Terms & Definitions
Terms are in alphabetical order. Click on the + symbol to expand definition.
Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm
An abdominal aortic aneurysm is when the large blood vessel (aorta) that supplies blood to the abdomen, pelvis, and legs becomes abnormally large or balloons outward.
Ablation therapy is a type of minimally invasive procedure used to remove abnormal tissue that occurs with some heart conditions, blood vessel (vascular) conditions, reproductive conditions and cancer.
Stable angina is chest pain or discomfort that usually occurs with activity or stress. Angina is chest discomfort due to poor blood flow through the blood vessels in the heart.
Coronary angioplasty (AN-jee-oh-plas-tee) is a procedure used to open narrow or blocked coronary (heart) arteries. The procedure restores blood flow to the heart muscle.
Antiphospholipid syndrome or antiphospholipid antibody syndrome (APS or APLS or), often also Hughes syndrome, is an autoimmune, hypercoagulable state caused by antiphospholipid antibodies. APS provokes blood clots (thrombosis) in both arteries and veins as well as pregnancy-related complications such as miscarriage, stillbirth, preterm delivery, or severe preeclampsia.
Aortic dissection occurs when a tear in the inner wall of the aorta causes blood to flow between the layers of the wall of the aorta, forcing the layers apart. In most cases this is associated with severe characteristic chest or abdominal pain described as “tearing” in character, and often with other symptoms that result from decreased blood supply to other organs. Aortic dissection is a medical emergency and can quickly lead to death, even with optimal treatment, as a result of decreased blood supply to other organs, cardiac failure, and sometimes rupture of the aorta. Aortic dissection is more common in those with a history of high blood pressure, a known thoracic aortic aneurysm, and in a number of conditions that affect blood vessel wall integrity such as Marfan syndrome and the vascular subtype of Ehlers–Danlos syndrome. The diagnosis is made with medical imaging (computed tomography, magnetic resonance imaging or echocardiography).
Aortic regurgitation (AR) is the diastolic flow of blood from the aorta into the left ventricle (LV). Regurgitation is due to incompetence of the aortic valve or any disturbance of the valvular apparatus (eg, leaflets, annulus of the aorta) resulting in the diastolic flow of blood into the left ventricular chamber.
The aorta is the main artery carrying blood out of the heart. When blood leaves the heart, it flows through the aortic valve, into the aorta. In aortic stenosis, the aortic valve does not open fully. This decreases blood flow from the heart.
An arrhythmia (ah-RITH-me-ah) is a problem with the rate or rhythm of the heartbeat. During an arrhythmia, the heart can beat too fast, too slow, or with an irregular rhythm.
Atrial fibrillation or flutter is a common type of abnormal heartbeat. The heart rhythm is fast and irregular in this condition.
Atrial Septal Defect
Atrial septal defect (ASD) is a form of a congenital heart defect that enables blood flow between two compartments of the heart called the left and right atria. Normally, the right and left atria are separated by a septum called the interatrial septum. If this septum is defective or absent, then oxygen-rich blood can flow directly from the left side of the heart to mix with the oxygen-poor blood in the right side of the heart, or vice versa. This can lead to lower-than-normal oxygen levels in the arterial blood that supplies the brain, organs, and tissues. However, an ASD may not produce noticeable signs or symptoms, especially if the defect is small.
Arteriovenous malformation (AVM) is an abnormal connection between arteries and veins, bypassing the capillary system. This vascular anomaly is widely known because of its occurrence in the central nervous system, but can appear in any location. Although many AVMs are asymptomatic, they can cause intense pain or bleeding or lead to other serious medical problems.
AV Nodal Reentrant Tachycardia
AV nodal reentrant tachycardia (AVNRT), or atrioventricular nodal reentrant tachycardia, is a type of tachycardia (fast rhythm) of the heart. It is a type of supraventricular tachycardia (SVT), meaning that it originates from a location within the heart above the bundle of His. AV nodal reentrant tachycardia is the most common regular supraventricular tachycardia. It is more common in women than men (approximately 75% of cases occur in females). The main symptom is palpitations.
Bradycardia (/ˌbrædɪˈkɑrdiə/; from the Greek βραδύς, bradys “slow”, and καρδία, kardia, “heart”), in the context of adult medicine, is the resting heart rate of under 60 beats per minute (BPM), although it is seldom symptomatic until the rate drops below 50 BPM. It sometimes results in fatigue, weakness, dizziness, and at very low rates fainting. A waking heart rate below 40 BPM is considered absolute bradycardia.
Cardiac catheterization (KATH-eh-ter-ih-ZA-shun) is a medical procedure used to diagnose and treat some heart conditions. A long, thin, flexible tube called a catheter is put into a blood vessel in your arm, groin (upper thigh), or neck and threaded to your heart. Through the catheter, your doctor can do diagnostic tests and treatments on your heart.
Cardiomyopathy (KAR-de-o-mi-OP-ah-thee) refers to diseases of the heart muscle. These diseases have many causes, signs and symptoms, and treatments. In cardiomyopathy, the heart muscle becomes enlarged, thick, or rigid. In rare cases, the muscle tissue in the heart is replaced with scar tissue. As cardiomyopathy worsens, the heart becomes weaker. It’s less able to pump blood through the body and maintain a normal electrical rhythm. This can lead to heart failure or irregular heartbeats called arrhythmias (ah-RITH-me-ahs). In turn, heart failure can cause fluid to build up in the lungs, ankles, feet, legs, or abdomen.
Congenital Heart Disease
A congenital heart defect is a problem with the structure of the heart. It is present at birth. Congenital heart defects are the most common type of birth defect. The defects can involve the walls of the heart, the valves of the heart, and the arteries and veins near the heart. They can disrupt the normal flow of blood through the heart. The blood flow can slow down, go in the wrong direction or to the wrong place, or be blocked completely.
COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary (PULL-mun-ary) disease, is a progressive disease that makes it hard to breathe. “Progressive” means the disease gets worse over time. COPD can cause coughing that produces large amounts of mucus (a slimy substance), wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, and other symptoms. Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of COPD. Most people who have COPD smoke or used to smoke. Long-term exposure to other lung irritants—such as air pollution, chemical fumes, or dust—also may contribute to COPD.
High cholesterol is one of the major controllable risk factors for coronary heart disease, heart attack and stroke. As your blood cholesterol rises, so does your risk of coronary heart disease. If you have other risk factors (such as high blood pressure or diabetes) as well as high cholesterol, this risk increases even more. The more risk factors you have, the greater your chance of developing coronary heart disease. Also, the greater the level of each risk factor, the more that factor affects your overall risk.
Coronary Artery Stent Placement
A coronary artery stent is a small, metal mesh tube that expands inside a coronary artery. A stent is often placed during or immediately after angioplasty. It helps prevent the artery from closing up again. A drug-eluting stent has medicine embedded in it that helps prevent the artery from closing in the long term.
Coronary Heart Disease
Coronary heart disease (CHD) is a disease in which a waxy substance called plaque (plak) builds up inside the coronary arteries. These arteries supply oxygen-rich blood to your heart muscle. When plaque builds up in the arteries, the condition is called atherosclerosis (ATH-er-o-skler-O-sis). The buildup of plaque occurs over many years.
Coronary Laser Atherectomy
Coronary Atherectomy is a minimally invasive procedure to remove the blockage from the coronary arteries and allow more blood to flow to the heart muscle and ease the pain caused by blockages. The types of atherectomy are rotational and transluminal extraction (laser).
Deep Vein Thrombosis
Deep vein thrombosis (throm-BO-sis), or DVT, is a blood clot that forms in a vein deep in the body. Blood clots occur when blood thickens and clumps together. Most deep vein blood clots occur in the lower leg or thigh. They also can occur in other parts of the body.
Endocarditis is inflammation of the inside lining of the heart chambers and heart valves (endocardium).
High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure (HBP) is a serious condition that can lead to coronary heart disease, heart failure, stroke, kidney failureexternal link icon, and other health problems. Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of the arteries as the heart pumps blood. If this pressure rises and stays high over time, it can damage the body in many ways.
A heart attack happens when the flow of oxygen-rich blood to a section of heart muscle suddenly becomes blocked and the heart can’t get oxygen. If blood flow isn’t restored quickly, the section of heart muscle begins to die. Heart attacks are a leading killer of both men and women in the United States. The good news is that excellent treatments are available for heart attacks. These treatments can save lives and prevent disabilities. Heart attack treatment works best when it’s given right after symptoms occur. If you think you or someone else is having a heart attack (even if you’re not fully sure), call 9–1–1 right away.
Heart block is a problem that occurs with the heart’s electrical system. This system controls the rate and rhythm of heartbeats. (“Rate” refers to the number of times your heart beats per minute. “Rhythm” refers to the pattern of regular or irregular pulses produced as the heart beats.)
Heart failure is a condition in which the heart can’t pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs. In some cases, the heart can’t fill with enough blood. In other cases, the heart can’t pump blood to the rest of the body with enough force. Some people have both problems.
Homocysteine is an amino acid that is produced by the body, usually as a byproduct of consuming meat. Amino acids are naturally made products, which are the building blocks of all the proteins in the body.
Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is a primary disease of the myocardium (the muscle of the heart) in which a portion of the myocardium is hypertrophied (thickened) without any obvious cause.
Erectile dysfunction (ED) or impotence is sexual dysfunction characterized by the inability to develop or maintain an erection of the penis during sexual performance. A penile erection is the hydraulic effect of blood entering and being retained in sponge-like bodies within the penis.
Intra-Aortic Baloon Pump
The Intra-aortic balloon pump (IABP) is a mechanical device that increases myocardial oxygen perfusion while at the same time increasing cardiac output. Increasing cardiac output increases coronary blood flow and therefore myocardial oxygen delivery.
Kawasaki disease is an illness that involves the skin, mouth, and lymph nodes, and most often affects kids under age 5. The cause is unknown, but if the symptoms are recognized early, kids with Kawasaki disease can fully recover within a few days. Untreated, it can lead to serious complications that can affect the heart.
Long Q-T Syndrome
Long QT syndrome (LQTS) is a disorder of the heart’s electrical activity. It can cause sudden, uncontrollable, dangerous arrhythmias (ah-RITH-me-ahs) in response to exercise or stress. Arrhythmias are problems with the rate or rhythm of the heartbeat.
The mitral valve separates the upper and lower chambers on the left side of the heart. Stenosis is a condition in which the valve does not open fully, restricting blood flow. Mitral stenosis is a disorder in which the mitral valve does not open fully.
Mitral Valve Prolapse
Mitral valve prolapse (MVP) occurs when the valve between your heart’s left upper chamber (left atrium) and the left lower chamber (left ventricle) doesn’t close properly.
A heart murmur is an extra or unusual sound heard during a heartbeat. Murmurs range from very faint to very loud. Sometimes they sound like a whooshing or swishing noise. Normal heartbeats make a “lub-DUPP” or “lub-DUB” sound. This is the sound of the heart valves closing as blood moves through the heart. Doctors can hear these sounds and heart murmurs using a stethoscope.
Myocarditis or inflammatory cardiomyopathy is inflammation of heart muscle (myocardium). Myocarditis is most often due to infection by common viruses, such as parvovirus B19, less commonly nonviral pathogens such as Borrelia burgdorferi (Lyme disease) or Trypanosoma cruzi, or as a hypersensitivity response to drugs. The definition of myocarditis varies, but the central feature is an infection of the heart, with an inflammatory infiltrate, and damage to the heart muscle, without the blockage of coronary arteries that define a heart attack (myocardial infarction) or other common noninfectious causes.
Palpitations are feelings or sensations that your heart is pounding or racing. They can be felt in your chest, throat, or neck. You may: Have an unpleasant awareness of your own heartbeat. Feel like your heart skipped or stopped beats. The heart’s rhythm may be normal or abnormal when you have palpitations.
Pericarditis is swelling and irritation of the pericardium, the thin sac-like membrane surrounding your heart. Pericarditis often causes chest pain and sometimes other symptoms. The sharp chest pain associated with pericarditis occurs when the irritated layers of the pericardium rub against each other.
Peripheral Artery Disease & Angioplasty
Angioplasty slideshow.gif (also called percutaneous transluminal angioplasty, or PTA) is a procedure in which a thin, flexible tube called a catheter is inserted through an artery and guided to the place where the artery is narrowed. When the tube reaches the narrowed artery, a small balloon at the end of the tube inflates for a short time. The pressure from the inflated balloon presses the fat and calcium (plaque) against the wall of the artery to improve blood flow.
Peripheral Artery Stent Placement
Angioplasty and stent placement is a minimally invasive procedure used to open narrow or blocked arteries. This procedure is used in different parts of the body, depending on the location of the clot. This procedure requires only a small incision.
The drug combination fenfluramine/phentermine, usually called fen-phen, was an anti-obesity treatment that utilized two anorectics. Fenfluramine was marketed by American Home Products (later known as Wyeth) as Pondimin, but was shown to cause potentially fatal pulmonary hypertension and heart valve problems, which eventually led to its withdrawal and legal damages of over $13 billion.
Pulmonary hypertension (PULL-mun-ary HI-per-TEN-shun), or PH, is increased pressure in the pulmonary arteries. These arteries carry blood from your heart to your lungs to pick up oxygen. PH causes symptoms such as shortness of breath during routine activity (for example, climbing two flights of stairs), tiredness, chest pain, and a racing heartbeat. As the condition worsens, its symptoms may limit all physical activity.
Pulmonic stenosis, also known as pulmonary stenosis, is a dynamic or fixed obstruction of flow from the right ventricle of the heart to the pulmonary artery. It is usually first diagnosed in childhood. Pulmonic stenosis is usually due to isolated valvular obstruction (Pulmonary valve stenosis), but may be due to subvalvular or supravalvular obstruction. It may occur in association with more complicated congenital heart disorders.
Renal Artery Stent Placement
Renal artery stenosis is a common disorder and is an established cause of hypertension and renal insufficiency. Although treatment with renal artery stents has been shown to improve blood pressure and renal function for some patients, the patient population most likely to benefit is unknown.
Renal Artery Stenosis
Renal artery stenosis is the narrowing of the renal artery, most often caused by atherosclerosis or fibromuscular dysplasia. This narrowing of the renal artery can impede blood flow to the target kidney. Hypertension and atrophy of the affected kidney may result from renal artery stenosis, ultimately leading to renal failure if not treated.
Sleep apnea (AP-ne-ah) is a common disorder in which you have one or more pauses in breathing or shallow breaths while you sleep. Breathing pauses can last from a few seconds to minutes. They may occur 30 times or more an hour. Typically, normal breathing then starts again, sometimes with a loud snort or choking sound.
A stroke happens when blood flow to a part of the brain stops. A stroke is sometimes called a “brain attack.” If blood flow is stopped for longer than a few seconds, the brain cannot get blood and oxygen. Brain cells can die, causing permanent damage.
Fainting is a temporary loss of consciousness. If you’re about to faint, you’ll feel dizzy, lightheaded, or nauseous. Your field of vision may “white out” or “black out.” Your skin may be cold and clammy. You lose muscle control at the same time, and may fall down. Fainting usually happens when your blood pressure drops suddenly, causing a decrease in blood flow to your brain.
Shortness of Breath (Dyspnea)
Few sensations are as frightening as not being able to get enough air. Although shortness of breath — known medically as dyspnea — is likely to be experienced differently by different people, it’s often described as an intense tightening in the chest or feeling of suffocation. Depending on the cause, you may experience shortness of breath just once or have recurring episodes that could become constant. Very strenuous exercise, extreme temperatures, massive obesity and high altitude all can cause shortness of breath in a healthy person. Outside of these examples, shortness of breath is likely a sign of a medical problem. If you have unexplained shortness of breath, especially if it comes on suddenly and is severe, see your doctor as soon as possible.
Transient Ischemic Attack
While transient ischemic attack (TIA) is often labeled “mini-stroke,” it is more accurately characterized as a “warning stroke,” a warning you should take very seriously. TIA is caused by a clot; the only difference between a stroke and TIA is that with TIA the blockage is transient (temporary). TIA symptoms occur rapidly and last a relatively short time. Most TIAs last less than five minutes; the average is about a minute. When a TIA is over, it usually causes no permanent injury to the brain.
Ventricular fibrillation (V-fib or VF) is a condition in which there is uncoordinated contraction of the cardiac muscle of the ventricles in the heart, making them quiver rather than contract properly. Ventricular fibrillation is the most commonly identified arrhythmia in cardiac arrest patients. While there is some activity, the lay person is usually unable to detect it by palpating (feeling) the major pulse points of the carotid and femoral arteries. Such an arrhythmia is only confirmed by electrocardiography. Ventricular fibrillation is a medical emergency that requires prompt Advanced Life Support interventions. If this arrhythmia continues for more than a few seconds, it will likely degenerate further into asystole (“flatline”). This condition results in cardiogenic shock and cessation of effective blood circulation. As a consequence, sudden cardiac death (SCD) will result in a matter of minutes.
Ventricular Septal Defect
A ventricular septal defect (VSD), also called a hole in the heart, is a common heart defect that’s present at birth (congenital). The defect involves an opening (hole) in the heart forming between the heart’s lower chambers, allowing oxygen-rich and oxygen-poor blood to mix.
Ventricular tachycardia (V-tach or VT) is a type of tachycardia, or a rapid heart beat, that starts in the bottom chambers of the heart, called the ventricles. The ventricles are the main pumping chambers of the heart. This is a potentially life-threatening arrhythmia because it may lead to ventricular fibrillation, asystole, and sudden death.