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Heart & Vascular Glossary




ablation - elimination or removal.

ACE (angiotensin-converting enzyme) inhibitor - a medication that lowers blood pressure.

aneurysm - a sac-like protrusion from a blood vessel or the heart.

angina pectoris (also called angina) - recurring chest pain or discomfort that happens when some part of the heart does not receive enough blood.

angiography - an x-ray that uses dye injected into the coronary arteries so that blood circulation can be studied.

angioplasty - a non-surgical procedure for treating diseased arteries.

anticoagulant - a medication that keeps blood from clotting.

antihypertensive - a medication or other therapy that lowers blood pressure.

aorta - the largest artery in the body and the primary blood vessel leading from the heart to the body.

aortic valve - the valve that regulates blood flow from the heart into the aorta.

aphasia - the inability to speak or understand due to brain injury or disease.

arrhythmia (or dysrhythmia) - an abnormal heartbeat.

arterioles - small branches of arteries.

artery - a blood vessel that carries oxygenated blood away from the heart to the body.

arteriosclerosis - commonly called "hardening of the arteries;" a variety of conditions caused by fatty or calcium deposits in the artery walls causing them to thicken.

atherectomy - a non-surgical procedure that involves removing plaque from the walls of arteries with a rotating blade.

atherosclerosis - a type of arteriosclerosis caused by a build-up of plaque in the inner lining of an artery.

atrium (atria pl.) - one of two upper chambers in the heart.

atrioventricular block - an interruption of the electrical signal between the atria and the ventricles.

atrioventricular (AV) node - a cluster of cells between the atria and ventricles that regulate the electrical current.


beta blocker - an antihypertensive medication that limits the activity of epinephrine (a hormone that increases blood pressure).

biopsy - the procedure of taking a small tissue sample for examination.

blood clot - a gelled mass of blood tissue.

blood pressure - the force or pressure exerted by the heart when pumping blood; also, the pressure of blood in the arteries.

blood pressure cuff - a device usually placed around the upper of the arm to measure blood pressure.

brady... - suffix meaning slow.

bradycardia - abnormally slow heartbeat.

bundle-branch block - a condition in which the heart's electrical system is unable to normally conduct the electrical signal.


calcium channel blocker (or calcium blocker) - a medication that lowers blood pressure.

capillaries - tiny blood vessels between arteries and veins that distribute oxygen-rich blood to the body.

cardiac - pertaining to the heart.

cardiac arrest - the stopping of heartbeat.

cardiac catheterization - a diagnostic procedure in which a tiny, hollow tube (catheter) is inserted into an artery to go to the heart in order to image the heart and blood vessels.

cardiac output - the amount of blood that goes through the circulatory system in one minute.

cardiology - the clinical study and practice of treating the heart.

cardiovascular (CV) - pertaining to the heart and blood vessel (circulatory) system.

cardioversion - the procedure of applying electrical shock to the chest to change an abnormal heartbeat into a normal one.

cardiomyopathy - a disease of the heart muscle that causes it to lose its pumping strength.

carotid artery - the major arteries in the neck that supply blood to the brain.

catheter – a small flexible tube that is inserted into the body

cerebral embolism - a blood clot from one part of the body that is carried by the bloodstream to the brain where it blocks an artery.

cerebral hemorrhage - bleeding within the brain.

cerebral thrombosis - formation of a blood clot in an artery that supplies blood to the brain.

cerebrovascular - pertaining to blood vessels in the brain.

cerebrovascular accident - apoplexy or stroke; an impeded blood supply to the brain.

cerebrovascular occlusion - an obstruction in the blood vessel in the brain.

cholesterol - a waxy substance that is produced in the human body, animal fats, and in dairy products and is transported in the blood.

cine-angiography - the procedure of taking moving pictures to show the passage of dye through blood vessels.

circulatory system - pertaining to the heart and blood vessels, and the circulation of blood.

claudication - pain or fatigue in arms and legs due to poor supply of oxygen to the muscles.

collaterals – small blood vessels developed by the body that bypass a blockage in a larger blood vessel and restore limited blood flow

computed tomography (CT or CAT scan) - a non-invasive procedure that takes cross-sectional images of the brain or other internal organs; to detect any abnormalities that may not show up on an ordinary x-ray.

congenital - present at birth.

congestive heart failure - a condition in which the heart cannot pump out all of the blood that enters it, which leads to an accumulation of blood in the vessels and fluid in the body tissues.

coronary arteries - two arteries that come from the aorta to provide blood to the heart muscle.

coronary artery bypass graft (CAB or CABG) - a surgical procedure in which a healthy blood vessel is transplanted from another part of the body into the heart to replace or bypass a diseased vessel.

coronary artery spasm - a sudden closing of an artery, which cuts off blood flow to the heart and causes symptom of angina or heart attack.

coronary heart disease - a condition in which the coronary arteries narrow from an accumulation of plaque (atherosclerosis) and cause a decrease in blood flow.

coronary occlusion - an obstruction of one of the coronary arteries that decreases flow to the heart muscle.

coronary thrombosis - the formation of a clot in one of the arteries that carry blood to the heart muscle.

cyanosis - insufficient oxygen in the blood.


defibrillator - an electronic device used to establish normal heartbeat.

deep veins – veins that lie deep in the tissues and are surrounded by muscle. These veins return nearly 90 percent of the blood to the heart

deep vein thrombosis (DVT) – a venous disorder in which a blood clot develops in a deep vein and blocks the flow of blood through that vein

diastolic blood pressure - the lowest blood pressure measure in the arteries, which occurs between heartbeats.

diuretic - a medication that lowers blood pressure.

Doppler ultrasound - A procedure that uses sound waves to evaluate heart, blood vessels, and valves.

dyspnea - shortness of breath.

dysrhythmia - an abnormal heart rhythm.


echocardiography - a computer procedure that studies or evaluates of the heart's function by using sound waves recorded on an electronic sensor that produces a moving picture of the heart and heart valves.

edema - swelling.

ejection fraction - the measurement of the blood pumped out of the ventricles.

electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) - a test that records the electrical activity of the heart, shows abnormal rhythms (arrhythmias or dysrhythmias), and detects heart muscle damage.

electrophysiological study (EPS) - a cardiac catheterization to study electrical current in patients who have arrhythmias.

embolism – the sudden blocking of an artery by a clot that has traveled through the blood; an embolism can be caused by an injury or a change in the consistency and flow of the blood.

embolus – a fragment, or small piece, of a blood clot

endarterectomy - the surgical removal of plaque or blood clots in an artery.

endocardium - the membrane that covers the inside surface of the heart.

endocarditis - a bacterial infections of the heart lining.

enlarged heart - a condition of the heart in which it is abnormally larger than normal.

epicardium - the membrane that covers the outside of the heart.

estrogen - a hormone produced by the ovaries.


fibrillation - rapid contractions of the heart muscles.

flutter - ineffective contractions of the heart muscles.


gated blood pool scan - a nuclear scan to see how the heart wall moves and how much blood is expelled with each heart beat, just after the patient has walked on a treadmill or ridden on a stationary bike.


heart attack - also called myocardial infarction; damage to the heart muscle due to insufficient blood supply.

heart block - interrupted electrical impulse to heart muscles.

heart-lung machine - a machine that performs for the heart during open heart surgery.

heart valve prolapse - a condition of the heart valve in which it is partially open when it should be closed.

high blood pressure - blood pressure that is above the normal range.

high density lipoprotein (HDL) - the "good" cholesterol that promotes breakdown and removal from the body of cholesterol.

Holter monitor - A portable ECG machine.

hypertension - high blood pressure.

hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy (HOCM) - a bulge in the ventricle that causes impeded blood flow.

hypoglycemia - low levels of blood sugar.

hypoxia - abnormal oxygen content in the organs and tissues of the body.


immunosuppressive medications - medications that suppress the body's immune system used to minimize rejection of transplanted organs.

impedance plethysmography - a test to evaluate blood flow through the leg.

inferior vena cava - the large blood vessel (vein) that returns blood from the legs and abdomen to the heart.

inotropic medications - medications that increase strength of the contractions in the heart.

intermittent claudication – an ache or pain that occurs during exertion is relieved by rest. Intermittent claudication is caused by blockage of an artery due to atherosclerosis.

intravascular echocardiography - echocardiography and cardiac catheterization.

ischemia - decreased flow of oxygenated blood to an organ due to obstruction in an artery.

ischemic heart disease - coronary artery disease or coronary heart disease caused by narrowing of the coronary arteries and decreased blood flow to the heart.


jugular veins - veins that carry blood from the head back to the heart.



lesion - an injury or wound.

lipid - a fatty substance in the blood.

lipoproteins - transporters of fatty substances in the blood.

low density lipoprotein (LDL) - the primary cholesterol carrying.

lumen - the hollow area within a tube.


magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) - a non-invasive procedure that produces two-dimensional view of an internal organ or structure, especially the brain and spinal cord.

mitral valve - the valve that controls blood flow between the left atrium and left ventricle in the heart.

mitral valve prolapse - a bulge in the valve between the left atrium and left ventricle of the heart that causes backward flow of blood into the atrium.

monounsaturated fats - dietary fats, such as olive oil or canola oil, that don't seem to have any affect on blood cholesterol.

murmur - a blowing or rasping sound heard while listening to the heart that may or may not indicate problems within the heart or circulatory system.

myocardial infarction (heart attack)- occurs when one of more regions of the heart muscle experience a severe or prolonged decrease in oxygen supply caused by a blocked blood flow to the heart muscle.

myocardial ischemia - insufficient blood flow to part of the heart.

myocardium - the muscle wall of the heart.


nitroglycerin - a medication used to relax or dilate arteries.

necrosis - pertaining to the death of tissue.

noninvasive procedures - a diagnostic effort or treatment that does not require entering the body or puncturing the skin.


obesity - overweight by 30 percent of the ideal body weight.

occluded artery - an artery that is narrowed by plaque that impedes blood flow.

open heart surgery - surgery that involves opening the chest and heart while a heart-lung machine performs for the heart.


pacemaker - an electronic device that is surgically implanted into the patient's heart and chest to regulate heartbeat.

palpitation - irregular heartbeat.

percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty (PTCA) - angioplasty.

pericarditis - inflammation of the membrane that surrounds the heart.

pericardiocentesis - a diagnostic procedure that uses a needle to draw fluid from the pericardium.

pericardium - the membrane that surrounds the heart.

phlebitis – inflammation of a vein

plaque - deposits of fat or other substances attached to the artery wall.

platelets - cells found in the blood.

polyunsaturated fat - a type of fat found in vegetable oils and margarines that doesn't appear to raise blood cholesterol levels.

positron emission tomography (PET) - a nuclear scanning device that gives a three-dimensional picture of the heart to provide information about the flow of blood through the coronary arteries to the heart muscle.

pulmonary - pertains to lungs and respiratory system.

pulmonary edema - a condition in which there is a fluid accumulation in the lungs caused by an incorrectly functioning heart.

pulmonary embolism – a complication of DVT in which a blood clot breaks away from a thrombus (an embolus), travel through the circulatory system, and becomes caught in a blood vessel of a lung

pulmonary valve - the heart valve located between the right ventricle and the pulmonary artery that controls blood flow to the lungs.

pulmonary vein - the vessel that carries newly oxygenated blood to the heart from the lungs.

pulse oximeter - a device that measures the amount of oxygen in the blood.


radioisotope - a radioactive material injected into the body so that a nuclear scanner can make pictures.

radionuclide ventriculography - a diagnostic procedure used to determine the shape and size of the heart's chambers.

regurgitation - backward flow of blood caused by a defective heart valve.

renal - pertains to kidneys.

rheumatic fever - a childhood disease that may damage the heart valves or the outer lining of the heart.

risk factor - a condition, element, or activity that may adversely affect the heart.


saturated fat - fat that is found in foods from animal meats and skin, dairy products and some vegetables.

sclerotherapy – a non-surgical treatment of varicose veins in which a solution is injected into the vein that closes it off completely.

septal defect - a hole in the wall of the heart.

septum - the muscle wall that divides the heart chambers.

shock - impaired body function due to blood loss or a disturbance in the circulatory system.

shunt - a connector to allow blood flow between two locations.

silent ischemia - ischemia not accompanied by chest pain.

sinus node - the cells that produce the electrical impulses that cause the heart to contract.

sphygmomanometer - the instrument used to measure blood pressure.

stent - a device implanted in a vessel used to help keep it open.

stenosis - the narrowing or constriction of a blood vessel or valve in the heart.

stethoscope - the instrument used to listen to the heart and other sounds in the body.

streptokinase - a clot-dissolving medication.

sternum - the breastbone.

stress - mental or physical tension that results from physical, emotional, or chemical causes.

stroke - the sudden disruption of blood flow to the brain.

subarachnoid hemorrhage - bleeding on the surface of the brain.

sudden death - death that occurs unexpectedly or immediately after onset of symptoms.

superficial veins – the veins that lie close to the skin and are not as thick or as muscular as deep veins

superior vena cava - the large vein that returns blood to the heart from the head and arms.

syncope - light-headedness or fainting caused by insufficient blood supply to the brain.

systolic blood pressure - the highest blood pressure measured in the arteries.


tachycardia - rapid heart beat.

tachypnea - rapid breathing.

telemetry unit - a small transmitter with wires that attach ECG patches to the chest that is used to send information about the heart via radio transmission to healthcare professionals for evaluation.

thallium stress test - a study in which radioactive potassium is carried by the blood and the progress is followed by x-ray pictures.

thrombolysis - the breaking up of a blood clot.

thrombosis - a blood clot formed in the blood vessel or in the heart.

thrombolytic therapy - a medication that dissolves blood clots.

thrombus - a blood clot

tissue plasminogen activator (TPA) - a medication used to dissolves blood clots.

trans fat - vegetable oil that has been treated with hydrogen in order to make it more solid and give it a longer shelf life.

transesophageal echocardiography (TEE) - a diagnostic test that is used to measure the sound waves that bounce off of the heart.

transient ischemic attack (TIA) - a stroke-like event that lasts for a short period of time caused by a blocked blood vessel.

transplantation - replacing a damaged organ with one from a donor.

tricuspid valve - the heart valve that controls blood flow from the right atrium into the right ventricle.

triglyceride - a fat-like substance found in the blood.


ultrasound - a diagnostic tool used to measure high-frequency sound vibrations.


valves (the heart valves are tricuspid, pulmonic, mitral, and aortic) - the "doors" between the chambers of the heart.

valvuloplasty - repairing a heart valve.

varicose vein - an abnormally dilated vein.

vascular - pertaining to blood vessels.

vasodilator - a medication that dilates or widens the opening in a blood vessel.

vasodepressors - a medication that raises blood pressure.

vein - a blood vessel that carries blood from the body back into the heart.

venous disease – any disease of the veins

venous stasis – slowing down or stopping a blood flow in the veins

venous stasis disease – also known as chronic venous insufficiency, a condition in which faulty venous valves allow blood to collect in the lower leg

ventricle - one of the two lower chambers of the heart.

ventricular fibrillation - a condition in which the ventricles contract in rapid and unsynchronized rhythms and cannot pump blood into the body.

ventricular tachycardia - a condition in which the ventricles cause a very fast heartbeat.

vertigo - dizziness.


Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome - An extra electrical pathway that connects the atria and ventricles and causes rapid heartbeat.


x-ray - a machine that used radiation to produce pictures of the inside of the body.

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