Glossary of cardiology

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  • Abdomen  - noun the region of the body of a vertebrate between the thorax and the pelvis  the cavity containing the major viscera; in mammals it is separated from the thorax by the diaphragm
  • Ablation  - noun surgical removal of a body part or tissue  the erosive process that reduces the size of glaciers
  • ACE  - adj. of the highest quality  noun a serve that the receiver is unable to reach  one of four playing cards in a deck having a single pip on its face  someone who is dazzlingly skilled in any field  a major strategic headquarters of NATO; safeguards an area extending from Norway to Turkey  verb serve an ace against (someone)  play (a hole) in one stroke  score an ace against succeed at easily
  • inhibitor  - noun a substance that retards or stops an activity
  • Acetylcholine  - noun a neurotransmitter that is a derivative of choline; released at the ends of nerve fibers in the somatic and parasympathetic nervous systems
  • Acquired-heart-disease -   Heart disease that arises after birth, usually from infection or through the build-up of fatty deposits in the arteries that feed the heart muscle.
  • Amiodarone  - noun an antiarrhythmic drug (trade name Cordarone) that has potentially fatal side effects and is used to control serious heart rhythm problems only when safer agents have been ineffective
  • Aneurysm  - noun a cardiovascular disease characterized by a saclike widening of an artery resulting from weakening of the artery wall
  • Angiography  - noun roentgenographic examination of blood vessels after injection of a radiopaque contrast medium; produces an angiogram
  • Angioplasty  - noun an operation to repair a damaged blood vessel or unblock a coronary artery
  • Angiotensin-II-receptor-blocker A medicine that lowers blood pressure by blocking the action of angiotensin II, a chemical in the body that causes the blood vessels to tighten
  • Annulus  - noun (Fungi) remnant of the partial veil that in mature mushrooms surrounds the lower part of the stem  a toroidal shape
  • Antiarrhythmics Medicines used to treat patients who have irregular heart rhythms.
  • Anticoagulant  - noun medicine that prevents or retards the clotting of blood
  • Aorta  - noun the large trunk artery that carries blood from the left ventricle of the heart to branch arteries
  • Aortic valve  - noun a semilunar valve between the left ventricle and the aorta; prevents blood from flowing from the aorta back into the heart
  • Aphasia  - noun inability to use or understand language (spoken or written) because of a brain lesion
  • Arrhythmia  - noun an abnormal rate of muscle contractions in the heart
  • Arteriography  – A test that is combined with cardiac catheterization to visualize an artery or the arterial system after injection of a contrast dye.
  • Arterioles  – Small, muscular branches of arteries. When they contract, they raise resistance to blood flow, and blood pressure in the arteries increases.
  • Artery  - noun a major thoroughfare that bears important traffic  a blood vessel that carries blood from the heart to the body
  • Ascending aorta  - noun the ascending part of the aorta as it emerges from the left ventricle
  • Aspirin  - noun the acetylated derivative of salicylic acid; used as an analgesic anti-inflammatory drug (trade names Bayer and Empirin) usually taken in tablet form; used as an antipyretic; slows clotting of the blood by poisoning platelets
  • Acetylsalicylic acid  - noun the acetylated derivative of salicylic acid; used as an analgesic anti-inflammatory drug (trade names Bayer and Empirin) usually taken in tablet form; used as an antipyretic; slows clotting of the blood by poisoning platelets
  • Atherosclerosis  - noun a stage of arteriosclerosis involving fatty deposits (atheromas) inside the arterial walls
  • Atrium  - noun the central area in a building; open to the sky  any chamber that is connected to other chambers or passageways (especially one of the two upper chambers of the heart)
  • Atrioventricular block  - noun recurrent sudden attacks of unconsciousness caused by impaired conduction of the impulse that regulates the heartbeat
  • Atrioventricular  - adj. relating to or affecting the atria and ventricles of the heart
  • AV  - noun the eleventh month of the civil year; the fifth month of the ecclesiastical year in the Jewish calendar (in July and August)
  • node  - noun (computer science) any computer that is hooked up to a computer network  any bulge or swelling of an anatomical structure or part  (astronomy) a point where an orbit crosses a plane  (physics) the point of minimum displacement in a periodic system  any thickened enlargement  a connecting point at which several lines come together  the source of lymph and lymphocytes
  • Atrium  - noun the central area in a building; open to the sky  any chamber that is connected to other chambers or passageways (especially one of the two upper chambers of the heart)
  • Autologous  - adj. derived from organisms of the selfsame individual
  • Autoregulation  - noun (physiology) processes that maintain a generally constant physiological state in a cell or organism
  • Bacteria  - noun (microbiology) single-celled or noncellular spherical or spiral or rod-shaped organisms lacking chlorophyll that reproduce by fission; important as pathogens and for biochemical properties; taxonomy is difficult; often considered plants
  • Bacteria  – Germs that can lead to disease.
  • Bacterial endocarditis  – A bacterial infection of the lining of the heart’s chambers (called the endocardium) or of the heart’s valves.
  • Balloon catheter   *  A long tube-like device with a small balloon on the end that can be threaded through an artery. Used in angioplasty or valvuloplasty.
  • Balloon valvuloplasty  – A procedure to repair a heart valve. A balloon-tipped catheter is threaded through an artery and into the heart. The balloon is inflated to open and separate any narrowed or stiffened flaps (called leaflets) of a valve.
  • Beta-blocker  – An antihypertensive medicine that limits the activity of epinephrine, a hormone that increases blood pressure.
  • Biopsy  – The process by which a small sample of tissue is taken for examination.
  • Blalock-Taussig procedure  – A shunt between the subclavian and pulmonary arteries used to increase the supply of oxygen-rich blood in “blue babies” (see below).
  • Blood clot  – A jelly-like mass of blood tissue formed by clotting factors in the blood. Clots stop the flow of blood from an injury. Clots can also form inside an artery when the artery’s walls are damaged by atherosclerotic buildup, possibly causing a heart attack or stroke.
  • Blood pressure  – The force or pressure exerted by the heart in pumping blood; the pressure of blood in the arteries.
  • Blue babies  – Babies who have a blue tinge to their skin (cyanosis) resulting from insufficient oxygen in the arterial blood. This condition often indicates a heart defect.
  • Body mass index (BMI)  – A number that indicates an increased risk of cardiovascular disease from a person being overweight. BMI is calculated using a formula of weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared (BMI =W [kg]/H [m2]).
  • Bridge to transplant  – Use of mechanical circulatory support to keep heart failure patients alive until a donor heart becomes available.
  • Bruit  – A sound made in the blood vessels resulting from turbulence, perhaps because of a buildup of plaque or damage to the vessels.
  • Bundle branch block  – A condition in which parts of the heart’s conduction system are defective and unable to conduct the electrical signal normally, causing an irregular heart rhythm (arrhythmia).
  • Bypass  – Surgery that can improve blood flow to the heart (or other organs and tissues) by providing a new route, or “bypass” around a section of clogged or diseased artery.
  • Bridge to transplant  – Use of mechanical circulatory support to keep heart failure patients alive until a donor heart becomes available.
  • Bruit  – A sound made in the blood vessels resulting from turbulence, perhaps because of a buildup of plaque or damage to the vessels.
  • Bundle branch block  – A condition in which parts of the heart’s conduction system are defective and unable to conduct the electrical signal normally, causing an irregular heart rhythm (arrhythmia).
  • Bypass  – Surgery that can improve blood flow to the heart (or other organs and tissues) by providing a new route, or “bypass” around a section of clogged or diseased artery.
  • Capillaries  – Microscopically small blood vessels between arteries and veins that distribute oxygen-rich blood to the body’s tissues.
  • Cardiac  – Pertaining to the heart.
  • Cardiac amyloidosis  – A disorder caused by deposits of an abnormal protein (amyloid) in the heart tissue, which make it hard for the heart to work properly. Also called “stiff heart syndrome.”
  • Cardiac arrest  – The stopping of the heartbeat, usually because of interference with the electrical signal (often associated with coronary heart disease).
  • Cardiac cachexia  – A term for the muscle and weight loss caused by severe heart disease. It is often related to the depressed cardiac output associated with end-stage heart failure, but it can also occur with severe coronary artery disease.
  • Cardiac catheterization  – A procedure that involves inserting a fine, hollow tube (catheter) into an artery, usually in the groin area, and passing the tube into the heart. Often used along with angiography and other procedures, cardiac catheterization has become a primary tool for visualizing the heart and blood vessels and diagnosing and treating heart disease.
  • Cardiac enzymes  – Complex substances capable of speeding up certain biochemical processes in the heart muscle. Abnormal levels of these enzymes signal heart attack.
  • Cardiac output  – The amount of blood the heart pumps through the circulatory system in one minute.
  • Cardiologist  – A doctor who specializes in the study of the heart and its function in health and disease.
  • Cardiology  – The study of the heart and its function in health and disease.
  • Cardiomegaly  – An enlarged heart. It is usually a sign of an underlying problem, such as high blood pressure, heart valve problems, or cardiomyopathy.
  • Cardiomyopathy  – A disease of the heart muscle that leads to generalized deterioration of the muscle and its pumping ability.
  • Cardiopulmonary bypass  – The process by which a machine is used to do the work of the heart and lungs so the heart can be stopped during surgery.
  • Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)  – An emergency measure that can maintain a person’s breathing and heartbeat. The person who performs CPR actually helps the patient’s circulatory system by breathing into the patient’s mouth to give them oxygen and by giving chest compressions to circulate the patient’s blood. Hands-only CPR involves only chest compressions.
  • Cardiovascular (CV)  – Pertaining to the heart and blood vessels that make up the circulatory system.
  • Cardiovascular Disease (CVD)  – A general term referring to conditions affecting the heart (cardio) and blood vessels (vascular system). May also simply be called heart disease. Examples include coronary artery disease, valve disease, arrhythmia, peripheral vascular disease, congenital heart defects, hypertension, and cardiomyopathy. Refer to specific conditions for detailed explanations.
  • Cardioversion  – A technique of applying an electrical shock to the chest to convert an abnormal heartbeat to a normal rhythm.
  • Carotid artery  – A major artery (right and left) in the neck supplying blood to the brain.
  • Cerebral embolism  – A blood clot formed in one part of the body and then carried by the bloodstream to the brain, where it blocks an artery.
  • Cerebral hemorrhage  – Bleeding within the brain resulting from a ruptured blood vessel, aneurysm, or head injury.
  • Cerebral thrombosis  – Formation of a blood clot in an artery that supplies part of the brain.
  • Cerebrovascular accident –  Also called cerebral vascular accident, apoplexy, or stroke. Blood supply to some part of the brain is slowed or stopped, resulting in injury to brain tissue.
  • Cholesterol  – An oily substance that occurs naturally in the body, in animal fats and in dairy products, and that is transported in the blood. Limited amounts are essential for the normal development of cell membranes. Excess amounts can lead to coronary artery disease.
  • Cineangiography  – The technique of using moving pictures to show how a special dye passes through blood vessels, allowing doctors to diagnose diseases of the heart and blood vessels.
  • Circulatory system  – Pertaining to circulation of blood through the heart and blood vessels.
  • Claudication  – A tiredness or pain in the arms and legs caused by an inadequate supply of oxygen to the muscles, usually due to narrowed arteries or peripheral arterial disease (PAD).
  • Collateral circulation  – Blood flow through small, nearby vessels in response to blockage of a main blood vessel.
  • Commissurotomy  -A procedure used to widen the opening of a heart valve that has been narrowed by scar tissue.
  • Conduction system  – Special muscle fibers that conduct electrical impulses throughout the heart muscle.
  • Congenital  – Refers to conditions existing at birth.
  • Congestive heart failure  – A condition in which the heart cannot pump all the blood returning to it, leading to a backup of blood in the vessels and an accumulation of fluid in the body’s tissues, including the lungs.
  • Coronary arteries  – Two arteries arising from the aorta that arch down over the top of the heart and divide into branches. They provide blood to the heart muscle.
  • Coronary artery bypass (CAB)  – Surgical rerouting of blood around a diseased vessel that supplies blood to the heart. Done by grafting either a piece of vein from the leg or a piece of the artery from under the breastbone.
  • Coronary artery disease (CAD)  – A narrowing of the arteries that supply blood to the heart. The condition results from a buildup of plaque and greatly increases the risk of a heart attack.
  • Coronary heart disease  – Disease of the heart caused by a buildup of atherosclerotic plaque in the coronary arteries that can lead to angina pectoris or heart attack.
  • Coronary occlusion  – An obstruction of one of the coronary arteries that hinders blood flow to the heart muscle.
  • Coronary thrombosis  – Formation of a clot in one of the arteries carrying blood to the heart muscle. Also called coronary occlusion.
  • Cryoablation  – The removal of tissue using an instrument called a cold probe.
  • Cyanosis  – Blueness of the skin caused by a lack of oxygen in the blood.
  • Cyanotic heart disease  – A birth defect of the heart that causes oxygen-poor (blue) blood to circulate to the body without first passing through the lungs.
  • Death rate (age-adjusted)  – A death rate that has been standardized for age so different populations can be compared or the same population can be compared over time.
  • Defibrillator  – A device that helps restore a normal heart rhythm by delivering an electric shock.
  • Diabetes (diabetes mellitus)  – A disease in which the body doesn’t produce or properly use insulin. Insulin is needed to convert sugar and starch into the energy used in daily life.
  • Diastolic blood pressure  – The lowest blood pressure measured in the arteries. It occurs when the heart muscle is relaxed between beats.
  • Digitalis  – A medicine made from the leaves of the foxglove plant. Digitalis is used to treat congestive heart failure (CHF) and heart rhythm problems (arrhythmias).
  • Dissecting aneurysm  – A condition in which the layers of an artery separate or are torn, causing blood to flow between the layers. Dissecting aneurysms usually happen in the aorta, the large vessel that carries blood from the heart to other parts of the body and can cause sudden death.
  • Diuretic  – A drug that lowers blood pressure by causing fluid loss. Diuretics promote urine production.
  • Doppler ultrasound  – A technology that uses sound waves to assess blood flow within the heart and blood vessels and to identify leaking valves.
  • Dysarthria  – A speech disorder resulting from muscular problems caused by damage to the brain or nervous system.
  • Echocardiography  – A method of studying the heart’s structure and function by analyzing sound waves bounced off the heart and recorded by an electronic sensor placed on the chest. A computer processes the information to produce a one-, two- or three-dimensional moving picture that shows how the heart and heart valves are functioning.
  • Edema  – Swelling caused by fluid accumulation in body tissues.
  • Ejection fraction  – A measurement of the rate at which blood is pumped out of a filled ventricle. The normal rate is 50% or more.
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG)  – A test in which several electronic sensors are placed on the body to monitor electrical activity associated with the heartbeat.
  • Electroencephalogram (EEG)  – A test that can detect and record the brain’s electrical activity. The test is done by pasting metal disks, called electrodes, to the scalp.
  • Electrophysiological study (EPS)  – A test that uses cardiac catheterization to study patients who have arrhythmias (abnormal heartbeats). An electrical current stimulates the heart in an effort to provoke an arrhythmia, determine its origin, and test the effectiveness of medicines to treat the arrhythmias.
  • Embolus  – Also called embolism; a blood clot that forms in a blood vessel in one part of the body and travels to another part.
  • Endarterectomy  – Surgical removal of plaque deposits or blood clots in an artery.
  • Endocardium  – The smooth membrane covering the inside of the heart. The innermost lining of the heart.
  • Endothelium  – The smooth inner lining of many body structures, including the heart (endocardium) and blood vessels.
  • Endocarditis  – A bacterial infection of the heart’s inner lining (endothelium).
  • Enlarged heart  – A state in which the heart is larger than normal because of heredity, long-term heavy exercise, or diseases and disorders such as obesity, high blood pressure, and coronary artery disease.
  • Enzyme  – A complex chemical capable of speeding up specific biochemical processes in the body.
  • Epicardium  – The thin membrane covering the outside surface of the heart muscle.
  • Estrogen  – A female hormone produced by the ovaries that may protect premenopausal women against heart disease. Estrogen production stops after menopause.
  • Exercise stress test  – A common test to help doctors assess blood flow through coronary arteries in response to exercise, usually walking, at varied speeds and for various lengths of time on a treadmill. A stress test may include use of electrocardiography, echocardiography, and injected radioactive substances. Also called exercise test, stress test, nuclear stress test, or treadmill test.
  • Fatty acids (fats)  – Substances that occur in several forms in foods; different fatty acids have different effects on lipid profiles.
  • Fibrillation  – Rapid, uncoordinated contractions of individual heart muscle fibers. The heart chamber involved can’t contract all at once and pumps blood ineffectively, if at all.
  • First-degree heart block  – Occurs when an electrical impulse from the heart’s upper chambers (the atria) is slowed as it moves through the atria and atrioventricular (AV) node.
  • Flutter  – The rapid, ineffective contractions of any heart chamber. A flutter is considered to be more coordinated than fibrillation.
  • Fusiform aneurysm  – A tube-shaped aneurysm that causes the artery to bulge outward. Involves the entire circumference (outside wall) of the artery.
  • Gated blood pool scan  – An x-ray analysis of how blood pools in the heart during rest and exercise. The test uses a radioactive substance to tag red blood cells to allow doctors to estimate the heart’s overall ability to pump and its ability to compensate for one or more blocked arteries. Also called MUGA (multiple gated acquisition scan) or nuclear ventriculography.
  • Genetic testing  – Blood tests that study a person’s genes to find out if he or she is at risk for certain diseases that are passed down through family members.
  • Guidewire   *  A small, bendable wire that is threaded through an artery; it helps doctors position a catheter so they can perform angioplasty or stent procedures.
  • Heart assist device  – A mechanical device that is surgically implanted to ease the workload of the heart.
  • Heart attack  – Death of, or damage to, part of the heart muscle caused by a lack of oxygen-rich blood flowing to the heart.
  • Heart block  – General term for conditions in which the electrical impulse that activates the heart muscle cells is delayed or interrupted somewhere along its path.
  • Heart-lung machine  – An apparatus that oxygenates and pumps blood to the body during open heart surgery; see cardiopulmonary bypass.
  • Heart murmur  -An abnormal heart sound caused by turbulent blood flow. The sound may indicate that blood is flowing through a damaged or overworked heart valve, that there may be a hole in one of the heart’s walls, or that there is a narrowing in one of the heart’s vessels. Some heart murmurs are a harmless type called innocent heart murmurs.
  • Hematocrit  – A measure of the percentage of red blood cells in a given amount (or volume) of whole blood.
  • Hemochromatosis  – A disease in which too much iron builds up in your body (iron overload). Too much iron in the heart can cause irregular heartbeats (arrhythmias) and heart failure. Too much iron in the pancreas can lead to diabetes.
  • Heredity  – The genetic transmission of a particular quality or trait from parent to child.
  • High density lipoprotein (HDL)  – A component of cholesterol, HDL helps protect against heart disease by promoting cholesterol breakdown and removal from the blood; hence, its nickname “good cholesterol.”
  • Holter monitor  – A portable device for recording heartbeats over a period of 24 hours or more.
  • Homocysteine  – An amino acid (one of the building blocks that makes up a protein) normally found in small amounts in the blood. Too much homocysteine in the blood may promote the buildup of fatty plaque in the arteries. For some people, high homocysteine levels are genetic. For others, it is because they do not get enough of certain B vitamins in their diet. (Common misspelling: homocystine)
  • Hormones  – Chemicals released into the bloodstream that control different functions in the body, including metabolism, growth, sexual development, and responses to stress or illness.
  • Hypertrophy  – Enlargement of tissues or organs because of increased workload.
  • Hyperventilation  – Rapid breathing usually caused by anxiety. People feel like they can’t get enough air, so they breathe heavily and rapidly, which can lead to numb or tingly arms and legs, or fainting.
  • Hypoglycemia  – Low levels of glucose (sugar) in the blood.
  • Hypokinesia  – Decreased muscle movement. In relation to the heart, hypokinesia refers to decreased heart wall motion during each heartbeat. It is associated with cardiomyopathy, heart failure, or heart attack. Also called hypokinesis.
  • Hypoxia  – Less than normal content of oxygen in the organs and tissues of the body.
  • Immunosuppressants  – Any medicine that suppresses the body’s immune system. These medicines are used to minimize the chances that the body will reject a newly transplanted organ, such as a heart.
  • Incompetent valve  – Also called insufficiency; a valve that is not working properly, causing it to leak blood back in the wrong direction.
  • Infarct  – The area of heart tissue permanently damaged by an inadequate supply of oxygen.
  • Infective endocarditis  – An infection of the heart valves and the innermost lining of the heart (the endocardium), caused by bacteria in the bloodstream.
  • Inferior vena cava  – The large vein returning blood from the legs and abdomen to the heart.
  • Inotropes  – Positive inotropes: Any medicine that increases the strength of the heart’s contraction.  Negative inotropes: Any medicine that decreases the strength of the heart’s contraction and the blood pressure in the vessels.
  • Internal mammary artery  – A durable artery in the chest wall often used as a bypass graft in coronary artery bypass surgery.
  • Intravascular echocardiography  – A combination of echocardiography and cardiac catheterization. A miniature echo device on the tip of a catheter is used to generate images inside the heart and blood vessels.
  • Introducer sheath  – A catheter-like tube that is placed inside a patient’s vessel during an interventional procedure to help the doctor with insertion and proper placement of the actual catheter.
  • Ischemia  – Decreased blood flow to an organ, usually due to constriction or obstruction of an artery.
  • Ischemic heart disease  – Also called coronary artery disease and coronary heart disease, this term is applied to heart problems caused by narrowing of the coronary arteries, thereby causing a decreased blood supply to the heart.
  • Ischemic stroke  – A type of stroke that is caused by blockage in a blood vessel.
  • Jugular veins  – The veins that carry blood back from the head to the heart.
  • Left ventricular assist device (LVAD)  – A mechanical device that can be placed outside the body or implanted inside the body. An LVAD does not replace the heart—it “assists” or “helps” it pump oxygen-rich blood from the left ventricle to the rest of the body.
  • Lesion  – An injury or wound. An atherosclerotic lesion is an injury to an artery due to hardening of the arteries.
  • Lipid  – A fatty substance that is insoluble (cannot be dissolved) in the blood.
  • Lipoprotein  – A lipid surrounded by a protein; the protein makes the lipid soluble (can be dissolved) in the blood.
  • Low density lipoprotein (LDL)  – The body’s primary cholesterol-carrying molecule. High blood levels of LDL increase a person’s risk of heart disease by promoting cholesterol attachment and accumulation in blood vessels; hence, the popular nickname “bad cholesterol.”
  • Lumen – The hollow area within a tube, such as a blood vessel.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)  – A technique that produces images of the heart and other body structures by measuring the response of certain elements (such as hydrogen) in the body to a magnetic field. MRI can produce detailed pictures of the heart and its various structures without the need to inject a dye.
  • Maze surgery  – A type of heart surgery that is used to treat chronic atrial fibrillation by creating a surgical “maze” of new electrical pathways to let electrical impulses travel easily through the heart. Also called the Maze procedure.
  • Mitral stenosis  – A narrowing of the mitral valve, which controls blood flow from the heart’s upper left chamber to its lower left chamber. May result from an inherited (congenital) problem or from rheumatic fever.
  • Mitral valve  – The structure that controls blood flow between the heart’s left atrium (upper chamber) and left ventricle (lower chamber).
  • Mitral valve prolapse  – A condition that occurs when the leaflets of the mitral valve between the left atrium and left ventricle  bulge into the atrium and permit backflow of blood. The condition can be associated with progressive mitral regurgitation.
  • Mitral valve regurgitation  – Failure of the mitral valve to close properly, causing blood to flow back into the heart’s upper left chamber (the left atrium) instead of moving forward into the lower left chamber (the left ventricle).
  • mm Hg  – An abbreviation for millimeters of mercury. Blood pressure is measured in units of mm Hg—how high the pressure inside the arteries would be able to raise a column of mercury.
  • Monounsaturated fats  – A type of fat found in many foods but mainly in avocados and in canola, olive, and peanut oils. Monounsaturated fat tends to lower LDL cholesterol levels, and some studies suggest that it may do so without also lowering HDL cholesterol levels.
  • Mortality  – The total number of deaths from a given disease in a population during an interval of time, usually a year.
  • Murmur  – Noises superimposed on normal heart sounds. They are caused by congenital defects or damaged heart valves that do not close properly and allow blood to leak back into the chamber from which it has come.
  • Myocardial infarction  – A heart attack. The damage or death of an area of the heart muscle (myocardium) resulting from a blocked blood supply to the area. The affected tissue dies, injuring the heart. Symptoms include prolonged, intensive chest pain and a decrease in blood pressure that often causes shock.
  • Myocardial ischemia  – Occurs when a part of the heart muscle does not receive enough oxygen.
  • Myocarditis  – A rare condition in which the heart muscle becomes inflamed as a result of infection, toxic drug poisoning, or diseases like rheumatic fever, diphtheria, or tuberculosis.
  • Myocardium  – The muscular wall of the heart. It contracts to pump blood out of the heart and then relaxes as the heart refills with returning blood.
  • Myxomatous degeneration  – A connective tissue disorder that causes the heart valve tissue to weaken and lose elasticity.
  • Nitroglycerin  – A medicine that helps relax and dilate arteries; often used to treat cardiac chest pain (angina).
  • Necrosis  – Refers to the death of tissue within a certain area.
  • NSTEMI  – Non-ST-segment-elevation myocardial infarction. The milder form of the 2 types of heart attack, an NSTEMI does not produce an ST-segment elevation on an electrocardiogram. See also STEMI.
  • Obesity  – The condition of being significantly overweight. It usually applies when a person is 30% or more over ideal body weight. Obesity puts a strain on the heart and can increase the risk of developing high blood pressure and diabetes.
  • Occluded artery  – An artery in which the blood flow has been impaired by a blockage.
  • Open heart surgery  – An operation in which the chest and heart are opened surgically while the bloodstream is diverted through a heart-lung (cardiopulmonary bypass) machine.
  • Pacemaker  – A surgically implanted electronic device that helps regulate the heartbeat.
  • Palpitation  – An uncomfortable feeling within the chest caused by an irregular heartbeat.
  • Pancreas  – The organ behind the stomach that helps control blood sugar levels.
  • Paralysis  -Loss of the ability to move muscles and feel in part of the body or the whole body. Paralysis may be temporary or permanent.
  • Paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia (PSVT)  – An occasional rapid heart rate (150-250 beats per minute) that is caused by events triggered in areas above the heart’s lower chambers (the ventricles). See also supraventricular tachycardia (SVT).
  • Patent ductus arteriosus  – A congenital defect in which the opening between the aorta and the pulmonary artery does not close after birth.
  • Patent foramen ovale  – An opening between the left and right atria (the upper chambers) of the heart. Everyone has a PFO before birth, but in 1 out of every 3 or 4 people, the opening does not close naturally, as it should, after birth.
  • Percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) – Any of the noninvasive procedures usually performed in the cardiac catheterization laboratory. Angioplasty is an example of a percutaneous coronary intervention. Also called a transcatheter intervention.
  • Pericarditis  – Inflammation of the outer membrane surrounding the heart. When pericarditis occurs, the amount of fluid between the two layers of the pericardium increases. This increased fluid presses on the heart and restricts its pumping action.
  • Pericardiocentesis  – A diagnostic procedure that uses a needle to withdraw fluid from the sac or membrane surrounding the heart (pericardium).
  • Pericardium  – The outer fibrous sac that surrounds the heart.
  • Plaque  – A deposit of fatty (and other) substances in the inner lining of the artery wall characteristic of atherosclerosis.
  • Platelets  – One of the three types of cells found in blood; they aid in the clotting of blood.
  • Polyunsaturated fat  – The major fat in most vegetable oils, including corn, safflower, sunflower, and soybean oils. These oils are liquid at room temperature. Polyunsaturated fat actually tends to lower LDL cholesterol levels but may reduce HDL cholesterol levels as well.
  • Positron emission tomography (PET)  – A test that uses information about the energy of certain elements in your body to show whether parts of the heart muscle are alive and working. A PET scan can also show if your heart is getting enough blood to keep the muscle healthy.
  • Premature ventricular contraction (PVC)  – An early or extra heartbeat that happens when the heart’s lower chambers (the ventricles) contract too soon, out of sequence with the normal heartbeat.
  • Prevalence  – The total number of cases of a given disease that exist in a population at a specific time.
  • Pulmonary  – Refers to the lungs and respiratory system.
  • Pulmonary embolism  – A condition in which a blood clot that has formed elsewhere in the body travels to the lungs.
  • Pulmonary valve  – The heart valve between the right ventricle and the pulmonary artery that controls blood flow from the heart into the lungs.
  • Pulmonary vein  – The blood vessel that carries newly oxygenated blood from the lungs back to the left atrium of the heart.
  • Radial artery access  – Using the radial artery in the wrist as the entry point for the catheter in an angioplasty or stent procedure. Also called transradial access, the transradial approach, or transradial angioplasty.
  • Radionuclide imaging  – A test in which a harmless radioactive substance is injected into the bloodstream to show information about blood flow through the arteries. Damaged or dead heart muscle can often be identified, as can serious narrowing in an artery.
  • Radionuclide studies  – Any of the diagnostic tests in which a small amount of radioactive material is injected into the bloodstream. The material makes it possible for a special camera to take pictures of the heart.
  • Regurgitation  – Backward flow of blood through a defective heart valve.
  • Renal  – Pertains to the kidneys.
  • Restenosis – The re-closing or re-narrowing of an artery after an interventional procedure such as angioplasty or stent placement.
  • Revascularization  – A procedure to restore blood flow to the tissues. Coronary artery bypass surgery is an example of a revascularization procedure.
  • Rheumatic fever  – A disease, usually occurring in childhood, that may follow a streptococcal infection. Symptoms may include fever, sore or swollen joints, skin rash, involuntary muscle twitching, and development of nodules under the skin. If the infection involves the heart, scars may form on heart valves, and the heart’s outer lining may be damaged.
  • Rheumatic heart disease  – A disease of the heart (mainly affecting the heart valves) caused by rheumatic fever.
  • Right ventricular assist device (RVAD)  – A mechanical device that can be placed outside the body or implanted inside the body. An RVAD does not replace the heart—it “assists” or “helps” it pump oxygen-poor blood from the right ventricle to the lungs.
  • Risk factor  – An element or condition involving a certain hazard or danger. When referring to heart and blood vessels, a risk factor is associated with an increased chance of developing cardiovascular disease, including stroke.
  • Rubella  – Commonly known as German measles.
  • Saccular aneurysm  – A round aneurysm that bulges out from an artery; involves only part of the circumference (outside wall) of the artery.
  • Sarcoidosis  – An inflammatory disease that starts as tiny, grain-like lumps called granulomas, which most often appear in your lungs or lymph nodes. The granulomas can clump together and form larger lumps that attack other organs. Sarcoidosis often affects your skin, eyes, or liver, but it can lead to heart problems, such as irregular heartbeats (arrhythmias) or restrictive cardiomyopathy.
  • Saturated fat  – Type of fat found in foods of animal origin and a few of vegetable origin; they are usually solid at room temperature. Abundant in meat and dairy products, saturated fat tends to increase LDL cholesterol levels, and it may raise the risk of certain types of cancer.
  • Second-degree heart block  – Impulses traveling through the heart’s upper chambers (the atria) are delayed in the area between the upper and lower chambers (the AV node) and fail to make the ventricles beat at the right moment.
  • Septal defect  – A hole in the wall of the heart separating the atria or in the wall of the heart separating the ventricles.
  • Septum  – The muscular wall dividing a chamber on the left side of the heart from the chamber on the right.
  • Sheath  – A catheter-like tube that is placed inside a patient’s vessel during an interventional procedure to help the doctor with insertion and proper placement of the actual catheter. Also called an introducer sheath.
  • Shock  – A condition in which body function is impaired because the volume of fluid circulating through the body is insufficient to maintain normal metabolism. This may be caused by blood loss or by a disturbance in the function of the circulatory system.
  • Shunt  – A connector that allows blood to flow between two locations.
  • Silent ischemia  – Episodes of cardiac ischemia that are not accompanied by chest pain.
  • Sinus (SA) node  – The “natural” pacemaker of the heart. The node is a group of specialized cells in the top of the right atrium which produces the electrical impulses that travel down to eventually reach the ventricular muscle, causing the heart to contract.
  • Sodium  – A mineral essential to life found in nearly all plant and animal tissue. Table salt (sodium chloride) is nearly half sodium.
  • Stem cells  – Special cells in the body that are able to transform into other cells. It is possible for stem cells to transform into heart cells, nerve cells, or other cells of the body, possibly helping to improve the function of failing organs, including the heart.
  • STEMI  – ST-segment-elevation myocardial infarction. The more severe form of the 2 types of heart attack. See also NSTEMI. A STEMI produces a characteristic elevation in the ST segment on an electrocardiogram.
  • Stent  – A device made of expandable, metal mesh that is placed (by using a balloon catheter) at the site of a narrowing artery. The stent is then expanded and left in place to keep the artery open.
  • Stenosis  – The narrowing or constriction of an opening, such as a blood vessel or heart valve.
  • Stethoscope  – An instrument for listening to sounds within the body.
  • Stokes-Adams disease  – Also called third-degree heart block; a condition that happens when the impulses that pace your heartbeat do not reach the lower chambers of your heart (the ventricles). To make up for this, the ventricles use their own “backup” pacemaker with its slower rate. This rhythm can cause severe dizziness or fainting and can lead to heart failure or death.
  • Streptokinase  - noun an enzyme produced by some strains of streptococcus that can liquefy blood clots by converting plasminogen to plasmin; used medicinally in some cases of myocardial infarction and pulmonary embolism
  • Sternum  - noun the flat bone that articulates with the clavicles and the first seven pairs of ribs
  • Stress  - noun the relative prominence of a syllable or musical note (especially with regard to stress or pitch)  (physics) force that produces strain on a physical body  difficulty that causes worry or emotional tension  special emphasis attached to something (psychology) a state of mental or emotional strain or suspense  verbput stress on; utter with an accent  to stress, single out as important test the limits of
  • Stroke  - noun a light touch with the hands  a single complete movement  (sports) the act of swinging or striking at a ball with a club or racket or bat or cue or hand  any one of the repeated movements of the limbs and body used for locomotion in swimming or rowing  a mark made by a writing implement (as in cursive writing)  a light touch  the oarsman nearest the stern of the shell who sets the pace for the rest of the crew  a sudden loss of consciousness resulting when the rupture or occlusion of a blood vessel leads to oxygen lack in the brain  a punctuation mark (/) used to separate related items of information  the maximum movement available to a pivoted or reciprocating piece by a cam  verb treat gingerly or carefully  strike a ball with a smooth blow  row at a particular rate  touch lightly and with affection, with brushing motions
  • Subarachnoid hemorrhage  – Bleeding from a blood vessel on the surface of the brain into the space between the brain and the skull.
  • Subclavian arteries  – Two major arteries (right and left) that receive blood from the aortic arch and supply it to the arms.
  • Sudden death  – Death that occurs unexpectedly and instantaneously or shortly after the onset of symptoms. The most common underlying reason for patients dying suddenly is cardiovascular disease, in particular coronary heart disease.

Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) (also known as cardiac arrest or sudden cardiac death) is a condition in which the heart suddenly and unexpectedly stops beating. If this happens, blood stops flowing to the brain and other vital organs. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) should be started immediately if SCA is witnessed. The heart rhythm can be restored by an automated external defibrillator (AED).


  • Superior vena cava  – The large vein that returns blood from the head and arms to the heart.
  • Supraventricular tachycardia (SVT)  – A regular rapid heart rate (150-250 beats per minute) that is caused by events triggered in areas above the heart’s lower chambers (the ventricles); see also paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia (PSVT).
  • Syncope  – A temporary, insufficient blood supply to the brain which causes a loss of consciousness. Usually caused by a serious arrhythmia.
  • Systolic blood pressure  – The highest blood pressure measured in the arteries. It occurs when the heart contracts with each heartbeat.
  • Tachycardia  – Accelerated beating of the heart. Paroxysmal tachycardia is a particular form of rapid heart action, occurring in seizures that may last from a few seconds to several days.
  • Tamponade  – Also called cardiac tamponade. A condition in which the heart is compressed or constricted because of a large amount of fluid or blood in the space between the heart muscle and the sac that surrounds the heart (the pericardium).
  • Thallium-201 stress test  – An x-ray study that follows the path of radioactive potassium carried by the blood into heart muscle. Damaged or dead muscle can be defined, as can the extent of narrowing in an artery.
  • Third-degree heart block  – A serious condition also called Stokes-Adams disease; impulses from the heart’s upper chambers (the atria) are completely blocked from reaching the heart’s lower chambers (the ventricles). To make up for this, the ventricles use their own “backup” pacemaker with its slower rate.
  • Thrombolysis  - noun the process of breaking up and dissolving blood clots
  • Thrombosis  - noun the formation or presence of a thrombus (a clot of coagulated blood attached at the site of its formation) in a blood vessel
  • Thrombolytic therapy  - noun therapy consisting of the administration of a pharmacological agent to cause thrombolysis of an abnormal blood clot
  • Thrombus  - noun a blood clot formed within a blood vessel and remaining attached to its place of origin
  • Thyroid  - adj. suggestive of a thyroid disorder  of or relating to the thyroid gland  noun located near the base of the neck
  • Tissue plasminogen activator  - noun a thrombolytic agent (trade name Activase) that causes fibrinolysis at the site of a blood clot; used in treating acute myocardial infarction
  • Trans fat  – Created when hydrogen is forced through an ordinary vegetable oil (hydrogenation), converting some polyunsaturates to monounsaturates, and some monounsaturates to saturates. Trans fat, like saturated fat, tends to raise LDL cholesterol levels, and, unlike saturated fat, trans fat also lowers HDL cholesterol levels.
  • Transcatheter aortic valve implantation (TAVI)  – A minimally invasive procedure to repair a damaged or diseased aortic valve. A catheter is inserted into an artery in the groin and threaded to the heart. A balloon at the end of the catheter, with a replacement valve folded around it, delivers the new valve to take the place of the old. Also called TAVR (Transcatheter aortic valve replacement).
  • Transcatheter intervention  – Any of the noninvasive procedures usually performed in the cardiac catheterization laboratory. Angioplasty is an example of a transcatheter intervention. Also called a percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI).
  • Transesophageal echocardiography  – A diagnostic test that analyzes sound waves bounced off the heart. The sound waves are sent through a tube-like device inserted in the mouth and passed down the esophagus (food pipe), which ends near the heart. This technique is useful in studying patients whose heart and vessels, for various reasons, are difficult to assess with standard echocardiography.
  • Transient ischemic attack  - noun brief episode in which the brain gets insufficient blood supply; symptoms depend on the site of the blockage
  • TIA  - noun brief episode in which the brain gets insufficient blood supply; symptoms depend on the site of the blockage
  • Transplantation  - noun the act of removing something from one location and introducing it in another location  an operation moving an organ from one organism (the donor) to another (the recipient)
  • Tricuspid valve  - noun valve with three cusps; situated between the right atrium and the right ventricle; allows blood to pass from atrium to ventricle and closes to prevent backflow when the ventricle contracts
  • Triglyceride  - noun glyceride occurring naturally in animal and vegetable tissues; it consists of three individual fatty acids bound together in a single large molecule; an important energy source forming much of the fat stored by the body
  • Ultrasound  - noun very high frequency sound; used in ultrasonography  using the reflections of high-frequency sound waves to construct an image of a body organ (a sonogram); commonly used to observe fetal growth or study bodily organs
  • Valve replacement  – An operation to replace a heart valve that is either blocking normal blood flow or causing blood to leak backward into the heart (regurgitation).
  • Valvuloplasty  – Reshaping of a heart valve with surgical or catheter techniques.
  • Varicose vein  - noun a vein that is permanently dilated; most common in the legs
  • Vascular  - adj. of or relating to or having vessels that conduct and circulate fluids
  • Vasodilators  – Any medicine that dilates (widens) the arteries.
  • Vasopressors  – Any medicine that elevates blood pressure.
  • Vein  - noun one of the horny ribs that stiffen and support the wing of an insect  a blood vessel that carries blood from the capillaries toward the heart  a distinctive style or manner  a layer of ore between layers of rock  any of the vascular bundles or ribs that form the branching framework of conducting and supporting tissues in a leaf or other plant organ  verb make a veinlike pattern
  • Ventricle  - noun a chamber of the heart that receives blood from an atrium and pumps it to the arteries  one of four connected cavities in the brain; is continuous with the central canal of the spinal cord and contains cerebrospinal fluid
  • Ventricular fibrillation  - noun fibrillation of heart muscles resulting in interference with rhythmic contractions of the ventricles and possibly leading to cardiac arrest
  • Vertigo  - noun a reeling sensation; a feeling that you are about to fall
  • Wolff-Parkinson-White-syndrome A condition in which an extra electrical pathway connects the atria (two upper chambers) and the ventricles (two lower chambers). It may cause a rapid heartbeat.
  • X-ray  - noun a radiogram made by exposing photographic film to X rays; used in medical diagnosis  electromagnetic radiation of short wavelength produced when high-speed electrons strike a solid target  verb take an x-ray of something or somebody  examine by taking x-rays.
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