• Glossary: Terms to Know

    When it comes to cardiovascular disease and its treatments, the terminology can be confusing. Here is a guide to help make sense of the swirl of words:


    A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V| W| X | Y | Z


    TermAlso Referred To AsMeaning
    A1C Test   A test for people with diabetes that monitors their average blood sugar levels over a period of two to three months.
    ABC’s of Diabetes  

    A is for A1C, or a test that shows a person’s average blood glucose control for the past two to three months.
    B is for blood pressure. 
    C is for cholesterol.

    Remembering and monitoring the ABC’s are important in controlling diabetes and preventing heart attack and stroke. 
    Abrupt Closure   Sudden loss or severe reduction in blood flow within an artery after therapy, usually caused by a blood clot or a split in the artery wall.
    Acyanotic heart disease.   Heart defect that does not result in bluish discoloration of the skin (cyanosis).
    Amputation   The removal of a body part by trauma or surgery. Surgical amputation occurs when the body part is no longer useful or is causing extreme pain.
    Aneurysm.   A balloon-like bulge (dilation) of a blood vessel caused by disease or weakening of the vessel wall.
    Angina Chest pain Pain and pressure in the chest that results when the heart does not receive sufficient oxygen and nutrients because blood flow to the heart muscle is reduced or stopped by a blockage in the coronary arteries.
    Angiogram Angiography A test that allows doctors to see narrowed areas or other abnormalities of the blood vessels on an x-ray after a special dye, called contrast dye, is injected into the arteries. 
    Angioplasty Percutaneous Coronary Intervention, or PCI Coronary intervention Angioplasty is a procedure in which a physician inserts a catheter – a long, thin tube – into an artery in the upper thigh and guides it through the arteries to the heart – and to the area of blockage. With the catheter in place, the doctor then threads a tiny wire carrying a deflated balloon on its tip through the catheter to the narrowed portion of the artery. As the tiny balloon is inflated, it compresses the blockage against the inside wall of the artery. This re-opens the artery so blood may again flow.
    Aortic arch   The part of the artery that carries blood from the heart to the body (the aorta), which bends to curve downward.
    Aortic stenosis   A condition in which the aortic valve’s opening is narrowed.  A narrowed opening restricts the flow of blood from the heart’s lower left chamber into the aorta, the artery that carries blood from the heart to the rest of the body.
    Aortic regurgitation   A condition in which the aortic valve does not close properly, thus allowing blood to “leak,” or regurgitate, back into the heart’s lower left chamber from the aorta, the artery that carries blood from the heart to the rest of the body.
    Aorta   The blood vessel which carries blood from the heart’s lower left chamber (ventricle) to the body. The first portion of the aorta that emerges from the heart turns upward (the ascending aorta).  The vessel then bends to form an arch (the aortic arch).  It then descends (descending aorta) to the abdomen and lower parts of the body.
    Aortic valve   The valve at the junction of the heart’s left ventricle (lower chamber) and the aorta (main vessel carrying blood from the heart to the rest of the body).  Valves keep blood moving through and out of the heart in one direction.
    Arrhythmia   An irregular heartbeat.
    Arteriogram Angiogram An x-ray image of the arteries used to determine any conditions or problems with the blood vessels or arteries. During an arteriogram, a dye is injected into an artery to make the arteries visible on x-ray and creates a “road map” of the arteries.
    Atherosclerosis (pronounced ath-row-sklee-rosis)
    Hardening of the arteries A disease in which plaque, made up of cholesterol, fats, calcium and scar tissue, builds up in the wall of blood vessels, narrowing the channel and interfering with blood flow.
    Atrial Fibrillation   A condition where the two small upper chambers of the heart (called the atria) quiver instead of beating normally. This causes blood to not be pumped completely out of the chamber, so blood may pool and clot within the top chambers of the heart.
    Asphyxia   A lack of oxygen to the body that can lead to tissue and organ damage.
    Atherosclerosis   A disease of the lining of arteries, characterized by a build-up of fatty deposits (plaque) on the inside of the vessels that leads to the restriction or obstruction of blood flow through affected arteries.  (Also referred to as “hardening of the arteries.”)
    Atresia   Lack of development of a structure or organ.
    Atrial flutter    A type of abnormal heart rhythm that is too fast and sometimes irregular.
    Atrial septal defect (ASD)   A hole in the atrial septum, the wall that separates the heart’s right and left upper chambers (atria).  An ASK allows oxygen-poor blood from the right atrium to mix with oxygen-rich blood in the left atrium before it is pumped out to the body.
    Atrial septum   The wall between the heart’s right and left upper chambers (atria).
    Atrioventricular canal defect   A large hole in the center of the heart where the wall between the atria (upper chambers) joins the wall between the ventricles (lower chambers).  Also, the tricuspid and mitral valves, which normally develop as two separate valves controlling blood flow from the upper chambers to the lower chambers, are instead formed as a single large valve that crosses the defect.
    Atrioventricular (AV) node   The AV node is tissue that specializes in conducting electricity within the heart. It specifically conducts electrical stimuli from the upper chambers (atria) into the lower chambers (ventricles) through pathways called “Bundles of His.”
    Azygous vein   A typically small blood vessel that connects the inferior vena cava, the large vein that returns blood from the lower part of the body, to the superior vena cava, the vessel which returns blood from the upper half of the body to the heart’s right upper chamber (atrium).
    Bare Metal Stent   A metal mesh tube that is used to prop open an artery following angioplasty. The stent is called “bare” because it does not have a drug coating.
    Blood Glucose Blood sugar The main source of energy used by the body. Glucose levels in the body are highly regulated, with levels rising after meals. In patients with diabetes, the body fails to properly regulate blood glucose levels.
    Blood Pressure   The pressure of the blood against the walls of the arteries resulting from two forces. One force is created by the heart as it pumps blood into the arteries and through the circulatory system. The other is the force of the arteries as they resist the blood flow.
    Blood Sugar Blood glucose A term used to refer to the amount of glucose in the blood, the primary source of energy for the body’s cells.
    Body Mass Index BMI

    A numerical measure of body fat based on height and weight. BMI is used to screen for weight categories that may cause health problems. 
    Underweight = <18.5 
    Normal weight = 18.5-24.9 
    Overweight = 25-29.9 
    Obesity = BMI of 30 or greater

    Visit the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute Web site for a BMI calculator.

    A slow heart rate.

    Bundles of His   Specialized heart tissues which convey electrical signals from the upper chambers (atria) to the lower chambers (ventricles), causing the heart muscle to contract, or squeeze tight, in order to pump blood.

    Bypass Surgery

    Coronary bypass surgery

    Coronary artery bypass surgery 

    CABG, or “cabbage”

    A surgical treatment for coronary artery disease in which doctors graft a vein from a leg (or other part of the body) to the coronary artery to enable blood to “bypass” a blockage and continue on to the heart.
    Cardiac   A term derived from Latin meaning heart. 
    Cardiac Catheterization   A procedure where a physician inserts a catheter into an artery in the arm or the leg and threads it to the heart. Catheters are inserted into the arteries for a variety of reasons: they can be used to measure blood pressure in the heart and how much oxygen is in the blood or inject dyes that are used to view the arteries though an angiogram. If the catheter has a balloon on the end, it can be used to open up blockages in the artery in a procedure called percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) or angioplasty. Today, researchers are developing new treatments to repair or replace heart valves and remove blood clots in patients suffering stroke through catheter-based treatments.
    Cardiac Rehabiliatation Cardiac Rehab A supervised, monitored program, generally in a hospital or physician office, designed to help participants resume a healthy lifestyle. Cardiac rehab programs include exercise, education about risk factors, and psychosocial support.
    Cardiomyopathy   A disease that leads to thickening of the heart muscles (described as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy), or to their thinning (described as dilated cardiomyopathy).

    Cardiovascular Disease

    Heart disease

    Cardiovascular disease refers to a broad range of diseases that affect the heart and blood vessels. Among them are coronary artery disease, heart attack, stroke, peripheral artery disease (PAD), renal (kidney) artery disease, heart failure, and high blood pressure. While these conditions may affect different parts of the body, they often share the same underlying cause: atherosclerosis (pronounced ath-row-sklee-rosis), or “hardening” of the arteries.


      The use of electrical shock to the heart to return a dangerous and abnormal heart rhythm to normal.
    Slender tube A slender tube that can be threaded into blood vessels.  During a diagnostic angiogram, x-ray dye flows through the catheter into the arteries.  During angioplasty, a balloon or another device is mounted on the catheter’s tip and guided to the narrowed section of the artery.
    Catheterization   A procedure a catheter (thin, flexible tube) is inserted into an artery, usually at the top of the thigh, and guided it through the arteries to the heart in order to diagnose and treat heart conditions.

    Catheterization Lab

    Cath Lab

    A special operating room equipped especially to enable physicians to guide a catheter, or tiny tube, through the arteries to the point within the arteries at which treatment will be performed.
    Chest Pain Angina Pain in the chest area that can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing or fullness. Chest pain can be a symptom of heart attack.
    Cholesterol   A soft, fat-like, waxy substance found in the bloodstream and in all the body's cells. It’s used for producing cell membranes and some hormones, and it serves other needed bodily functions. Although some cholesterol is essential for the body to function, too much can lead to atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries.

    Comparative Effectiveness Research

     CER Researchers and scientists gather evidence and compare surgeries, medical devices, drugs, tests, or health care services, and weigh the effectiveness, benefits, and potential harms of each of these treatment options against one another. This evidence will then help physicians and patients determine what procedure, medication, or treatment will be the most effective method to treat a condition
    Computed Tomography Scan CT scan A scan that uses x-rays to take detailed cross-section images of the body, including the beating heart and arteries.  
    Congenital   A condition or disease present at birth.
    Contrast Dye   A type of solution given prior to an imaging test (ex. CT scan) that helps to highlight specific structures inside the body. The dye can be injected into the blood vessels, swallowed orally or inserted into the rectum. 
      Abnormal and uncontrollable movement of the arms associated with rheumatic fever.
    Closed heart surgery   Surgical procedures, typically involving minor repairs, during which the heart continues to pump on its own and without the assistance of a heart-lung machine.
    Color Doppler   Technology associated with an echocardiogram machine that shows the moving blood inside the heart and helps doctors determine if blood is flowing in its normal direction.
    Congestive heart failure (CHF)   A condition in which the heart becomes fatigued due to work overload.  Because the heart is unable to pump effectively, fluid (or congestion) builds up in the body and lungs.
    Coronary   Adjective that describes the arteries that supply blood to the heart.
    Coronary sinus   A collection of veins that come together to form a large vessel which  collects blood from the muscular tissue (myocardium) of the heart.

    Coronary Artery Disease


    Coronary heart disease 

    Heart disease 

    Ischemic (is-KEY-mic) heart disease 

    Hardening of the arteries

    A condition in which the arteries that supply blood rich in nutrients and oxygen to the heart become narrowed or blocked by the build-up of fatty deposits or plaque.

    Cutting Balloon   A catheter device with a special balloon tip containing small blades that are activated when the balloon is inflated. Used to treat the buildup of plaque within a previously placed stent, the small blades score the plaque, and then the balloon compresses the fatty matter into the wall of the artery.
    Cyanosis   Bluish discoloration of the skin due to poor oxygen content of the blood. (Well oxygenated blood is red in color; poorly oxygenated blood is blue in color.)
    De Novo Lesion
      Term that describes a segment of plaque that has not previously been treated with angioplasty or stenting.
    Descending aorta   The descending part of the aorta, which delivers blood from the heart to the abdomen and legs.
    Defibrillation   The delivery of a dose of electrical energy to the heart to correct a dangerous and abnormal heart rhythm.
    Dextrocardia   An abnormality in the heart’s development that results in the cardiac apex (the tip of the lower chambers, or ventricles) pointing to the right of the chest rather than the left.
    Dextroversion   A condition in which the heart is pushed (or pulled) to the right side of the chest cavity due to lung disease or other causes.
    Diabetes Mellitus Diabetes A disease in which the body does not produce or properly use insulin, a hormone produced in the pancreas that turns sugar (glucose) and other nutrients into energy. Over time, diabetes can lead to blindness, kidney failure and nerve damage if it is not properly treated.
    Diabetic Neuropathy   A complication caused by diabetes that damages the nerves that allow a person to feel sensations. It commonly affects parts of the body like the toes, feet, legs, hands, arms and others. 
    DiGeorge syndrome
      A genetic disease which affects the normal development of the heart, thymus and parathyroid glands.
    Directional Atherectomy   A procedure in which plaque is removed from the artery (compared to angioplasty, in which plaque is flattened against the artery wall).
      A tear in the inner lining of the artery.
    Doppler Test Doppler ultrasound A test that uses sound waves to evaluate blood flow through the major veins and arteries in the arms, legs and neck. It can be used to show reduced or blocked blood flow in the arteries, a condition that can lead to stroke. The Doppler test can also reveal blood clots or blockages in the leg.
    Double inlet left ventricle   A heart defect in which both the mitral and tricuspid valves open into the left ventricle.  In the normal heart, the tricuspid valve opens into the right ventricle and the mitral valve opens into the left ventricle.
    Double outlet right ventricle   A heart defect in which both great major vessels – the pulmonary artery to the lungs and the aorta, which delivers blood to the body – emerge  from the right ventricle. In the normal heart, the aorta emerges from the left ventricle.
    Down’s syndrome   A birth defect due to abnormalities of the chromosomes.  Many children with Down’s syndrome also have heart defects such as atrioventricular canal defect.
    Drug-eluting Stent
      A tiny, expandable mesh-like metal tube coated with a drug that slowly seeps into the artery wall, preventing the growth of unwanted cells that can block the artery again.
    Duplex Ultrasound Test Vascular ultrasound A test to see how blood is moving through the arteries. It combines traditional ultrasound with Doppler ultrasonography. Doppler ultrasound records sound waves that reflect off moving objects, such as blood, to measure their speed and other aspects of how they flow. It is used to show blockages in the arteries of the neck or legs
    Dysrhythmia   An abnormal heart rhythm.
    Ebstein’s Anomaly (also Ebstein’s Malformation)   In Ebstein’s Anomaly, the tricuspid valve is abnormally developed. (The tricuspid valve is the gate between the heart’s right atrium, or upper chamber, and the right ventricle, or lower chamber.) The abnormally developed valve may hinder blood flow into the right ventricle (a condition called stenosis).  The valve may also fail to close properly, allowing blood to leak backwards (regurgitate) into right atrium.
    Echocardiogram   A graphic outline of the movement of the heart’s valves and chambers. During an echocardiogram test, high-frequency sound waves are emitted from a hand-held wand placed on the chest. This produces pictures of the heart's valves and chambers.  This test does not see the blood vessels that feed the heart because they are usually too small to be seen.
    Ectopia cordis   A birth defect in which the heart is abnormally located.  It may be located outside the rib cage and visible to the eye.
    Ectopic   A term derived from Latin, indicating location other than usual.
    Ejection Fraction EF The percentage of blood that is pumped out of a filled heart chamber with each heartbeat. This measurement is used to measure how well a person’s heart muscle is functioning. A normal EF is 55 to 70 percent. Those with heart muscle damage or problems with their heart valves may have a lower EF.
    Electrocardiogram ECG / EKG A test that checks for problems with the electrical activity in your heart. It can also be used to diagnose certain types of heart attack.  However a normal ECG/EKG in a patient with pain does not completely exclude the possibility of a heart attack. Your cardiologist must weigh several factors in patients with chest pain prior to “ruling out” a heart attack.
    Endocardial cushion defect   Another term for atrioventricular canal defect.
    Endocarditis   Inflammation of the inner layer of the heart, the endocardium.
    Eustacian valve   A small ridge in the wall of the heart’s right atrium (upper chamber).  Before birth, the Eustacian valve directs blood coming from the umbilical vein through the patent foramen ovale (a hole in the wall separating the right and left upper chambers) to the left atrium.
    Exercise testing 
      A test to assess heart rhythm and function while it is under stress, such as during exercise on a treadmill or bicycle, or when certain medications are delivered to cause simulated stress on the heart.
    Failure to Thrive   Failure to grow as expected.
    First degree heart (or AV) block   A delay in the time it takes for the electrical impulse that causes the heart to beat to get from the atria (upper chambers) to the ventricles (lower chambers.)
    Flouroscopy   The use of x-ray equipment and contrast dye in the cardiac catheterization lab to view real-time moving pictures of the heart and coronary arteries.
    Foot Exam   A comprehensive examination of the foot usually given to people with diabetes. The exam helps to catch foot problems early and reduce the risk of infection, ulcer, deformities and amputation.
    Foramen ovale   A hole in the wall between the heart’s right and left atria (upper chambers). The foramen ovale is present in all unborn children and remains open after birth for variable periods of time.
    Gangrene   The decay and death of tissue that occurs when the blood supply to the affected body part is cut off.
    Guidewire   A long and flexible fine metal wire used to place a catheter.

    Heart Attack

    Acute myocardial infarction 



    Damage to or death of heart tissue that results when blood flow to the heart is blocked by a build up of plaque or fatty deposits in the coronary arteries.

    Heart block

      A delay in the transmission of the heart’s electrical impulses from the atria (upper chambers) to the ventricles (lower chambers.)
    Heart Failure   A condition in which the heart loses its ability to keep up with the amount of blood needed to supply the body and the other organs . It can occur when chronic conditions such as high blood pressure leave the heart too weak to pump the amount of blood the body needs. Or, it can occur when the heart muscle is damaged, such as during a heart attack. Because the blood is not being delivered efficiently to the body, fluid can build up in the lungs and other parts of the body.
    Heart-lung machine   A device used during open heart surgery that takes on the role of the heart and lungs in order to keep blood oxygenated and moving through the body.  With a heart-lung machine, the blood circulation bypasses the heart and lungs, allowing surgical procedures to be performed on those organs.
    Heart Murmur   An abnormal, extra sound during the heartbeat cycle that is made by blood moving through the heart and its valves.  Heart murmurs may or may not be abnormal.
    Hemoglobin (Hgb)   Protein particles in the blood that carry oxygen to the body’s cells.
    High-Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol HDL cholesterol Known as the “good cholesterol,” HDL transports cholesterol from the tissues of the body to the liver so it can be removed from the body. High HDL cholesterol may lower the risk of coronary artery disease.
    Hypercalcemia   A high level of calcium in the blood.
      A high level of potassium in the blood.
      A low level of calcium in the blood
      A low level of potassium in the blood.
    Hypoplastic   Lack of development or underdevelopment, resulting in a smaller than normal structure.
    Hypoplastic left heart syndrome   A birth defect in which the left side of the heart is poorly developed, resulting in a small mitral valve, left ventricle and aortic valve.
    Hypertension   Also called high blood pressure.  Blood pressure is the force of blood pressing against the inside of the arteries when the heart beats (systolic pressure) and when the heart is at rest (diastolic pressure).
    Infarction   Death of tissue caused by the loss of adequate blood supply.  The death of tissue in the muscles of the heart is referred to as myocardial infarction (heart attack).
    Inferior vena cava   The large vein that carries blood from the lower half of the body back into the heart.
    In-Stent Restenosis Restenosis

    Re-narrowing or obstruction of an artery because of an overgrowth of cells within the stent.
    Insufficiency, also called regurgitation   A backward leakage of blood within the chambers of the heart which occurs when a heart valve does not close properly.
    Intermittent Claudication   Cramping in the leg or leg pain that occurs during exercise, especially walking. This pain is caused by insufficient blood flow to the legs and is the most prominent symptom of peripheral artery disease.
    Intravenous   Delivering medication through a needle directly into the veins.
      A shortfall of oxygen in the heart muscle resulting from inadequate blood flow to the heart.  Ischemia goes away once blood flow is restored.
    Ischemic Nephropathy   A condition that occurs when there is not enough blood flow to the kidneys.
    Junctional rhythm   A heart rhythm generating from the atrioventricular (AV) node.
    Junctional tachycardia   An abnormally fast heart rate generated from the atrioventricular node.
    Kawasaki Disease   A disease in which the body’s immune system attacks a range of the body’s own tissues, including the blood vessels supplying blood to the heart (the coronary arteries) and the heart muscles.
    Laser angioplasty   A technique where a catheter with a laser on the tip is inserted into an artery. The laser emits pulsating beams of light that vaporize plaque buildup in the artery.
    Late-Stent Thrombosis   A blood clot that forms inside a drug-eluting stent.
    Left atrium   One of the heart’s two upper “collecting” chambers and the one which receives blood returning from the lungs. Four pulmonary veins carrying blood from the lungs drain into the left atrium.
    Left ventricle   One of the heart’s two lower “pumping” chambers and the one responsible for pumping blood to the body.

    A segment of plaque that narrows or blocks the artery.
    Low-Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol LDL cholesterol Known as the “bad cholesterol,” fatty substances that can clog arteries and increase the chance of developing heart disease or having a heart attack.
      The interior of a blood vessel through which blood flows.
    Magnetic Resonance Angiography Scan MRA scan A scan that provides pictures of blood vessels inside the body using a magnetic field and also emits pulses of radio wave energy to find areas of restricted blood flow in the vessels.
    Major Adverse Cardiac Events (MACE)   Term that encompasses the most severe medical complications associated with a treatment of the heart or blood vessels.  Typically includes some combination of death, death from heart disease, heart attack and need for bypass surgery or a repeat coronary intervention.
    Malposition of the heart   A defect in which the heart is not positioned normally in the chest due to its abnormal development before birth.
    Marfan syndrome   A genetic disorder affecting the body’s connective tissue, including connective tissue in the heart and blood vessels.  Marfan syndrome may affect the wall of the aorta, causing it to stretch, weaken and possibly tear, as well as the heart valves, preventing them from closing properly and thus allowing blood to flow backward. 

    Medical Therapy

    Drug therapy

    The use of medications to control symptoms of coronary artery disease.


      An abnormal position of the heart in which it occupies a more central position within the chest.
    Mitral valve   The valve at the junction of the left atrium and left ventricle.  The mitral valve keeps blood flowing in one direction through the left side of the heart.
    Myocardial Infarction
    Heart Attack The medical term for heart attack that describes the irreversible damage to heart muscle when blood and oxygen is cut off, usually because of a blood clot that blocks the artery.
      Inflammation of the heart muscles.
      Heart Muscle
    Obesity   Above normal body weight, usually considered to be 20 percent or more above a person’s recommended weight for height and age. Visit the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute Web site for more information on finding your healthy weight.
      Complete blockage of a blood vessel.
    Open heart surgery   A surgical procedure in which the chest is opened to expose the heart, the blood circulation is maintained through the body using a heart-lung machine and the heart is stopped.  In addition to pumping blood to the body, the heart-lung machine removes carbon dioxide from the blood and adds oxygen to it.
    Oxygen de-saturation   A condition in which blood is not as fully loaded, or saturated, with oxygen as it should be. Oxygen de-saturation may occur when lung disease is present or when oxygen-poor blood returning from the body to the right side of the heart crosses over to the left side of the heart and contaminates well oxygenated blood that has just returned from the lungs.
    Oxygen saturation   The extent of which the blood (and more specifically, the hemoglobin) is loaded, or saturated, with oxygen. Normal oxygen saturation of the blood leaving the heart for the body is 95 to 100 percent. The oxygen saturation of the blood returning to the heart after delivering oxygen to the body is 75 percent.
    P-wave   In an electrocardiogram (ECG), a wave form representing electrical activity in the heart’s upper chambers.
    Pacemaker   Tissues in the heart (normally the sinus node) which generate the heart beat.
    Palpitation   The sensation of abnormal heart rhythm, perhaps due to irregular heart beat or a fast heart rate.
    Patent   Describes a blood vessel that is wide open and through which blood is free to flow.
    Patent ductus arteriosus    A blood vessel present in all unborn children which, before birth, conveys blood from the main pulmonary artery to the aorta. (There is little blood flow to the lungs before birth when the baby begins breathing on his or her own.) The patent ductus arteriosus closes soon after birth in the majority of children.  If it does not close, it provides a conduit for blood to travel from the aorta to the pulmonary arteries, causing an increase in blood flow to the lungs.
    Patent foramen ovale (PFO)   A small opening in the atrial septum, the wall that separates the right and left atria.  The PFO, present in all unborn children, allows blood to flow from the right to the left atrium. In most children, it closes soon after birth. However, if the PFO does not close after birth, blood may continue to go from the left atrium to the right atrium, instead of flowing normally into the right ventricle.
    Percutaneous   Describes a procedure that is performed through a small nick in the skin rather than a surgical incision.
    Percutaneous Coronary Intervention Interventional procedure Term that encompasses all treatments accomplished with a cathether that is inserted through a small cut in the skin and threaded to a narrowed section of a coronary artery.  Includes angioplasty, stenting, atherectomy (in which plaque is ground out), laser and radiation therapies.
    Pericardial effusion   Accumulation of fluid in the pericardium, the thin sac or membrane that surrounds the heart.
    Pericarditis   Inflammation of the pericardium, the thin sac or membrane surrounding the heart.
    Pericardium   The thin sac, or membrane, that surrounds and covers the heart.

    Peripheral Artery Disease


    Arterial disease

    Peripheral artery disease occurs when blood supplies to the feet, legs, kidneys, stomach, and arms is restricted, often by a build-up of fatty deposits, or a blockage, inside the arteries.
    Plaque Fatty Deposits A deposit of fat, cholesterol, calcium and scar tissue that develops in the artery wall and can interfere with blood flow.
    Plan Year   A plan year is the 12-month period of benefits coverage under a group health plan. For individual health insurance policies it is call a policy year.
    Polysplenia   A congenital disease in which many small, non-functional accessory spleens are present.
    Positron Emission Tomography Scan   A plan year is the 12-month period of benefits coverage under a group health plan. For individual health insurance policies it is call a policy year.
    Post-coarcectomy hypertension.    High blood pressure sometimes seen after the repair of coarctation of the aorta.
    Post-coarcectomy syndrome   A condition involving the digestive, or gastrointestinal, system that may be seen after the repair of coarctation of the aorta.
    Post-pericardiotomy syndrome   Inflammation of the pericardium after heart surgery that leads to fluid accumulation.
    Premature atrial contraction   An early beat of the heart originating from the heart’s upper chambers, or atria.
    Premature ventricular contraction   An early beat of the heart originating from the lower chambers, or ventricles.
    Pulmonary   A term from Latin referring to the lungs.
    Pulmonary artery   The blood vessel which carries blood from the heart’s right ventricle to the lungs. The main pulmonary artery branches into right and left pulmonary arteries, which deliver blood to the right and left lungs.
    Pulmonary valve   A valve at the junction of the right ventricle and the pulmonary artery which keeps blood flowing out of the heart, into the pulmonary artery and on to the lungs.
    Pulmonary vascular obstructive disease   Disease resulting from damage to the blood vessels of the lungs and leading to high vascular resistance. The condition may be reversed if the cause is removed – or it may be permanent.
    Pulmonary veins   The four veins which carry oxygenated blood from the lungs to the heart’s left upper chamber (atrium).
    QRS-waves   In an electrocardiogram (ECG), a wave complex that represents electrical activity in the heart’s lower chambers, or ventricles.
    Radiation Therapy Brachytherapy A treatment for cancer where radioactive material is placed directly in the body, targeting a specific area. Radiation therapy can cause heart damage by directly damaging the heart muscle, injuring blood vessels, causing inflammation of the pericardium (the sac surrounding the heart) and causing heart valve damage.
    Radionuclide Scanning   A test that produces pictures of internal parts of the body. The person is given an injection or swallows a small amount of radioactive material and a machine called a scanner then measures the radioactivity in certain organs. The test helps to evaluate how well a certain organ is working, such as the heart. 
    Rashkind atrial septostomy   A non-surgical procedure performed to enlarge the hole in the atrial septum (the wall separating the heart’s two upper chambers).
    Regurgitation, also termed insufficiency   Backward leakage of blood within the chambers of the heart which occurs when a heart valve does not close properly.  

    Renal Artery Disease

    Renovascular disease 

    Renovascular hypertension 

    Ischemic nephropathy 

    Renal artery stenosis

    Renal artery disease occurs when blood flow to the kidneys is restricted. It often results due to the build-up of plaque inside the arteries that supply blood to the kidneys.

    Renal Artery Stenosis   The narrowing of the artery that supplies blood to the kidney.



    The term that describes the re-narrowing or re-blockage of an artery after it has been opened via angioplasty. Drug-eluting stents, tiny metal scaffolds coated with medications that are released over time, are designed to prevent the build-up of scar tissue (and re-narrowing of the artery) at the point where angioplasty occurred.
    Renovascular Disease   A condition that causes narrowing or blockages of the renal arteries or veins, the blood vessels that take blood to and from the kidneys.
    Renovascular Hypertension   High blood pressure due to the narrowing of the arteries that carry blood to the kidneys.
      Any treatment that re-establishes brisk blood flow through a narrowed artery, including bypass surgery, angioplasty, stenting and other interventional procedures.
    Rheumatic fever   A disease affecting the joints, skin and heart that is caused by streptococcal (strep) infection.
    Right ventricle   One of two lower “pumping” chambers of the heart.  The right ventricle pumps blood to the lungs (pulmonary circulation) where it gives up carbon dioxide and other wastes and picks up oxygen.
    Right atrium   One of the two upper “collecting” chambers of the heart. The right atrium receives oxygen-poor blood returning from the body via the major veins, including the inferior vena cava, superior vena cava and the coronary sinus.
    Rotational Atherectomy   A procedure that uses a tiny rotating cutting device to open a narrowed artery and improve blood flow to, or from, the heart.
    Second degree heart (or AV) block   Abnormality in the conduction of heart beats from the upper (atria) to the lower (ventricles) chambers of the heart: Some beats are transmitted from the atria to the ventricles and some are not.
    Sinus tachycardia   A heart rhythm with a higher than normal rate of impulses originating from the sinoatrial node, tissues located in the right atrium that generate electrical impulses and serve as the heart’s pacemaker.
    Sinus node   A collection of specialized tissue in the heart’s right upper chamber which generates electrical impulses that cause the heart to contract and force blood through its chambers and into the body.
    Statins   Medication prescribed to help reduce cholesterol levels.
    Stenosis   Narrowing.
      A tiny, expandable mesh-like metal tube implanted in the blood vessel to prop it open after angioplasty.


    Inserting or implanting a stent

    A procedure in which an expandable mesh stent – a tiny “scaffold” made of medical-grade stainless steel – is inserted via a catheter at the site in the artery where a blockage has been opened. Some stents are called drug-eluting or coated stents because they release medication over time. The medication helps keep new tissues from growing and re-blocking the artery.


      A vertical surgical incision of the chest made to provide access the heart.
    Stethoscope   A medical instrument that is used to listen to low volume bodily sounds such as the heartbeat and intestinal and lung sounds.


    Brain attack

    Stroke occurs when a blood clot or blockage in the carotid artery stops blood flow to the brain or when a blood vessel in the brain breaks, interrupting the flow of blood to a part of the brain. In either case, when blood is cut off to the brain, cells die and damage occurs.
    Sudden Cardiac Arrest SCA An occurrence where the heart suddenly and unexpectedly stops beating. SCA may either be the result of “electrical” problems with the heart, or  a heart attack, which results from “plumbing” problems (blockages in the coronary arteries) that damage the electrical system in the heart.
    Supraventricular tachycardia
      An abnormally fast heart rhythm resulting in no symptoms or in a sensation of fast heart beating and possibly weakness, dizziness and other symptoms.
    Subacute bacterial endocarditis   Bacterial inflammation of the lining layer of the heart (endocardium).
    Superior vena cava   A major vein that returns blood from the head and upper extremities to the heart.
    Symptoms   A noticeable body ailment, such as chest pain, headache, rapid weight loss, etc.
    T-waves   In an electrocardiogram (ECG), a wave pattern that represents electrical activity when the heart is at rest.
      A too rapid heart rate.
    Tetralogy of Fallot   In Tetralogy of Fallot, the pathway through which the blood leaves the right lower chamber (ventricle) and the pulmonary valve are small, making it hard for blood to pass through.  In addition, there is a large hole in the wall between the right and left ventricles, called a ventricle septal defect, or VSD. 
    Third degree heart (or AV) block   An abnormality in the conduction of electrical impulses from the atria to the ventricles, causing the heart’s upper and lower chambers to beat independently of each other.
    Thoracotomy   A surgical incision on the side of the chest to provide access to the heart.
    Thrombectomy   A medical procedure to remove a blood clot performed directly in the cavity of a blood vessel using a catheter.
      The formation of a blood clot inside a blood vessel that blocks the flow of blood to the circulatory system.
    Blood clot A blood clot.
    Transesophageal Echocardiogram TEE A test performed in patients where a traditional echocardiogram may not have provided enough information. The echo transducer, a device that produces high frequency sound waves, is placed in the esophagus (food pipe) to look closely at the heart’s valves and chambers and check for heart conditions.
    Transposition of the great arteries (or vessels)   A congenital heart defect in which the locations from which the two great arteries – the aorta and the pulmonary artery – emerge from the heart are switched.
    Treadmill test Stress test An exercise test that is performed on a treadmill for people with suspected heart disease. The test records heart rate and blood pressure. Sticky electrodes are attached to the chest, shoulder and hip and are connected to a machine that records heart rate and blood pressure. 
    Tricuspid valve   A valve that controls the flow of blood from the heart’s right atrium to the right ventricle.
    Triglycerides   The chemical form in which most fat exists in the body and in food.
    Truncus arteriosus   A congenital heart disease in which a single vessel emerges from the heart, then branches into a pulmonary artery and an aorta.  This single vessel, called the truncus arteriosus, emerges from a hole in the wall between the two ventricles, called a ventricular septal defect (VSD).
    Two (2)-D echocardiography   A feature of the echocardiogram machine which allows imaging of the heart structure and function.
    Ultrasound Test Sonography A procedure that transmits high-frequency sound waves through body tissues. These sound waves create echoes that are turned into video or photographic images of the organs and internal structures in the body. Ultrasounds are used to diagnosis a variety of diseases and conditions.
    Valve   A door-like structure in the heart that keeps blood flowing in one direction and prevents it from flowing backwards. There are four valves in the heart: tricuspid, mitral, pulmonary and aortic.
    Valvular Heart Disease   Any abnormality or dysfunction in one or more of the heart valves.
    Valvuloplasty   A procedure to open a stiff heart valve. A thin tube (catheter) that has a small deflated balloon at the tip is inserted through the skin in the groin area into a blood vessel, and then is threaded up to the opening of the narrowed heart valve. The balloon is inflated, which stretches the valve open.
    Vascular Resistance   The resistance to blood flow generated by the tone of the blood vessels that must be overcome in order to push blood through the circulatory system. “Pulmonary” vascular resistance is generated by the blood vessels of the lungs. “Systemic” vascular resistance is generated by the blood vessels of the body. 
    Vascular Specialist   A physician that specializes in conditions and diseases of the blood vessels.
    Ventricular fibrillation (VF)   Abnormal, uncoordinated contractions of the heart’s ventricles due to significant disease of the ventricular chambers.  VF is lethal if it continues for even a short time.  

    Ventricular septal defect (VSD)   A hole in the wall between the heart’s two lower chambers, or ventricles.
    Ventricular tachycardia   An abnormally fast heart beat that can be life threatening.
    William’s syndrome   A genetic disorder affecting the arteries and veins that contributes to abnormalities in the heart and blood vessels.
    Wolf-Parkinson-White syndrome   An abnormal electrical pathway between the upper and lower chambers of the heart that leads to abnormal heart rhythm.