October 5, 2004 at 4:16 PM CDT - Updated July 1 at 8:05 PM
Cardiology Terms & Definitions
Angina: chest pain or pressure caused by a lack of oxygen to the heart muscle.
Angiogram: a x-ray of the heart and coronary arteries taken after a dye is injected into the bloodstream through a catheter. An angiogram is used to identify blockages in the vessels and arteries.
Aorta: the main artery in the body.
Atherosclerosis: occurs when fat and cholesterol deposits, termed plaque, form inside of the blood vessels and obstruct the normal flow of oxygenated blood. Atherosclerosis can lead to angina or heart attack.
Atria: the two upper chambers of the heart.
Balloon Angioplasty: a method of treating blood vessel disorders that involves the use of a balloon tip cathether to enlarge the blood vessel and thereby improve blood flow.
Balloon tip catheter: a tube with a balloon at its tip that can be inflated or deflated without removal after installation.
Cardiac Catheterization: a cathether that can be passed into the heart through a vein or artery, to withdraw blood, measure pressures within the heart’s chambers or vessels, and inject contrast media. Used in diagnosis and evaluation of cardiac function.
Catheter:a small, hollow, flexible tube designed to allow fluid to pass from or into a body cavity.
Coronary Arteries: the arteries supplying blood to the heart. The right and left coronary arteries arise from the aorta and form branches that encircle the heart.
Coronary Artery Bypass Surgery: used to treat severe blockages by restoring blood flow to the heart muscle. A segment of a vein in the leg is used to build a detour around the blockage. One end of the vein is sewn into the aorta with the other end sewn into the coronary artery below the blockage.
Coronary Artery Disease: the most common type of heart disease in the country. It occurs when blood flow to the heart is limited due to hardening of the arteries or atherosclerosis. Major risk factors for the disease include high blood pressure, smoking, high cholesterol, and diabetes.
Echocardiogram (ECHO): this procedure uses sound waves to examine the size, shape, and motion of the heart, and is useful to assess cardiac function and diagnose abnormalities of the heart valves.
Electrocardiogram (EKG): this procedure tests and records the electrical activity of the heart including the heart’s rate and rhythm. The test generally lasts five to ten minutes and allows doctors to evaluate if a heart attack has occurred, if the patient is experiencing irregular heart beats or rhythms, and if there is a decreased supply of blood and oxygen to the heart.
Embolus: Foreign material in the blood stream, such as a blood clot, air, or tumor, which is carried by the bloodstream until it lodges in a blood vessel and obstructs it.
Femoral Artery: an artery at the top of the leg.
Heart/Lung Machine: a device that takes over the function of the heart and lungs during surgery. The heart muscle is generally in a resting state during procedures such as coronary artery bypass surgery and valve repair/replacement surgery. Following the procedure, the device is turned off and the heart and lungs resume function.
Heart Valve: directs blood flow between the chambers of the heart and the rest of the body. There are four valves in the heart.
In-stent Restenosis: excessive tissue ingrowth within a stent. This is the body’s attempt to heal the innermost layer of a vessel lining that was disturbed by placement of the stent.
Intracoronary: within a coronary artery.
Intravascular: within a vessel (artery or vein).
Intravascular Brachytherapy: the use of radiation on a targeted area of tissue to interrupt, or prevent, the regrowth of tissue blocking the vessel.
Mechanical Valve: used to replace a damaged heart valve. Mechanical valves are very sturdy and generally last longer than tissue valves. Use of mechanical valves requires the use a blood thinner by patients to prevent clots from adhering to the valve.
Myocardial Infarction: the death of the heart muscle that results when there is complete blockage of blood in one area of the heart. It is commonly referred to as a “heart attack.”
Myocardium: the heart muscle.
Occlusion: Complete closure of a blood vessel restricting all blood flow.
Stenosis: a valve problem that occurs when the heart valves narrow, decreasing the forward flow of blood. When the valves do not open and close properly, the heart has to work harder to pump blood, which can result in trouble breathing, leg swelling, and heart damage.
Stent:a small, self-expanding, stainless steel mesh tube that it placed permanently inside an artery to hold it open and improve the flow of blood after balloon angioplasty.
Stent Embolism: the condition in which an intravascular stent dislodges from its delivery devise or site of deployment and acts as an embolus.
Thoracotomy: opening of the chest.
Thrombolysis: dissolving of a blood clot.
Thrombosis: The formation of a blood clot within the heart or a blood vessel.
Tissue Valve: used to replace a damaged heart valve. A tissue valve is made from an animal source and molded into a ring. Tissue valves, unlike mechanical valves, do not always require the patient to use blood-thinning medications.