SMA Explained: 15 Keywords You Should Know


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Becoming a parent is always an overwhelming and sometimes daunting experience. This is amplified when you discover that your child has a health condition like spinal muscular atrophy (SMA). Cure SMA has some useful definitions to help parents of newborns with SMA decipher and understand the strange and technical terms they keep hearing in reference to their child’s condition.

MORE: Preparing for trips outside the home when you have children with SMA.

Aspiration: This refers to a situation where food or liquid has entered the windpipe, which is a particularly dangerous situation for anyone with SMA.

BiPAP: BiPAP stands for bi-level positive airway pressure. This refers to the machine used to provide breathing assistance through a mask placed over the nose, or over the nose and mouth. This works by increasing pressure and volume of air when the patient inhales, and automatically lowering the pressure when they exhale.

CPAP: CPAP stands for continuous positive airway pressure. Like BiPAP, a CPAP is a machine that also provides breathing assistance through a mask placed over the nose, or over the nose and mouth. However, unlike BiPAP, the CPAP provides a constant level of pressure, which doesn’t provide sufficient rest for the breathing muscles and is therefore not recommended for patients with SMA.

Double-blind: This is a form of clinical trial where neither the participants nor the researchers know who has been given the “real” drug and who has been given the placebo, in order to prevent bias in the final results.

Gastrostomy (G) tube: A G tube is a type of feeding tube inserted directly into the stomach via an incision in the abdomen.

Gastrostomy-jejunostomy (GJ) tube: A GJ tube is another type of feeding tube inserted into the stomach and jejunum, (the middle part of the small intestine) through an incision in the abdomen.

Inclusion and Exclusion Criteria: This criteria refers to a list of requirements outlining who can and cannot participate in a clinical trial. Common factors include age, stage or type of disease, previous treatment history and any other existing medical conditions.

Invasive Care: This refers to medical treatments that enter the body, e.g., breathing support through a tube inserted into the trachea.

Kugelberg-Welander disease: Another name for SMA type III.

Kyphosis: A condition that causes a curvature of the spine into a “C” shape. This can be a common for those with SMA.

Musculoskeletal: This refers to the body’s system of bones, muscles, and connectors such as tendons, ligaments and joints.

Nasogastric (NG) tube: An NG tube is a type of feeding tube that’s inserted through the nose into the stomach.

Nasojejunal (NJ) tube: An NJ tube is a feeding tube that’s inserted through the nose and stomach into the jejunum. (The middle part of the small intestine.)

Scoliosis: This refers to a curvature of the spine into an “S” shape. It’s another common complication for SMA patients.

Werdnig-Hoffmann disease: Another name for SMA type I.

MORE: Five treatments to help manage SMA 

SMA News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice,diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.