Medical and Legal Glossary

Many medical and legal terms might be unfamiliar to those who are considering filing a medical malpractice lawsuit.  Below are some terms and common definitions, with links to useful pages on our website.

    • Apgar:  named for Virginia Apgar, a rating system for evaluating the condition of a baby at and near the time of birth, usually at one, five and ten minutes after birth.  It is on a scale of one to ten, with ten indicating a perfect score.  The criteria evaluated are:  (1) skin color and complexion; (2) pulse rate; (3) reflexes; (4) muscle tone; and (5) breathing.
    • Cephalohematoma:  bleeding between the skull and membrane under the skin.  Cephalohematomas usually resolve on their own, but sometimes can cause other complications including jaundice, infection and anemia.
    • Cerebral palsy: A brain injury often caused by lack of oxygen to the brain and characterized by impaired movement and motor function.
    • Cytotec/Pitocin:  a drug that acts as a cervical ripening agent which helps to promote labor.  It has not been approved by the FDA for that purpose, but is often used by doctors contrary to warnings by the drug’s manufacturer.  Used inappropriately, it can cause levels of contractions that are dangerous to the baby.
    • EEG (Electroencephalogram):  recording of the brain’s electrical activity using leads placed on the scalp.  EEGs can be useful to identify seizures in children with birth injuries.
    • Electronic fetal monitoring:  the process of electronically monitoring and recording a mother’s contractions and a baby’s heart rate during labor, which are good indicators of the baby’s well-being.  See also types of fetal monitor tracings.
    • ECG (electrocardiogram):  recording of the heart’s electrical activity.  See also EKG.
    • EKG (electrocardiogram):  recording of the heart’s electrical activity.  See also ECG.
    • Fetal Monitor Tracings:  the document created through electronic fetal monitoring.
    • HIE (Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy):  a neurological condition caused by limited oxygen and blood flow at or near the time of birth.  It is often characterized by difficulty breathing, depressed tone and reflexes, low levels of consciousness and seizures, and it is frequently related to cerebral palsy.
    • Intrapartum: the time of labor and delivery.
    • Medical Malpractice:  an injury caused when a health care provider like a doctor, nurse or hospital fails to follow the standard of care.
    • MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging):  a radiological scan of the body that provides information more specific than standard x-rays.  It is often used to detect brain damage in the days and months following a birth injury.
    • Neonatal:  the period in a baby’s life from birth through the first 28 days.
    • Peripartum:  the period immediately before and after delivery.
    • Pitocin/Cytotec:  a drug that acts as a cervical ripening agent which helps to promote labor.  It has not been approved by the FDA for that purpose, but is often used by doctors contrary to warnings by the drug’s manufacturer.  Used inappropriately, it can cause levels of contractions that are dangerous to the baby.
    • Shoulder Dystocia:  an obstetrical complication that occurs when the baby’s shoulder is lodged behind the mother’s pubic bone.
    • Standard of care:  The degree of care that a doctor or other health care provider is required to use in any given situation.
    • Uterine Stimulation:  the promotion of labor, usually using drugs like Pitocin/Cytotec.