Orthopaedic Glossary

Arthritis
Inflammation of a joint, usually accompanied by pain, swelling, and sometimes, a change in structure.

Arthrogram An x-ray to view bone structures following an injection of a contrast fluid into a joint area. When the fluid leaks into an area that it does not belong, disease or injury may be considered, as a leak would provide evidence of a tear, opening, or blockage.

Arthroscopy A minimally-invasive diagnostic and treatment procedure used for conditions of a joint. This procedure uses a small, lighted, optic tube (arthroscope) which is inserted into the joint through a small incision in the joint. Images of the inside of the joint are projected onto a screen; used to evaluate any degenerative and/or arthritic changes in the joint; to detect bone diseases and tumors; to determine the cause of bone pain and inflammation.

Arthroplasty
Surgical reconstruction of a joint or replacement of the joint.

Boutonnière deformity Describes the bent-down (flexed) position of the middle joint of the finger from a cut or tear of the extensor tendon.

Boxer’s fracture The common name for a break in the end of the small finger metacarpal bone.

Bursa A sac filled with fluid located between a bone and a tendon or muscle.

Bursitis Repeated small stresses and overuse that cause the bursa to swell and become irritated.

Carpal tunnel syndrome A condition in which the median nerve is compressed as it passes through the carpal tunnel in the wrist, a narrow confined space. Since the median nerve provides sensory and motor functions to the thumb and three middle fingers, many symptoms may result.

Cartilage A smooth material that covers bone ends of a joint to cushion the bone and allow the joint to move easily without pain.

Cast A cast holds a broken bone in place as it heals, prevents, or decreases muscle contractures, or provides immobilization, especially after surgery. Casts immobilize the joint above and the joint below the area that is to be kept straight and without motion.

Colles fracture (also, distal radius fracture) A wrist fracture involving a break of the end of the radius bone of the forearm.

Computed tomography scan (also, CT or CAT scan) A diagnostic imaging procedure that uses a combination of x-rays and computer technology to produce cross – sectional images (often called slices), both horizontally and vertically, of the body. A CT scan shows detailed images of any part of the body, including the bones, muscles, fat, and organs. CT scans are more detailed than general x-rays.

Congenital Present at birth.

Contusion A bruise.

Cubital tunnel A tunnel of muscle, ligament, and bone on the inside of the elbow.

Cubital tunnel syndrome The effect of pressure on the ulnar nerve (one of the main nerves of the hand), resulting in a variety of problems including pain, swelling, weakness or clumsiness of the hand and tingling or numbness of the ring and small fingers.

deQuervain’s tendinitis A painful problem which results from irritation of tendons on the side of the wrist which move the thumb sideways away from the palm. It can result in wrist and forearm pain on the side of the thumb, particularly with certain positions and movements of the wrist.

Dislocation A dislocation occurs when extreme force is put on a ligament causing the two bone ends to separate. Dislocations can also affect a joint, the point where two or more bones come together. The joint is created as a “ball-and-socket” joint. A dislocated joint causes the head of the bone (ball) to partially or completely come out of the socket.

Dupuytren’s Disease An abnormal thickening of the fascia (the tissue between the skin and the tendons in the palm) that may limit movement of one or more fingers.

Electromyogram (EMG) A test to evaluate nerve and muscle function
extensor tendons – tendons located on the back of the hand which allow you to straighten your fingers and thumb.

Fibromyalgia (also, fibrositis) A chronic, widespread pain in muscles and soft tissues surrounding the joints throughout the body.

Fracture A break in a bone.

Gamekeeper’s thumb
(also, skier’s thumb) An injury of the joint where the thumb joins the palm, on the index finger side of the thumb. Typically caused by a fall or other such impact.

Ganglion cysts
Non-cancerous, fluid-filled cysts are common masses or lumps in the hand and usually found on the back of the wrist.

Gout
A result of a defect in body chemistry (such as uric acid in the joint fluid), this painful condition most often attacks small joints, especially the big toe. Gout can usually be controlled with medication and changes in diet.

Hand surgeon
A surgeon who has received special training and certification in the treatment of hand, wrist and elbow problems.

Inflammation
A normal reaction to injury or disease, which results in swelling, pain and stiffness.

Joint
Where the ends of two or more bones meet.

Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis
(JRA) A form of arthritis in children ages 16 or younger that causes inflammation and stiffness of joints for more than six weeks. Unlike adult rheumatoid arthritis, which is chronic and lasts a lifetime, children often outgrow juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. However, the disease can affect bone development in the growing child.

Kienboeck’s Disease
Loss of blood flow (avascular necrosis) to the lunate bone in the wrist.

Lateral epicondylitis
(also, tennis elbow) Pain is caused by damage to the tendons that bend the wrist backward away from the palm.

Ligaments
A white, shiny, flexible band of fibrous tissue that binds joints together and connects various bones and cartilage.

Magnetic resonance imaging
(MRI) A diagnostic procedure that uses a combination of large magnets, radiofrequencies, and a computer to produce detailed images of organs and structures within the body.

Mallet finger
A common extensor tendon injury in which the tendon has been cut or separated from the bone, causing a droop in the end joint.

Medial epicondylitis
Also called golfer’s elbow, baseball elbow, suitcase elbow, or forehand tennis elbow) Pain caused by damage to the tendons that bend the wrist toward the palm.

Muscular dystrophy
(MD) A broad term that describes a genetic (inherited) disorder of the muscles. MD causes the muscles in the body to become very weak. The muscles break down and are replaced with fatty deposits over time. The most common form of MD is called Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD).

Musculoskeletal system
The complex system involving the body’s muscles and skeleton, and including the joints, ligaments, tendons, and nerves.

Myelogram
Involves the injection of a dye or contrast material into the spinal canal; a specific x-ray study that also allows careful evaluation of the spinal canal and nerve roots.

Orthopaedic surgeon
(also, orthopedist) A physician who diagnoses, treats, manages the rehabilitation process, and provides prevention protocols for patients who suffer from injury or disease in any of the components of the musculoskeletal system.

Orthopaedic surgery
(also, orthopaedics) The medical specialty devoted to the diagnosis, treatment, rehabilitation, and prevention of injuries and diseases of the body’s musculoskeletal system.

Osteoarthritis
A condition caused by wear and tear that causes inflammation of the joint, causing swelling, pain, and stiffness.

Osteoporosis
A condition that develops when bone is no longer replaced as quickly as it is removed.

Overuse conditions
Injuries due to minor trauma involving soft-tissue injuries – injuries that affect the bone, muscles, ligaments, and/or tendons.

Prosthesis
An artificial body part replacement.

Radionuclide bone scan
A nuclear imaging technique that uses a very small amount of radioactive material, which is injected into the patient’s bloodstream to be detected by a scanner. This test shows blood flow to the bone and cell activity within the bone.

Radius
The shorter of the two bones of the forearm.

Reflex sympathetic dystrophy
(also known as RSD) A condition of burning pain, stiffness, swelling, and discoloration of the hand, caused by a disturbance in the sympathetic nervous system.

Replantation
The surgical reattachment of a finger, hand, or arm to a person’s body.

Rheumatoid arthritis
An inflammatory disease that involves the lining of the joint (synovium). The inflammation often affects the joints of the hands and the feet and tends to occur equally on both sides of the body.

R.I.C.E.
Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation.

Scleroderma
A very serious disease of the body’s connective tissue that causes thickening and hardening of the skin.

Scaphoid fracture
A fracture involving one of the wrist bones.

Soft tissues
The ligaments, tendons, and muscles in the musculoskeletal system.

Sprain
A partial or complete tear of a ligament.

Strain
A partial or complete tear of a muscle or tendon.

Stress fracture
A bone injury caused by overuse.

Synovial fluid
A clear, sticky fluid that is released by the synovial membrane and acts as a lubricant for joints and tendons.

Systemic lupus erythematosus
(lupus) A very serious, chronic, autoimmune disorder characterized by periodic episodes of inflammation of and damage to the joints, tendons, other connective tissues, and organs, including the heart, lungs, blood vessels, brain, kidneys, and skin.

Tendon
The tough cords of tissue that connect muscles to bones.

Tendinitis
An inflammation in a tendon or the tendon covering.

Triangular fibro-cartilage complex
(TFCC) A complex of ligaments, cartilage, and tendon that allow for wrist and forearm movement. A frequent area of wrist injury and wear resulting in pain and decreased function.

Trigger finger
An irritation of the digital sheath that surrounds the flexor tendons of the finger. When the tendon sheath becomes thickened or swollen it pinches the tendon and prevents it from gliding smoothly. In some cases, the tendon catches and then suddenly releases as though a trigger were released.

Ulnar bone
The long bone on the inside (pinky side ) of the forearm. longer of the two bones in the forearm.

Ulno-carpal abutment
When the ulna is longer than the radius it puts pressure on the TFCC and wrist bones and ligaments. This causes pain and is a frequent cause of wrist discomfort.

Ultrasound
A diagnostic technique which uses high-frequency sound waves to create an image of the internal organs.

X-ray
A diagnostic test which uses invisible electromagnetic energy beams to produce images of internal tissues, bones, and organs onto film.