down, easing agitation and permitting sleep. Often used prior to procedures such as a MRI or CT scan.
Seizure disorder: A medical condition that is characterized by episodes of uncontrolled electrical activity in the brain (seizures). Some seizure disorders are hereditary, but others are caused by birth defects or environmental hazards, such as lead poisoning. Seizure disorders are more likely to develop in-patients who have other neurological disorders, psychiatric conditions, or immune-system problems. In some cases, uncontrolled seizures can cause brain damage, lowered intelligence, and permanent mental and physical impairment. Diagnosis is by observation, neurological examination, electroencephalogram (EEG), and in some cases more advanced brain imaging techniques. Treatment is usually by medication, although in difficult cases a special diet or brain surgery may be tried.
Sensory: Relating to sensation-the perception of a stimulus and the reaction of nerve impulses in the nerve centers. "Sensory" also is sometimes used to refer to the senses themselves.
Sepsis: Commonly called a "blood stream infection." It is the presence of bacteria (bacteremia), infectious organisms, or their toxins in the blood or other tissues of the body. Sepsis may be associated with clinical symptoms of systemic (bodywide) illness, such as fever, chills, malaise (generally feeling "rotten"), low blood pressure, and mental status changes. Sepsis can be a serious situation, a life threatening disease calling for urgent and comprehensive care.  Treatment depends on the type of infection, but usually begins with antibiotics or similar medications. It is also known as blood poisoning.
Septostomy: Making a hole in the septum or the wall between the left and right chambers of the heart.  It is usually done to allow more blood to circulate through the lungs.  In some pediatric heart defects, this is a life-saving procedure until further surgery can be performed to correct the problem.
Serum: The clear liquid that can be separated from clotted blood. Serum differs from plasma, the liquid portion of normal unclotted blood containing the red and white cells and platelets. It is the clot that makes the difference between serum and plasma.
Shaken baby syndrome:  Injuries, particularly to the head, caused by violently shaking a child. The syndrome is the most common cause of infant death from head injuries and is considered a serious form of child abuse. Shaken baby syndrome is encountered most often in 2-3 month-old infants. The syndrome has distinctive features including hemorrhage (bleeding) into the retina of the eye, hemorrhage and swelling of the brain, patterned bruising and fractures (breaks) of the child's ribs or bones. Deaths from the syndrome are high. Brain damage, visual problems, psychological consequences and learning difficulties are common in those that survive.
Shearing: A tearing or stretching of nerves or brain tissue that result from the brain twisting and hitting against the skull.  Usually caused by sudden deceleration or stop like that involved in a car accident or shaken baby syndrome.
Shock: Shock is a critical condition brought on by a sudden drop in blood flow, oxygen, or glucose through the body. There is failure of the circulatory system to maintain adequate blood flow and oxygenation. This sharply cuts back the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to vital organs. It compromises the kidney and curtails the removal of wastes from the body. Shock can be due to a number of different mechanisms including not enough blood volume (hypovolemic shock) and not enough output of blood by the heart (cardiogenic shock). The signs and symptoms of shock include low blood pressure (hypotension), overbreathing (hyperventilation), a weak rapid pulse, cold clammy grayish-bluish (cyanotic) skin, decreased urine flow (oliguria), and mental changes (a sense of great anxiety and foreboding, confusion and, sometimes, combativeness). Shock is a major medical emergency. It is common after serious injury. Emergency care for shock involves giving fluids or blood intravenously and medications to help the heart. Intubation is usually required.
Shunt: A tube or pathway that diverts blood or other body fluid through an alternate route inside the body.  There are several common reasons for shunts to be placed so specific details should be obtained from the health care provider.
Sibling: A brother or sister.
Side effects: Problems that occur when treatment goes beyond the desired effect and creates problems. Drug manufacturers are required to list all known side effects of their products. When side effects of necessary medication are severe, sometimes a second medication, lifestyle change, dietary change, or other measure may help to minimize them.
Skull fracture: A break in one or more of the bones of the skull.
Somnolent: Sleepy or tending to cause sleepiness.
Spasm: A brief automatic jerking movement. A muscle spasm can be quite painful, with the muscle clenching tightly. Spasms may be caused by stress, medication, over-exercise, or other factors.
Spasticity: A state of increased tone of a muscle (and an increase in the deep tendon reflexes). For example, with spasticity of the legs (spastic paraplegia) there is an increase in tone of the leg muscles so they feel tight and rigid and the knee jerk reflex is exaggerated.
Sprain: An injury to a ligament resulting from overuse or trauma. The treatment of a sprain injury includes ice packs, resting and elevating the involved joint and anti-inflammatory medications. Depending on the severity and location, support bracing can help. Local cortisone injections are sometimes given for persistent inflammation. Activity is resumed gradually. Ice application after activity can reduce or prevent recurrent inflammation. In severe sprains, an orthopedic surgical repair is performed.
Sputum: The mucus material from the lungs that a person coughs up.
Staph or Staphylococcus: A bacterium normally found on the skin and mucous that may under certain circumstances cause infection.
STAT: A common medical abbreviation that means "now" or "rush."
Stem cells: The youngest bone marrow cell from which other marrow cells are formed.
Stenosis: A narrowing, Examples include aortic stenosis (narrowing of the aortic valve in the heart); pulmonary stenosis (narrowing of the pulmonary valve in the heart) and pyloric stenosis (narrowing of the outlet of the stomach).
Stent: A tube designed to be inserted into a vessel or passageway to keep it open. A shunt redirects the flow of something while a stent holds a narrowed passageway open.
Steroid: A large group of substances related in structure to one another and each containing the same chemical skeleton.  Many hormones, body cells, and drugs are steroids. Examples: drugs used to relieve swelling and inflammation (prednisone), vitamin D, and the sex steroids (like testosterone).
Stethoscope: An instrument used to transmit low-volume sounds such as the heartbeat, intestinal, and lung sounds to the ear of the listener.
Strep or Streptococcus: A type of bacteria that causes infection, for example, strep throat.
Subcutaneous: Under the skin. With a subcutaneous injection, a needle is inserted just under the skin to deliver a drug.
Suction: Removal of mucous and fluid from the nose, mouth or endotracheal tube.
Supine: Lying on the back.
Supportive Care: Treatment given to prevent, control, or relieve complications and side effects and to improve the patient's comfort and quality of life.
Sympathetic Nervous System: The part of the nervous system over which a person does not have conscious control.  This includes nerves of the heart and lungs.
Symptom: Any abnormal change in appearance, sensation, or function experienced by a patient that indicates a disease process.
Syndrome: A combination of signs and symptoms that occur together and reflect a particular disease or illness.
Syringe: A device used to inject fluid into or withdraw fluid from the body. Syringes consist of a needle attached to a hollow cylinder that is fitted with a sliding plunger. The downward movement of the plunger injects fluid; upward movement withdraws fluid.
Systemic therapy: Treatment that reaches cells throughout the body by traveling through the bloodstream.
Systolic: The blood pressure when the heart is contracting. It is specifically the maximum arterial pressure during contraction of the left ventricle of the heart. The time at which ventricular contraction occurs is called systole.  In a blood pressure reading, the systolic pressure is typically the first number recorded. For example, with a blood pressure of 120/80 ("120 over 80"), the systolic pressure is 120.