Glossary

Ablation

An ablation is the removal or destruction of tissue, leading to a disruption of an electric pathway in the heart.

Aerobic Exercise

Aerobic exercise is exercise which raises the heart rate and can both improve your functional ability and reduce symptoms of heart disease. It is repetitive and involves the large muscle groups. Examples of this are walking, swimming, and cycling.

Anemia

Anemia is a condition characterised by a red blood cell deficiency. Anemia thus reduces the amount of oxygen available to the body.

Angina (or angina pectoris)

Angina is discomfort or pressure, typically in the chest, caused by a temporarily inadequate blood supply to the heart muscle, usually due to atherosclerosis, or blockages in the arteries. It is possible for this discomfort to also be felt in the neck, jaw, or arms.

Angioplasty

An angioplasty is an invasive procedure, during which a customised balloon catheter with a small balloon tip is guided to the point of narrowing in the artery. Once in place, the balloon is inflated to compress the fatty matter and plaque into the artery wall and stretch the artery open to increase blood flow to the heart.

Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme Inhibitors (ACE inhibitors)

ACE inhibitors are a category of drugs used in the treatment of high blood pressure and heart failure. They block a specific enzyme (ACE or angiotensin-converting enzyme) that retains salt in the kidney and can cause heart and blood pressure problems, and have been shown to decrease the fatality risk from a heart attack and to improve heart function.

Antiarrhythmic

An antiarrhythmic is a drug that is used to treat abnormal heart rhythms.

Anticoagulant (blood-thinner)

An anticoagulant is a type of medication that prevents blood from clotting; used for people at risk for stroke or blood clots.

Antihypertensive

An antihypertensive is a medication that is used to treat high blood pressure.

Antioxidant

An antioxidant is a group of vitamins such as A, C, and E, that may help to limit the cellular damage caused by free radicals (which are released when tissue is being injured, such as during the progression of heart disease).

Antrioventricular (AV) Node

An AV node is a group of special cells located near the centre of the heart that helps to regulate the heart rhythm. Here, the electrical current slows for a moment before going on to the ventricles.

Aorta

The aorta is a large artery leaving the heart. All blood pumped out of the left ventricle travels through the aorta on its way to other parts of the body

Aortic Valve

The aortic valve is the last valve through which the blood passes before it enters the aorta or main blood vessel of the body. The valve's role is to prevent blood from leaking back into the left ventricle from the aorta after it has been ejected from the heart.

Aortic Valve Repair

Aortic valve repair is necessary when the aortic valve (the last valve in the heart through which the blood travels prior to circulating in the body) is leaking or is too tight. A surgeon may be able to repair the valve rather than replace it.

Aortic Valve Replacement

An aortic valve replacement is necessary when the aortic valve is diseased, as it can become either stenotic (too narrow) or insufficient (leaky). In these cases, the aortic valve may need to be replaced with either a prosthetic or human valve. There are other types of valves used such as from a pig or cow; the type of valve replacement depends on the person's case.

Arteries

Arteries are blood vessels that carry blood away from the heart.

Atherosclerosis

Atherosclerosis is the process whereby abnormal deposits of lipids, cholesterol, and plaque build up, leading to coronary artery disease and other cardiovascular problems.

Atria

The atria are the upper chambers of the heart. (Atrium refers to one chamber of the heart).

Atrial Fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation is an irregular heart rhythm in which many impulses begin and spread through the atria. The resulting rhythm is disorganised, rapid, and irregular, and the atria are not able to fully empty their contents into the ventricles.

Atrial Flutter

Atrial flutter is a regular heart rhythm in which many impulses begin and spread through the atria. The resulting rhythm is organised, but so rapid that the atria are not able to fully empty their contents into the ventricles.

Atrial Septal Defect

An atrial septal defect is an abnormal hole located in the walls between the two atria of the heart. Tiny defects called patent foramen ovale are present in up to 30% of people and are of no consequence except in unusual circumstances, but may be implicated in strokes. Moderate size to larger size defects should be corrected and may require heart surgery.

Balloon Angioplasty (Percutaneous Transluminal Coronary Angioplasty or PTCA)

A balloon angioplasty is a procedure used to clean out clogged heart arteries. A specially designed balloon catheter with a small balloon tip is guided to the point of narrowing in the artery. Once in place, the balloon is inflated to compress the fatty matter and plaque into the artery wall and stretch the artery open to increase blood flow to the heart.

Beta-Blocker

A beta blocker is a drug that slows heart rate, lowers blood pressure, controls angina, and protects patients with prior heart attacks from future heart attacks. It increases the time that the heart can fill with blood, and therefore decreases the amount of work the heart needs to do.

Bicuspid Valve

A bicuspid valve is a valve with two leaflets (cusps) instead of three.

Biopsy

A biopsy is a removal and analysis of a tissue sample.

Blood Pressure

Blood pressure is the force exerted in the arteries by blood as it circulates. It is divided into systolic (when the heart contracts) and diastolic (when the heart is filling) pressures.

Body Mass Index (BMI)

BMI is a number that reflects body weight adjusted for height.

Bradycardia

Bradycardia is a slow heart rate.

Calcium-Channel Blocker

A calcium-channel blocker is a drug that reduces spasm of the blood vessels, lowers blood pressure, and controls angina; acts by selectively blocking the uptake of calcium by the cells.

Cardiac Biopsy

A cardiac biopsy is an invasive procedure to obtain a small piece of heart muscle tissue that is sent to a laboratory for analysis.

Cardiac Catheterisation

Cardiac catheterisation is a heart procedure used to diagnose heart disease. During the procedure, a catheter (inserted into an artery in your arm or leg) is guided to your heart, contrast dye is injected, and X-rays of the coronary arteries, heart chambers, and valves are taken. This procedure also measures the pressures in the heart chambers to help diagnose the causes of heart failure and to see the significance of valve problems.

Cardiac Output

Cardiac output is the amount of blood pumped by the heart each minute.

Cardiac Rehabilitation

Cardiac rehabilitation is a structured program of education, exercise, and activity guided toward lifestyle modification, increasing functional capabilities, and peer support.

Cardiologist

A cardiologist is a doctor specialising in the diagnosis and treatment of heart disease.

Cardiovascular

Cardiovascular is a term referring to the heart and blood vessels.

Cardioversion

Cardioversion is a procedure used to convert an irregular heart rhythm to a normal heart rhythm by applying electric shock or using certain medications.

Catheter

A catheter is a slender, hollow, flexible tube.

Chest X-ray (CXR or chest film)

A chest x-ray is when a very small amount of radiation is used to produce an image of the structures of the chest (heart, lungs, and bones) on film.

Congenital Heart Defects

Congenital heart defects are heart defects present at birth.

Congestive Heart Failure (CHF)

Congestive heart failure is a condition where the heart muscle weakens and can't pump blood efficiently throughout the body.

Coronary Arteries

Coronary arteries are a network of blood vessels that branch off the aorta to supply the heart muscle with oxygen-rich blood. There are two main coronary arteries: the right and the left. The left splits into two arteries called the circumflex and the left anterior descending (LAD) arteries, thus, the heart is often considered to have three major coronary arteries.

Coronary Artery Disease (atherosclerosis)

Coronary artery disease is a build-up of fatty material in the wall of the coronary artery that causes narrowing of the artery.

Cyanosis

Cyanosis is a blue tint to the skin, indicating the body is not receiving enough oxygen-rich blood.

Defibrillator

A defibrillator is a machine that is used to administer an electric shock to the heart in order to re-establish normal heart rhythm.

Diabetes

Diabetes is a condition in which the body does not produce or respond to insulin (a hormone produced by your body, which allows blood sugar or glucose into your body's cells for energy).

Diuretic

A diuretic is a drug that enables the kidneys to rid the body of excess fluid. A diuretic may be referred to as a "water pill".

Echocardiography

Echocardiography is an imaging procedure that creates a graphic outline of the heart's movement, valves and chambers using high-frequency sound waves that come from a hand-held wand placed on your chest.

Electrocardiogram (ECG)

An ECG records on graph paper the electrical activity of the heart using small electrode patches attached to the skin.

Electrophysiology (EP) Study

An EP study is a test that evaluates the electrical activity within your heart. This test is used to help your doctor find out the cause of your rhythm disturbance and the best treatment for you. During the test, your doctor may safely reproduce your abnormal heart rhythm, then give you medications to see which one controls it best.

Endocarditis

Endocarditis is an infection of the inner lining of the heart or its valves. It is usually caused by bacteria and is more likely to occur in people who have heart valve defects or have had heart surgery to treat valve disease.

Exercise Stress Test

An Exercise Stress Test is a test used to provide information about how the heart responds to stress. It usually involves walking on a treadmill or pedaling a stationary bike at increasing levels of difficulty, while the electrocardiogram, heart rate, and blood pressure are monitored. If you are not able to do activity, medications may be used to "stress" the heart.

Heart Attack (myocardial infraction)

A heart attack is a lack of blood supply to the heart caused by a blood clot in the coronary artery. This results in permanent damage to the heart muscle and the severity of damage varies from normal, mild, to severe.

Heart Failure (congestive heart failure or CHF)

Heart failure is a progressive condition where the heart muscle weakens and cannot pump blood efficiently. Fluid accumulates in the lungs, hands, ankles, or other parts of the body and is often associated with shortness of breath.

Heart Lung Bypass Machine

A heart lung bypass machine is a machine that oxygenates the blood and circulates it throughout the body during surgery.

Heart Valves

The heart valves help to maintain one-way blood flow through the heart. There are four valves in the heart: the tricuspid and the mitral valve, which lie between the atria and ventricles, and the pulmonic and aortic valves, which lie between the ventricles and the blood vessels leaving the heart.

Holter Monitor

A Holter monitor is a small recorder (monitor) that is attached to electrodes on your chest. It records the heart's rhythm continuously for 24 hours as you go about your normal activities. After the monitor is removed the heart's beats are counted and analysed by a technician with the aid of a computer. Your doctor can learn if you are having irregular heartbeats, what kind they are, how long they last, as well as what may cause them.

Hypertension

A Holter monitor is a small recorder (monitor) that is attached to electrodes on your chest. It records the heart's rhythm continuously for 24 hours as you go about your normal activities. After the monitor is removed the heart's beats are counted and analysed by a technician with the aid of a computer. Your doctor can learn if you are having irregular heartbeats, what kind they are, how long they last, as well as what may cause them.

Hypotension

Low blood pressure.

Idiopathic

When the cause of a disease or process is not known.

Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD)

An Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD) is a surgically inserted electronic device that constantly monitors your heart rate and rhythm. When it detects a very fast, abnormal heart rhythm, it delivers electrical energy to the heart muscle to help the heart to beat in a normal rhythm again.

Leaflets

Leaflets are thin pieces of tissue or flaps that make up a valve.

Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD)

A left ventricular assist device (LVAD) is a mechanical device placed in people with end-stage heart disease whose hearts do not pump a sufficient amount of blood to keep the body healthy (heart failure). The device aids in the pumping function of the blood. Oftentimes, this is used as a step before heart transplant.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

An MRI is a test that produces high-quality still and moving pictures of the heart and large blood vessels. It uses large magnets and radio-frequency waves to produce pictures of the body's internal structures. No X-ray exposure is involved. Furthermore, an MRI acquires information about the heart as it is beating, creating moving images of the heart throughout its pumping cycle.

Mammary Artery (thoracic artery)

A mammary artery is an artery located in the chest wall and used for coronary artery bypass surgery. Most commonly kept intact at its origin, and sewn to the coronary artery beyond the site of blockage. If the surgeon removes the mammary artery from its origin to use as a bypass graft, it is then called a "free" mammary artery bypass graft.

Mechanical Valve

In people who require heart valve replacement surgery, it is sometimes desirable to implant a mechanical valve. A mechanical valve is made of artificial parts and functions similarly to a normal heart valve. People who have a mechanical valve implanted must take blood thinners lifelong to prevent blood clots from forming on it.

Minimally Invasive Heart Surgery

Minimally invasive heart surgery is a technique developed to reduce the trauma associated with open heart surgery. The smaller incision that is used may allow the patient to heal more rapidly. It also helps to reduce the pain and discomfort associated with heart surgery.

Mitral Regurgitation

Mitral regurgitation is a condition where blood in the left ventricle leaks back through the mitral valve into the left atrium and can back up into the lungs. The mitral valve normally opens to allow blood to flow into the left ventricle and then closes, preventing blood from backing up into the atrium during the ventricle's contraction. This may be associated with mitral valve prolapse or can develop due to other forms of heart disease.

Mitral Stenosis

Mitral stenosis is a condition where the mitral valve becomes narrowed (stenotic), preventing the easy flow of blood from the left atrium into the left ventricle.

Mitral Valve

The mitral valve is the valve that lies between the left atrium and left ventricle (main pumping chamber of the heart). This valve allows blood to flow from the left atrium into the left ventricle and then prevents the back flow of blood into the left atrium during ventricular contraction.

Obesity

Obesity is excess fat due to eating more calories than used. It is usually defined by having a body mass index (BMI-see above) of 25 or higher.

Occlusion

An occlusion is a blockage.

Oedema

Oedema is swelling; the accumulation of fluids, usually in the hands, feet, legs or abdomen.

Pacemaker

A small electronic device which is implanted under the skin and sends electrical impulses to the heart muscle to maintain a suitable heart rate and to prevent slow heart rates.

Palpitation

A palpitation is a fluttering sensation in the chest that is often related to a missed heart beat or rapid heartbeat.

Plaque

Plaque are deposits of fats, inflammatory cells, proteins, and calcium material along the lining of arteries seen in atherosclerosis. The plaque builds up and narrows the artery.

Platelets

Platelets are components of blood that aid in clotting.

Pulmonary hypertension

Pulmonary hypertension is high blood pressure of the pulmonary arteries.

Pulmonary oedema

Pulmonary oedema is an abnormal swelling of tissue in the lungs due to fluid build-up.

Pulse Rate

The pulse rate is the number of heartbeats per minute. The resting pulse rate for an average adult is between 50 and 90 beats per minute.

Radial Artery

The radial artery is a blood vessel that carries oxygen-rich blood in the forearm. You can feel the pulse of the radial artery by feeling the inside of the wrist underneath the base of the thumb.

Regurgitation

Regurgitation is leaking or backward flow.

Restenosis

Restenosis is the closing or narrowing of an artery that was previously opened by a procedure such as angioplasty.

Rheumatic Fever

Rheumatic fever is an inflammatory reaction (usually in response to a strep infection) that can involve the heart and heart valves.

Rheumatic Valve Disease

Rheumatic valve disease is a consequence of rheumatic fever. It is a thickening and stenosis of one or more of the heart valves and often requires surgery to repair or replace the affected valve/s.

Risk Factor (for heart disease)

Risk factors are traits people have that are linked to the development and progression of coronary artery disease. There are modifiable risk factors -- related to lifestyle and may be changed or controlled -- and non-modifiable risk factors -- related to ageing and genetics and cannot be changed.

Saphenous Vein

The saphenous vein is a vein located in the leg/s and used for coronary artery bypass surgery. It is surgically removed from the leg and sewn from the aorta to the coronary artery beyond the site of blockage.

Septum

The septum is the muscular wall separating the right and left sides of the heart.

Sestamibi Exercise Stress Test

Sestamibi Exercise Stress Tests are diagnostic studies, which use a small amount of radioactive tracer, injected into the body, and a special camera, which detects the radiation, to produce a computer image of the heart. Combined with exercise, the study can help determine if there is adequate blood flow to the heart at rest, as compared with activity.

Sinoatrial Node (SA or sinus node)

A sinoatrial node is a specialised cluster of cells in the heart that initiates the heartbeat. Known as the heart's natural pacemaker.

Stenosis

Stenosis is a narrowing or restriction of a blood vessel or valve that reduces blood flow.

Stent

A stent is a small stainless steel mesh tube, inserted after angioplasty, that acts as a scaffold to provide support inside the coronary artery.

Sternum (breastbone)

The sternum is a bone in the chest separated during open heart surgery.

Stroke

A stroke is a sudden loss of brain function due to decreased blood flow to an area of the brain.

Syncope

A syncope is a fainting episode.

Tachycardia

Tachycardia is a rapid heartbeat, i.e. a heart rate above 90 beats per minute.

Thrombus

Thrombus is a blood clot.

Transesophageal Echocardiogram (TEE)

TEE is an invasive imaging procedure that creates a picture of the heart's movement, valves, and chambers using high frequency sound waves that come from a small transducer passed down your throat. TEE provides clear images of the heart's movement because the transducer is close to the heart and limits interference from air in the lungs. Echo is often combined with Doppler ultrasound and color Doppler to evaluate blood flow across the heart's valves.

Tricuspid Valve

The tricuspid valve is the valve that separates the right atrium from the right ventricle and prevents blood from flowing back into the right atrium during contraction of the ventricle.

Triglyceride

A triglyceride is a fat found in the blood. Most fat found in the diet and body is in the form of triglycerides. It is often associated with a high-carbohydrate diet and if elevated, is a risk factor for heart disease.

Unstable Angina

Unstable angina is a type of chest pain which is considered an acute coronary syndrome. It may be a new symptom or a change from stable angina. It may come more often, occur at rest, or feel more severe. Although this angina can be relieved with oral medications, it is unstable and may progress to a heart attack. Usually medical treatment or a procedure is required to prevent a heart attack from developing.

Valve

Valves are structures that maintain the proper direction of blood flow in the heart. There are four valves in the heart: the tricuspid and the mitral valve, which lie between the atria and ventricles, and the pulmonic and aortic valves, which lie between the ventricles and the blood vessels leaving the heart. 

Valvuloplasty

A valvuloplasty is a procedure to improve valve function. Balloon valvuloplasty is when a balloon is used to at the time of cardiac catheterisation to increase the area of a narrowed valve.

Vasodilator

A vasodilator is a type of medication that relaxes and dilates the blood vessels, allowing increased blood flow.

Veins

Veins are blood vessels that carry blood toward the heart. This blood is usually deoxygenated, and goes back to the heart to get oxygen.

Ventricles

Ventricles are the lower, pumping chambers of the heart. The heart has two ventricles - the right and left ventricle.

Ventricular Fibrillation

A ventricular fibrillation is an erratic, disorganized firing of impulses from the ventricles. The ventricles quiver and are unable to contract or pump blood to the body. This is a medical emergency that must be treated with cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and defibrillation as soon as possible.

Ventricular Septal Defect

A ventricular septal defect is a hole in the septum. The right and left ventricles lie next to each other in the heart. The septum is the membranous wall that separates them.

Ventricular Tachycardia

Ventricular tachycardia is a rapid life-threatening rhythm originating from the lower chambers of the heart. The rapid rate prevents the heart from filling adequately with blood, and less blood is able to pump through the body.

Wolff Parkinson White Syndrome (WPW)

WPW is a form of supraventricular tachycardia (fast heart rate originating above the ventricles). People with WPW have more than one electrical conduction pathway in their hearts (accessory pathways). These electrical impulses set up a short circuit, causing the heart to beat rapidly and conduct impulses in both directions. The impulses travel through the extra pathway (shortcut) as well as the normal AV-His-Purkinje system. The impulses can travel around the heart very quickly, in a circular pattern, causing the heart to beat unusually fast. This type of arrhythmia is called re-entry tachycardia.

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