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Medical Term Definitions

This page is an attempt to define some of the medical terms you might hear when dealing with CHD patients. This list was compiled by searching the internet. This material is to be used for informational purposes only.

If you're looking for descriptions of the types of CHD and what they mean, please check out our Types of CHD page.

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Ablation (ah-BLAY-shun) elimination or removal
Acidosis (ass-i-DOH-sis) build-up of acid in the blood
Adventitia (ad-ven-TISH-ah) outer layer in the wall of an artery
Alveoli (al-VEE-o-li) air sacs in the lungs where oxygen and carbon dioxide are exchanged
Amyloidosis (am-i-loy-DOE-sis) rare condition in which certain blood cells produce excessive protein deposits in the tissues. If the deposits are in the heart, heart failure can result
Anastomosis (an-ass-ti-MOE-sis) connection of two vessels or conduits
Aneurysm (AN-yu-riz-em) a bulge in a blood vessel's wall, which can weaken the vessel to the point where it eventually tears, causing rapid, sometimes fatal blood loss
Angina pectoris (an-JI-nah or AN-ji-nah pek-TOR-is) chest pain or discomfort caused by too little blood flow in the coronary arteries to meet the oxygen needs of the heart muscle
Angiogram (AN-jee-o-gram) X-ray picture of any arteries or veins
Angiography (an-jee-AHG-ra-fee) a diagnostic test in which a catheter is inserted through a small incision in a blood vessel in the groin or wrist and guided up into a heart artery; a dye is then be injected through the catheter to trace the blood flow in the artery so blockages can be detected method for taking X-ray pictures of the coronary arteries
Angioplasty (AN-jee-o-plas-tee) a surgical procedure used to open a partly blocked blood vessel by passing a balloon catheter through a small incision in a blood vessel in the groin or wrist, and then up along the vessel to the site of the blockage, where the tip of the catheter is inflated to push aside the blockage; often done immediately after angiography using the same catheter
Annulus (AN-yu-lus) the ring around a heart valve where the valve leaflet merges with the heart muscle
Anterior (an-TIR-e-er) front
Anticoagulant (an-ti-co-AG-u-lant) medication that keeps blood from clotting; blood thinner
Aorta (ay-OR-tah) the artery carrying oxygen-containing blood from the heart itself out to the body
Aortic valve (ay-OR-tik) valve valve between the left ventricle and the aorta
APGAR   A score is given for each sign (Activity, Pulse, Grimace, Appearance, Respiration) at one minute and five minutes after the birth. If there are problems with the baby an additional score is given at 10 minutes. A score of 7-10 is considered normal, while 4-7 might require some resuscitative measures, and a baby with APGARs of 3 and below requires immediate resuscitation. See for more information.
Arrhythmia (ah-RITH-mee-ah) an abnormal rhythm of the heart (too slow, too fast, or uneven), which can cause the heart to pump less effectively
Arteriogram (ar-TEER-e-o-gram) angiogram (x-ray) of arteries; a coronary arteriogram is an angiogram of the coronary arteries
Arteriole (ar-TEER-ee-ole) smaller branch of an artery
arteriosclerosis (ar-TEER-ee-o-skla-ROE-sis) a chronic disease in which there is abnormal thickening and hardening of the artery walls, causing arteries to lose their ability to stretch and contract
Arteritis (art-ah-WRITE-us) inflammation of arteries
Artery (ART-er-ee) a blood vessel carrying blood away from the heart to the body or lungs
Ascending aorta (ah-SEN-ding ay-OR-tah) the first part of the aorta that emerges from the left ventricle
Ascites (uh-SIGH-teez) buildup of fluid in the abdominal cavity
Aspiration (ass-per-AY-shun) removal of fluid by suction
asymptomatic (ay-simp-to-MAT-ic) showing no symptoms
Atherectomy (a-ther-EK-toh-mee) surgical removal of plaque deposits inside an artery done by threading a catheter with a rotating cutting blade through an artery to the point of the blockage and using the blade to shave away the plaque
Atherosclerosis (ath-e-roe-skleh-ROE-sis) a form of arteriosclerosis in which there are abnormal fatty deposits in the inner layer of an artery that can interfere with blood flow
Atresia (ah-TREE-zhia) absence or non-development of a valve (e.g. pulmonary atresia is absence of the pulmonary valve)
atrial fibrillation (AY-tree-al fill-i-BRAY-shun) very rapid uncoordinated contractions of the atria of the heart
Atrial Septectomy (AY-tree-al sep-TEK-toe-me surgical removal of the wall between the right and left atria
Atrioventricular (ay-tree-o-ven-TRIK-yu-lar) between the atria and ventricles
Atrioventricular block   block of the electrical signal between the atria and ventricles; can vary in severity from first, second, or third degree (complete heart block)
Atrioventricular Valve   valve between atrium and ventricle. The mitral valve is on the left side of the heart and the tricuspid valve on the right
Atrium (AY-tree-um) Plural = atria one of the two upper chamber of the heart that receive blood from the veins and pump it into a ventricle
autologous donation (ah-TOL-oh-gus) Giving one's own blood in advance of surgery to be used for transfusions if needed
AV node Atrioventricular node cluster of cells between the atria and ventricles that slows the electrical current of the heart rhythm as it passes through to the ventricles
Bacterial Endocarditis (en-doe-car-DIE-tus) An infection of the lining of the inside of the heart or the heart valves. Bacterial endocarditis occurs when bacteria in the bloodstream lodge on abnormal heart valves or most structural abnormalities of the heart. Certain bacteria normally live on parts of the body, such as the mouth and upper respiratory system, the intestinal and urinary tracts, and the skin. When someone is having one of the dental or surgical procedures that can cause these bacteria to enter the bloodstream, antibiotics are prescribed to prevent the bacteria from surviving in the bloodstream.
balloon angioplasty   SEE angioplasty
balloon catheter   a catheter with a balloon at the tip, which can be used to open a blocked heart artery . Also used sometimes to open blocked valves.
Betadine (BAY-ta-dine) an orange-colored skin disinfectant
Bicuspid (by-CUS-pid) Having two leaflets (or flaps). All of the heart valves except the aortic are bicuspid (having 2 leaflets (or flaps) that close the valve; the aorta has 3 cusps (3 leaflets to close the valve). See also bicuspid aortic valve
Biopsy (BY-op-see) method of taking a small sample of tissue for examination
Bradycardia (bray-de-KAR-dee-ah) slow heartbeat
Bundle-branch block   condition in which portions of the heart's conduction system become defective and are unable to conduct the electrical signal normally (can be right or left bundle-branch block)
Bypass   see Cardiopulmonary bypass and Coronary artery bypass graft
bypass machine   heart-lung machine
CABG operation Coronary artery bypass graft an operation that reroutes the blood supply by bypassing blocked coronary arteries
CAD   coronary artery disease
Cannulation (can-u-LAY-shun) inserting a tube into a duct, cavity, or vessel
Capillaries (KAP-ih-ler-ees) smallest blood vessels connecting arteries and veins where oxygen and nutrients are exchanged for waste products
Cardiac output   the amount of blood the heart pumps through the circulatory system in 1 minute (stroke volume multiplied by heart rate)
Cardiomegaly (car-dee-oh-MEG-a-lee) abnormal enlargement of the heart
Cardiomyopathy (kar-dee-oh-my-OP-ah-thee) abnormal conditions of the heart muscle, including hypertrophy of cardiac muscle, enlargement of the heart, and/or rigidity and loss of flexibility of the heart walls, and which are not associated with other heart defects or caused by a birth defect, coronary atherosclerosis, valve problems, or high blood pressure
Cardiopulmonary (car-dee-oh-PUL-muh-nar-ee) having to do with the heart and lungs
Cardiopulmonary bypass (car-dee-oh-PUL-mah-ner-ee BY-pass) method by which a machine takes over the function of the heart and lungs so the heart can be stopped for surgery
Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (car-dee-oh-PUL-mah-ner-ee ree-suss-ih-TAY-shun) use of rescue breathing and chest compressions to supply oxygen and blood to a person whose heartbeat and breathing have stopped
cardiovascular disease   disease of the heart and blood vessels that nourish the heart
Cardioversion (car-dee-o-VER-zhun An electrical shock is applied to the chest to convert an abnormal heartbeat to normal. In addition to that, the medical team will give the patient drugs to help him/her relax and forget about the procedure.
Carotid (ka-RAH-tid) arteries main arteries supplying blood to the head
Catheter (KATH-et-er) long, thin flexible, hollow tube inserted through an incision or needle prick into blood vessels, or through openings in the body
Catheterization (kath-et-er-ih-ZA-shun) Any procedure in which a catheter is inserted into the body; it can be used to assess the condition of coronary arteries, valves, and heart muscle and to open blocked arteries and reshape heart valves. Also, a diagnostic procedure which is a comprehensive examination of how the heart and its blood vessels function.
CCU   cardiac (or coronary, in some hospitals) care unit
Cerebral embolism (seh-REE-bral EM-boe-liz-em) a clot that travels through blood vessels from the site where it formed and blocks blood flow in the brain
Cerebral hemorrhage (seh-REE-bral HEH-mor-ij) bleeding into the brain
Collaterals Collaterals Collaterals are connections, like normal blood vessels, that can develop in children with cyanotic heart disease such as single ventricle heart conditions.
CHF Congestive Heart Failure CHF is a condition in which the heart is unable to circulate enough oxygenated blood to the body because it's not pumping strongly. This inefficient pumping causes the blood to back up in the veins. The body then retains fluids.
Chordae tendineae (KOR-dee ten-DIN-eeah) strong chords that stretch from the tricuspid and mitral valve edges to the heart muscle and restrict how far the valve leaflets swing when they close
Claudication (claw-dih-KAY-shun) limb pain or tiredness due to inadequate oxygen supply to the muscles; caused by narrowed arteries
Coarctation (co-ark-TAY-shun) narrowing of a blood vessel; usually referring to the aorta
Coil   stainless steel device permanently placed in extra blood vessels going into the lungs, in order to block blood flow
Collateral (ko-LAT-er-al) vessels extra, small, secondary (accessory) blood vessels that develop to bypass narrowed or blocked veins or arteries on the heart
Compensatory (com-PEN-sah-tor-ee) Pause after a premature contraction, the heart waits a little longer before it beats
Conduction system   special muscle fibers that conduct electrical impulses throughout the muscle of the heart
Conduction velocity   the speed with which an electrical impulse transmits through the tissue in the heart
Congestive heart failure (also called heart failure, CHF) condition caused when the heart is unable to pump enough blood to meet the needs of the body; also characterized by fluid collecting in various parts of the body (such as legs, lungs, liver)
Coronary arteries   arteries supplying blood to the heart muscle itself
Coronary sinus   the main coronary vein that drains blood into the right atrium from the smaller coronary veins
Coronary veins   veins returning blood from the heart muscle to the coronary sinus
Cusp   a heart valve leaflet
CVD   cardiovascular disease
Cyanosis (sigh-ah-NO-sis) bluish coloring of skin, nails, lips, or tongue due to lack of oxygen-rich blood
Defibrillation (dee-fih-brih-LAY-shun) electrical shock applied to the chest to stop fibrillation
Defibrillator (dee-FIH-brih-lay-tor) machine used to deliver an electrical shock to the chest to stop fibrillation; it may be internal (implanted) or external
Deoxygenated (dee-OX-ee-jen-ay-ted) without much oxygen
Dextrocardia (dex-tro-CAR-dee-ah) Dextrocardia litterally means "heart on the right". If the developing heart tube bends to the left instead of the right, then the heart is displaced to the right and develops in a mirror image of its normal state. Having dextrocardia does not mean the heart is defective, it just means that it is on the right instead of the left side of the body. Assuming there are no associated vascular abnormalities, then the heart functions normally. In cases where the heart is the only organ which is transposed, known as isolated dextrocardia, there are usually other severe cardiac abnormalities.
Diastole (die-ASS-toe-lee) relaxation phase of the heartbeat allowing heart chambers to refill
diastolic pressure   the lower of the two numbers used to measure blood pressure; indicates pressure as the heart relaxes
Digoxin (aka Digitalis and Lanoxin)   a medicine used to strengthen contractions of the heart muscle
dilate   open; widen
Distal   farther from the heart
Diuretic (die-ur-EH-tik) a medicine used to increase urine output
Dyspnea (DISP-nee-a) shortness of breath
Echocardiography (ECHO) (eh-ko-kar-dee-OG-ra-fee) use of ultrasound to "look" directly at the heart without penetrating the skin
Edema (eh-DEEM-a) a buildup of fluid in body tissues, causing swelling and other problems
Effusion (eh-FEW-zhun) the escape of a fluid from anatomical vessels by rupture or exudation
Ejection fraction   the portion of blood that is pumped out of a filled ventricle (normal is 50 percent or more)
Electrocardiogram (EKG) (ee-lek-troe-KAR-dee-o-gram) recording of the electrical activity of the heart
Endocarditis (en-doe-kard-EYE-tis) inflammation of the membrane that lines the chambers and valves of the heart, usually caused by an infection of the valve
Endocardium (en-doe-CARD-ee-um) smooth membrane covering the inside surfaces of the heart
Endothelium (en-doe-THEE-lee-um) a layer of cells on the inner surface of the blood vessels
Endotracheal (en-doe-TRAY-kee-al) tube tube inserted into the trachea (windpipe) to allow assisted breathing with a ventilator
Epicardium (eh-pih-KAR-dee-um) thin membrane covering the outside surface of the heart muscle
Fenestration (fen-iss-TRAY-shun) an opening or window made in surgery
Fenestrated Fontan   a version of the Fontan procedure which utilizes a fenestration to serves as a pop-off valve in order to relieve pressure in the heart
Fetal Arrhythmias   transient fetal cardiac rhythm disturbances are not uncommon during pregnancy. The rhythm problems which can occur in utero include, but are not limited to, bradycardia and tachycardia. Fetal arrhythmias can range from benign to causing in-utero death. See Irregular Fetal Heartbeat Indicates Serious Problem in Small Number of Cases for more information.
Fetal Echocardiography   method for diagnosing some heart defects in utero
fibrillation (fih-brih-LAY-shun) rapid, irregular, contractions of the muscle fibers of the heart resulting in a lack of coordination between atria and ventricles; causes an ineffective heartbeat
Fluoroscopy (flur-OS-ko-pee) use of X-rays to see motion, as opposed to still X-ray films
Flutter   rapid, ineffective beating of a heart chamber, but more coordinated than fibrillation
Fontan Procedure   the final surgical step in a series of operations for patients with single ventricle, HLHS and some other CHDs which converts the heart from a 4-chamber pumping heart to a 2- chamber pumping heart
Foramen Ovale   normal opening between the right and left atria of the fetal heart
Heart Cath (catheterization)   a test in which a catheter (or thin tube) is passed through a blood vessel into the heart to study the heart anatomy and the function of the heart
heart-lung machine   a machine that supplies blood with oxygen and   pumps it throughout the body while the heart is stopped during open-heart surgery
Hemochromatosis (hee-mo-kro-mah-TOE-sis) a defect in iron metabolism that permits iron to build up in the body
Hemodynamics (hee-mo-die-NA-mics) information about blood flow and pressures
Hepatic (heh-PAT-ic) having to do with the liver
Heterotaxy (HET-er-oh-tax-ee) Heterotaxy syndome involves abnormal organ placement in the body, including the heart. Oftentimes, the liver is in the midline, the stomach and heart may be on the right side, and the splenic tissue may be multiple (polysplenia syndrome) or absent (asplenia syndrome). The congenital heart disease associated with heterotaxy is usually severe and is associated with high infant and childhood mortality. ( From Grants Awarded by The Children's Heart Foundation )
Holter monitor (HOLE-ter) monitor a portable device that continuously records the heart's electrical activity; can be worn at home during daily activities to detect fleeting episodes of faulty heart rhythms
homocysteine (ho-mo-SIS-teen) an amino acid of animal origin that, when present in excess, has been shown to cause blockages in the blood vessels that supply the heart
hypertension (hi-per-TEN-shun) high blood pressure
hypertensive (hi-per-TEN-siv) having high blood pressure
Hypertrophy (HI-per-tro-fee) abnormal enlargement.
Hypoperfusion (hi-po-per-FEW-zhun) poor blood flow to body tissues
Hypoplastic (hi-po-PLA-stic) underformed with lack of normal function
Hypotension (hi-po-TEN-shun) low blood pressure.
ICD (Implantable Cardioverter-Defibrillator)   a small defibrillator that can be permanently implanted under the skin to regulate heart rhythms that are too fast or uncoordinated
ICU   intensive care unit
Immunosuppressant (im-yu-no-suh-PRESS-ant) a medicine used to prevent transplant organ rejection which somewhat lowers the body’s ability to fight disease
infarct   an area of tissue death in an organ (such as the heart) caused by blockage of the blood vessel that supplies oxygen and nutrients
Inferior   below
Intubation   placement of a breathing tube in the windpipe
Ischemia (is-KEE-mee-a) lack of oxygen in body tissue (usually the heart or brain) caused by blockage or damage to the artery carrying oxygen-rich blood to that part of the body
I.V. Intravenous within a vein; refers to catheters and tubing used to give fluid and medicine
IVC inferior vena cava the large vein that returns blue blood from the lower body to the right atrium in the normal heart
jugular veins (JUG-yu-lar) veins that carry blood back from the head to the heart
Korotkoff sounds (ko-ROT-kof) sounds made by the pulse that are heard when a blood pressure is taken
Lasix   a diuretic
Left heart failure   blood flow to the body is decreased and fluid accumulates in the lungs
Ligated   tied off
Lumen (LU-men) the channel within blood vessels in which blood flows
Lung scanning   a test designed to assess the circulation and air flow through the lungs
Mitral valve (MY-tral) valve between the left atrium and left ventricle
MRI magnetic resonance imaging uses magnetic fields and radio waves to construct images of internal body structures
Murmur   sounds made by turbulent blood moving through the chambers and valves of the heart or through the blood vessels near the heart usually signifying an abnormality of blood flow caused by a structural defect in the heart or valves
Myocardial infarction (myo-Kar-dee-al in-FARK-shun) heart attack; an area of heart tissue dies because its blood supply is blocked
Myocarditis (my-o-kard-EYE tis) inflammation of the heart muscle
Myocardium (my-o-KAR-dee um) the middle, muscular layer of the heart wall
N.P.O.   these letters stand for ‘nothing by mouth’ (in Latin). When you are N.P.O., you cannot eat or drink for a certain amount of time
Necrosis (neh-KROE-sis) dead areas of tissue
NG Tube nasogastric tube a tube placed through the nose and ending in the stomach, used for feedings
normal sinus rhythm   the rhythm of a healthy heartbeat, produced by electrical impulses that start in the sinoatrial node of the heart, measured by an electrocardiogram
Nuclear heart scanning (NU-klee-ar) test used to show features o heart function and blood flow; it involves injection of radioactive material ("tracers") into the bloodstream
Occlusion (oh-KLU-zhun) total blockage of a blood vessel
Orthopnea (or-THOP-nee-a) difficulty breathing except in an upright position (ortho means "straight" or "upright")
Orthostatic hypotension (or-thoe-STAT-ik hy-poe-TEN-shun) low blood pressure upon standing that may lead to light-headedness or passing out
pacemaker   a small device implanted under the skin (usually in the shoulder area) to regulate the heartbeat
Palliative (PAL-e-at-iv) treatment and/or an operation that does not cure a problem but makes adjustments to improve the situation
Palpitations (pal-pi-TAY-shuns) uncomfortable sensations of your heartbeat in your chest
Patent (PAY-tent) open
Percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty per-kew-TAY-nee-us
AN-jee-o-plas-tee; PTCA
the use of catheters to reopen obstructed coronary arteries
Perfusion (pur-FEW-zhun) circulation of blood through organs or tissues
Perfusion scanning (pur-FEW-zhun) scanning This is a test that produces an image of the heart muscle with radioactive tracers. It can show areas of the heart muscle that do not receive adequate blood flow.
Pericardial Effusion   fluid buildup around the heart
pericardiectomy (pair-ih-kar-dee-EK-tah-mee) removal of the pericardium
pericardiocentesis (pair-ih-kar-dee-o-sen-TEE-sis) withdrawing excess fluid (pericardial effusion) from the pericardium through a needle
pericarditis (pair-ih-kard-EYE-tis) This is an inflammation of the pericardium. It can be caused by an infection, by severe kidney disease, by a myocardial infarction (heart attack) or by several other disorders. Pericarditis typically produces a sound called a "pericardial friction rub," a characteristic grating "leathery" heart murmur.
Pericardium (pair-ih-KAR-dee-um) the sac or membrane surrounding the heart
Perioperative (pair-ih-OP-er-a-tiv) refers to time period before and after an operation
PFO patent foramen ovale an opening in the wall between the upper two chambers of the heart that is present at birth, but doesn't close completely. It is much smaller than an ASD
PGE1 prostaglandin E1 I.V. medicine used to keep the ductus arteriosus open
Pleural Effusion   fluid buildup around the lungs
Positron Emission Tomagraphy (PA-zih-tron
toh-MAH-gra-fee); PET scanning
investigational imaging technique used for measuring blood flow and the metabolism of the tissues of the body, including the heart
Posterior (post-EAR-i-or) back or rear
PPH primary pulmonary hypertension The blood pressure in the pulmonary arteries is abnormally high, resulting in damage to the small arteries in the body, over-development of the heart, and often kidney damage
Premature contraction   a heartbeat that comes too soon
Prophylaxis (pro-fi-LAX-iss) a preventive measure (e.g., to prevent infection or disease)
Prothrombin time test (pro-THROM-bin) test that measures the activity of certain clotting factors; it is often used to determine whether a person is receiving the correct dose of the anticoagulant warfarin (Coumadin)
Proximal (PROX-i-mal) closer to the heart
PTCA   SEE percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty
Pulmonary (PUL-mah-nair-ee) having to do with the lungs
Pulmonary Arteries (PUL-mah-nair-ee) blood vessel that carries blue (deoxygenated) blood to the lungs from the right ventricle in the normal heart
Pulmonary edema (PUL-mah-nair-ee eh-DEE-mah) fluid buildup in the lungs
Pulmonary valve (PUL-mah-nair-ee) valve valve at the opening from the right ventricle to the pulmonary artery
Pulmonary vein (PUL-mah-nair-ee) vein blood vessel that carries red (newly oxygenated) blood from the lungs back to the left atrium of the heart
pulmonic valve (pul-MON-ic) SEE pulmonary valve
Pulse Oximeter (ock-SIM-i-ter) a machine that uses light to measure the amount of oxygen the blood is carrying through your body
Radio frequency ablation (RFA) a technique utilizing radio energy (using a wire placed through a catheter in the heart) to kill off heart tissue to prevent or treat arrhythmias
Radionucleotide ventriculography (ray-dee-o-NU-klee-o-tide
a test used to determine the size and shape of the heart’s pumping chambers, the ventricles
Regurgitation (re-gurge-i-TAY-shun) a condition in which blood leaks backwards through heart valves that do not close fully; also called leakage
Rejection   the body’s refusal to tolerate a donor organ leading to the organ’s failure
Renal (REE-nal) having to do with the kidneys
Reperfusion (ree-per-FEW-zhun) return of normal blood flow after a period of poor blood flow
Repolarization (ree-pole-er-i-ZAY-shun) the process by which the heart is restored to its electrical resting state between heart beats
Rheumatic Fever (rue-MAT-ik) fever inflammatory illness that sometimes follows strep throat and may damage the heart valves
Right heart failure   decreased blood flow resulting in swelling in the legs and abdominal organs, including the liver
rotoblator (RO-toe-blay-der) a catheter with a hard tip which rotates at 2000 rpm to pulverize plaque deposits during atherectomy
Septal defect (SEP-tal) hole in the wall separating the atria or in the wall separating the ventricles
Septum (SEP-tum) wall separating the left and right atria and the left and right ventricles
Shunt   connection allowing abnormal blood flow between two locations
Sick sinus syndrome   This is the failure of the sinus node to perform its normal function of regulating the heartbeat. It often results in periods of fast heartbeat and periods of slow heartbeat.
Silent ischemia (is-KEE-mee-a) insufficient amounts of blood and oxygen reach portions of the heart muscle, but angina is not produced
sinoatrial node (si-no-AY-tree-al)
Sinus node
a small mass of tissue that is embedded in the right atrium of the heart, and that originates the electrical impulses that stimulate the heartbeat
Stable angina (an-JI-nah or AN-ji-nah) chest pain caused by myocardial ischemia and with a predictable pattern
Stenosis (steh-NO-sis) a narrowing, usually refers to a valve or blood vessel other than the aorta (adjective = stenotic
stent   a stainless steel mesh tube placed inside an artery to hold it open after angioplasty has pushed aside a blockage
Sternotomy (ster-NAH-tah-mee) incision down the breastbone
Strain gauge plethysmography (ple-thiz-MOG-ra-fee) a test used to evaluate how efficiently blood is flowing through a leg artery
stress test   a test of heart function measured before, during, and after a period of increasingly strenuous exercise such as walking on a treadmill
Stroke   a brain injury that is caused by an inadequate supply of blood to the brain or by leak of blood inside the skull that compresses the brain
Stroke volume   the actual amount of blood pumped by the left ventricle with one contraction
Sudden cardiac death   cardiac arrest; usually caused by ventricular fibrillation
Superior (su-PEER-ee-or) above
Superior vena cava (SVC) (VEE-na CAY-va) large vein returning blood from the upper body to the right atrium in the normal heart
Swan-Ganz catheter   a monitoring catheter; used to assess the cardiac output and pressures in the right heart chambers and pulmonary artery
Systemic (sis-TEM-ic) having to do with the body  
Systole (SIS-toe-lee) the contraction phase of the heartbeat when the heart muscle squeezes
systolic pressure (sis-TAHL-ic) the higher of the two numbers used to measure the blood pressure; indicates pressure as the heart contracts
Tachycardia (tack-eh-KAR-dee-ah) rapid heartbeat
Tachypnea (ta-KIP-nee-ah) rapid breathing
Tamponade (tam-pon-ODD) excess fluid in the pericardium prevents the heart from expanding enough during diastole to fill sufficiently
Thrills   vibrations in the chest from abnormal blood flow
Thrombolysis (throm-bol-LIE-sis) use medication to dissolve blood clots
Thrombolytic agents (throm-boe-LIH-tik) agents drugs that dissolve clots
Thrombophlebitis (throm-boe-fle-BY-tis) clotting of blood and inflammation in a vein, most commonly in a leg
Thrombosis (throm-BOE-sis) This is a blood clot that forms within a blood vessel. When the blockage occurs in a heart artery, it is called a coronary thrombosis.
Transcutaneous oximetry (trans-kew-TAY-nee-us oks-IH-meh-tree) measurement of the amount of oxygen in a region of skin with a special patch attached to the skin
transesophageal (trans-eh-sof-ah-JEE-al) across the esophagus
Transesophageal echocardiography (trans-eh-sof-ah-JEE-al eck-oh-car-dee-OG-ra-fee) echocardiography in which a transducer is placed in the esophagus to gain clearer images of the heart
transient ischemic attack TIA
(TRANS-ee-ant iss-KEY-mic)
temporary lack of circulation to part of the brain causing stroke-like symptoms  
transthoracic (trans-thor-ASS-ic) through the chest wall
Tricuspid valve (try-KUS-pid) valve valve between the right atrium and ventricle
Unstable angina (an-JI-nah or AN-ji-nah) new or increasing angina
valve   parts of the heart and veins that act like doors to keep blood from flowing backwards; see aortic valve, tricuspid valve, pulmonic valve, mitral valve
Valvuloplasty (VAL-vue-lo-plas-tee) reshaping of a heart valve with surgical or catheter techniques
Variant angina (VAIR-ee-ant an-JI-nah or AN-ji-nah) chest pain caused by spasm of the muscle encircling the coronary arteries (a.k.a. Prinzmetal's angina)
Varicose veins (VAIR-ih-cose) abnormally dilated veins
varix (VAIR-icks) an abnormally widened and lengthened vein or artery; for example, a varicose vein
Vascular system (VAS-cue-lar) blood vessels; arteries and veins
Vasodilators (vay-so-DIE-lay-tors) medications that widen or dilate the arteries
Vasopressors (vay-so-PRES-ors) drugs that elevate blood pressure
Vein   a blood vessel that returns blood to the heart from the body or lungs
Venogram (VEN-oh-gram) angiogram of veins
Ventricle (VEN-trih-kel) one of two large lower pumping chambers of the heart
Ventricle Inversion   congenital reversal of the right and left ventricles
ventricular fibrillation (ven-TRIK-u-lar fib-ri-LAY-shun) very rapid, uncoordinated, fluttering contractions of the ventricles of the heart
Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD) a hole in the wall that separates the right and left ventricles of the heart allowing crossover of blood
ventricular tachycardia (ven-TRIK-u-lar tack-i-CAR-dee-ah) a very rapid, dangerous heartbeat that is stimulated by faulty electrical impulses within the ventricles, leaving them unable to pump blood to the rest of the body
Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome   condition in which an extra electrical pathway connects the atria and ventricles; it may cause a rapid heartbeat

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If you believe you, your child, or someone you know, suffer from the conditions described herein, please see your health care provider. Do not attempt to treat yourself, your child, or anyone else without proper medical supervision.

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