GLOSSARY

HEART FAILURE GLOSSARY

Frequently heard Heart Failure terminology.

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Ablation

A surgical procedure that completely removes abnormal or dead tissues and creates scar tissue. There are many approaches to ablations, including surgery, chemical destruction, or various energy sources.
 

ACE Inhibitors (Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme)

Medications that are designed to lower blood pressure. They work by relaxing the arteries, capillaries, and veins, allowing blood and oxygen to circulate at a more normal rate.
 

Acute

Refers to a disease or condition having rapid onset. It is the opposite of chronic.
 

Aneurysm

An expansion of a blood vessel. When associated with Heart Failure, an aneurysm occurs on the LV resulting in a scar. If the scarred area becomes thin and begins to inflate with each Heartbeat, an aneurysm may occur. Previous Heart damage coupled with the aneurysm causes the Heart to have to pump more rigorously.
 

Angina

When referring to Heart Failure, pain or pressure in the chest caused by insufficient blood flow and oxygenation to the heart muscle.
 

Angiogram

A radiographic picture that shows the size, shape, and location of the heart. There are three types of angiograms-Aortic (the body’s largest artery), Cardiac (for the heart), and Cerebral (for the brain).
 

Angioplasty

The process of widening a blocked or narrowed blood vessel to restore blood flow to the heart.
 

Anticoagulants

Medications used to slow your blood from forming clots.
 

Antioxidant

Any substance that helps relieve the body’s cells of oxygen damage (free radicals) and keeps them healthy. Antioxidants can be found in many foods and beverages such as apples, broccoli, or green tea.
 

Aorta

The largest artery in the body. It is the main channel for delivering oxygenated blood throughout the entire body.
 

Aortic Valve

One of the four valves in the heart. It is located at the exit of the left ventricle of the heart where the aorta (the largest artery) begins. The aortic valve allows blood from the left ventricle to be pumped into the aorta but prevents blood once it is in the aorta from returning to the heart.
 

Apex Beat

Apex, when referring to the heart, pertains to the top of the heart or lungs. The Apex Beat refers to the portion of the breathing cycle (heartbeat) that the heart or lungs expand.
 

Arrhythmia

An irregular Heartbeat. Tachycardia arrhythmia occurs when the Heart Rate is more than 100 Beats per Minute (BPM). Bradycardia occurs when the Heart Rate is less than 60 BPM. Patients complain of a fluttering sensation in their chest.
 

Arteries

The blood vessels that transport blood from the heart to the rest of the body. The Aorta (See-Aorta) is the largest artery in the body. There are two types of arteries:

1. Pulmonary Arteries: The arteries that carry blood from the right ventricle (RV) to the lungs.

2. Systemic Arteries: The arteries that carry blood from the left ventricle (LV) to the rest of the body.
 

Atrial Fibrillation (AF or AFib)

Brisk, irregular electrical activity in the upper chambers of the heart (right or left atrium). Patients complain of a fluttering sensation in their chest.
 

Atrophy

A shrinking or decrease in the size of an organ or tissue. It can be caused by extreme inactivity, malnutrition, or ischemia. When linked to Heart Failure atrophy occurs where there is an insufficient amount of oxygen and blood to meet the demands of the heart muscle (Ischemia).
 

Beta-Blockers (Beta-Adrenergic Blocking Agents)

Used to prevent chest pain (angina), alleviate high blood pressure (hypertension), and in some cases, to prevent further heart attacks.
 

Blood Clot

A mass with a jelly-like or semi-solid consistency.
 

BNP (Brain Natriuretic Peptide)

A blood test to help doctors evaluate cardiac function. This amino acid/peptide is secreted by the ventricles and is elevated in patients with aneurysms or lesions in the Left Ventricle (LV). The more severe the damage to the LV, the higher the levels of BNP. Normal BNP levels range from 0-99 picograms per liter. Abnormal levels of BNP range from 100-900 picograms per liter, depending on the severity of Heart Failure.

Bradycardia

An abnormally slow heart rate or pulse generally less than 60 beats per minute (BPM). A normal heart rate for a healthy adult is approximately 60-100 beats per minute. Factors that affect Heart Rate are your age, weight, and present activity (movement or rest).

Bridge to Transplant

A medical indication and treatment protocol where a VAD is used to assist heart function while a patient awaits a heart transplant.

CABG

A tube that is placed in the aorta that allows blood to pass over an obstruction in the coronary artery.

Cardiac Arrest

When blood circulation stops suddenly, causing the blood supply to cease flowing through the heart and circulatory system. Cardiac Arrest can result in instant death.
 

Cardiac Care Unit (CCU)

The area of the hospital where a patient with heart disease is placed while under critical care and requires intense supervision 24 hours a day.

Cardiac Resynchronization Therapy (CRT)

This involves surgically implanting a battery-operated device under the skin. The purpose of the biventricular pacemaker is to synchronize heart beats to a normal, healthy pace through electrical stimulation. This is also referred to as Biventricular Pacing.
 

Cardiac Thoracic Unit (CTU)

The area of the hospital where a patient who has undergone open-heart surgery is placed while under critical care and requires intense supervision 24 hours a day.
 

Cardio

Pertaining to the heart.

Cardiomegaly

Enlargement of the heart.

Cardiomyopathy

Refers to diseases of the heart muscle. These diseases have many causes, signs and symptoms, and treatments. In cardiomyopathy, the heart muscle becomes enlarged, thick, or rigid. In rare cases, the muscle tissue in the heart is replaced with scar tissue. As cardiomyopathy worsens, the heart becomes weaker. It’s less able to pump blood through the body and maintain a normal electrical rhythm. This can lead to Heart Failure.

Cardioversion

The restoration of normal sinus rhythm by medications or electrical means. Electrical cardioversion is the delivery of electrical current sent through the chest wall.

Carotid Endarterectomy

A surgical technique involving clearing obstructions from the carotid arteries which supply blood to the neck and head.

Catheter Ablation

An ablation is a surgical procedure that completely removes abnormal or dead tissue and creates scar tissue. There are many approaches to ablating tissue, including surgery, chemical destruction, or various energy sources. Catheter ablation is when a tube is placed into the body to remove abnormal or dead tissue from a specified area of the heart.

Catheterization

Insertion of a catheter into any of the four chambers of the heart (See-Left Atrium, Right Atrium, Left Ventricle, Right Ventricle) or large blood vessels for diagnosis, assessment of abnormalities, treatment, and/or evaluation.

Cholesterol

A group of fats found in the bloodstream and all cells in the body. There are two types of cholesterol-HDL and LDL. Contrary to popular understanding, cholesterol can be considered good or bad.

Chronic

When a disease or symptom has a slow progression and there is little change present. The opposite of acute.

Congenital

Present at birth. Congenital diseases can be associated with infections or injuries that the mother contracts during pregnancy. Congenital diseases can also be due to hereditary factors.

Congestive

An excessive amount of blood collected in any tissue or organ.

Congestive Heart Failure

Commonly called Heart Failure. The heart’s inability to sufficiently fill with blood and distribute a sufficient amount of blood throughout the body. Symptoms include shortness of breath, even when lying down, and general tiredness and weakness.

Contraction

When referring to blood pressure, the contraction (see systolic) occurs following each dilation (See-Dilation). During contraction, the blood is driven onward from the chambers of the heart to the body.

Coronary

A Latin derivative meaning to encircle. When referring to the Heart, it is referring to the blood vessels and arteries that surround the heart and supply blood to the heart muscle.

Coronary Sinus

The channel that receives the cardiac veins from the heart. The coronary sinus opens into the right atrium (RA).

Cryoblation

A procedure involving the insertion of a tube below 0°C. This procedure is used currently for treating irregular electrical activity in the upper chambers of the heart (Atrial Fibrillation).

CT Scan

A computerized X-ray. A CT Scan can produce pictures from several x-rays simultaneously, giving a real-time image of a particular area in the body.

Destination Therapy

A medical indication and treatment protocol where a VAD is used to assist heart function during the course of a patient’s life and are not eligible for a heart transplant.

Diastolic

The bottom number on the blood pressure reading, which is the usual rhythmic dilation, following each contraction (systole), during which the heart muscle relaxes and the chambers of the heart fill with blood.

Dilation

When referring to blood pressure, the dilation (See-Diastolic) occurs following each contraction (See-Contraction). During dilation, the heart muscle relaxes and the chambers of the heart fill with blood.

Diuretic

A diuretic increases urine output and urination frequency. Often Heart patients are given a diuretic to alleviate water retention and bloating. Loop diuretics are potent and widely used agents in the therapy of edematous states and congestive Heart Failure and less commonly for hypertension.

Driveline

The cable attached to the implanted VAD that passes through the skin to connect to the controller.

Dyspnea

When breathing is labored. This is normal with athletic activity or excessive work, but not with minimal physical activity or when motionless. It is generally associated with Heart Failure.

Echocardiogram (EKG)

A test that measures the electrical activity in the heart. Electrical sensor devices are placed in strategic positions on the body. This test is used to evaluate heart conditions. The patient feels no discomfort, as this test is non-invasive.
 

Ejection Fraction

The amount of blood that is pumped out of the ventricles during a breathing cycle. Approximately 50 percent of the blood is pumped out during a normal heart’s breathing cycle. In a person experiencing Heart Failure, the amount of blood exiting the ventricle can drop substantially.

Electrophysiologist

Specializes in the heart’s electrical system. They are specifically trained in arrhythmias such as Atrial or Ventricular Fibrillation.

Endocardial

Refers to being within the heart.

Heart Attack

Myocardial infarction. The failure of living heart muscle as a result of coronary artery obstruction such as a blood clot.

Heart Chambers

There are four chambers of the heart; the left and right atriums (upper chambers) and the left and right ventricles (lower chambers).

Heart Disease

Any abnormal or diseased condition of the coronary arteries, heart valves, myocardium, or electrical conduction system of the heart.

Heart Failure

The heart’s inability to sufficiently fill with blood or to distribute a sufficient amount of blood throughout the body. Symptoms include shortness of breath, even when lying down, and general tiredness and weakness.

Heart Pump

A device that assists the function of the heart. It is also referred to as a Ventricular Assist Device (VAD or LVAD) and is a mechanical pump that is implanted in the left ventricle of the heart.

Hypertension

Medical term that refers to High Blood Pressure. Normal Blood Pressure (BP) is approximately 120/80 for healthy adults. Stage 1 High Blood Pressure is between 140/90-150/99. Stage 2 high Blood Pressure is 160/110+. (See Diastolic & Systolic).

HypertROPHIC CARDIOMYOPATHY (HCM)

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is a relatively common, often genetic, heart muscle disease in which patients have increased heart wall thickness. End-stage Heart Failure in HCM patients is rare, happening only in the non-obstructive form of the disease. This is treated by heart transplant to both extend life expectancy and greatly improve quality of life. For HCM patients, survival after a heart transplant is now >90% at 5 years.

Hypotension

A medical term that refers to Low Blood Pressure. Normal Blood Pressure (BP) is approximately 120/80 for healthy adults. (See diastolic & systolic.)

Implantable Cardiac Defibrillator (ICD)

An implanted device that identifies, monitors, and remedies certain types of abnormal heart rhythms by sending small electrical shocks to the heart to stop fast, and potentially deadly, heart rhythms.

Inotropes

An agent that forces the increase of heart muscle contraction.

Ischemic

A short-term lack of blood flow through an artery or throughout the circulation. When linked to Heart Failure there is an insufficient amount of oxygen and blood to meet the demands of the heart muscle.

Jugular Veins

Veins located on the sides of the neck return blood to the heart from the head and neck.

Left Atrium

The left upper chamber of the heart. The left atrium receives oxygenated blood from the lungs through the pulmonary veins.

Left Ventricle

The left lower chamber of the heart receives blood from the left atrium and pumps it into the circulation through the aorta.

Loop Diuretics

Loop diuretics are potent and widely used agents in the therapy of edematous states and Congestive Heart Failure and less commonly for hypertension.

LVAD or VAD 

An abbreviation for Left Ventricular Assist Device or Ventricular Assist Device. This is the mechanical pump that is implanted in the left ventricle of the heart.
 

Mitral Valve

The valve that closes the orifice between the left atrium (RA) and the left ventricle (LV) during breathing.

Myocarditis

Inflammation of the heart muscle, usually caused by a virus or infection such as rheumatic fever.
 

Myocardium

The center layer of the walls of the heart, commonly called the cardiac muscle.
 

Nitroglycerin

Used to combat Congestive Heart Failure, angina, pulmonary edema, or treatment after a heart attack. It is designed to alleviate chest pain and relax the vascular muscle.
 

Orthopnea

Heavy breathing that occurs when lying down and is generally relieved after getting up. This generally occurs in Heart Failure patients that are in Classifications III or IV.
 

Pacemaker

A small implanted device that sends electrical signals to the heart via electrodes to cause the heart to contract. This device is intended to maintain a regular heartbeat.
 

Paroxysmal

When related to Atrial Fibrillation, a recurrent or intensification of the disease, it is self-terminating and usually lasts less than a week.
 

Paroxysmal Nocturnal Dyspnea

Sudden shortness of breath that usually occurs during sleep. It can be caused by sleep apnea or left ventricular (LV) failure.
 

Peripheral Edema

A buildup of fluid in the third space, which includes cavities in the abdomen (peritoneal cavity) or in the lungs (pleural cavity).
 

Pulmonary Artery

The artery that transmits blood from the right ventricle to the lungs.
 

Pulmonary Edema

A buildup of fluid in the lungs.
 

Pulmonary Embolism

An abrupt barrier occurring in a blood vessel. The barrier may be caused by various factors such as a blood clot or an air bubble. When pertaining to the lungs (pulmonary); it refers to the artery (or one of its branches-see Pulmonary Artery) that transmits blood from the right ventricle to the lungs.

Pulmonary Hypertension 

Abnormally high blood pressure in the arteries of the lungs. It makes the right side of the heart work harder than normal, typically seen in Stage III and Stage IV Heart Failure patients.

Pulmonary Valve

The valve that connects the pulmonary artery to the right ventricle. It prevents blood from returning to the right ventricle.
 

Pulmonary Vein

One of the four veins that transport blood from the lungs to the left atrium
 

Right Atrium

The right upper chamber of the heart. The right atrium receives blood from the entire body (except the Lungs).
 

Right Ventricle

The right lower chamber of the heart that receives blood from the right atrium and pumps it into the lungs via the pulmonary artery.
 

Statins

A drug that is designed to lower fat or fatty acids (lipids) in the bloodstream. (Lipitor and Zocor are popular statins).
 

Stent

A device that is used to hold tissue in place. It is generally a metallic mesh placed in the coronary artery to help keep blood vessels open so that blood may flow at a normal rate. There are currently three types of stents on the market-metallic mesh, dissolvable, and drug-coated.
 

Sternotomy

An operation that involves cutting through the sternum. The sternum is the long, flat bone that connects the ribs in the frontal potion of the body.
 

Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA)

A condition in which the heart suddenly stops beating, resulting in a stop of blood flow to the brain and other organs. If untreated, SCA usually causes death within minutes. Quick treatment with a defibrillator may be lifesaving.
 

Supraventricular Tachycardia (SVT)

An unusually fast heart rate (see tachycardia) originating from above the ventricles. Electrical impulses are quickly sent throughout the heart during supraventricular tachycardia.
 

Systolic

The top number on the blood pressure reading which is the usual rhythmic contraction, following each dilation (diastole) during which the blood is driven onward from the chambers of the heart to the body
 

Systolic Heart Failure

This occurs when the blood, which is normally driven from the heart chambers to the body, is not flowing properly because of an obstruction or the heart is not pumping to its fullest potential.
 

Tachycardia

An abnormally rapid heart rate or pulse greater than 100 beats per minute (BPM). A normal heart rate for a healthy adult is approximately 60-100 beats per minute. Factors that affect Heart Rate are your age, weight, and present activity (movement or rest).
 

Thoracic

Pertaining to the thorax which is the part of the body that contains the lungs and the heart. Also commonly referred to as the chest.
 

Tricuspid Valve

The valve that closes the space between the right atrium (RA) and the left ventricle (LV) during rhythmic contraction (ventricular systole), when the blood is driven onward from the chambers of the heart to the body.
 

VAD or LVAD

An abbreviation for Ventricular Assist Device or Left Ventricular Assist Device. This is the mechanical pump that is implanted in the left ventricle of the heart.
 

Vascular

Pertaining to the arteries, capillaries, and veins. These blood vessels carry blood to and from the heart and contribute to the regulation of blood pressure.
 

Vasodilator

A drug that expands the blood vessels to allow blood to flow more freely.