• Heart Center at San Antonio Regional Hospital

  • Glossary

    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  


    ablation - elimination or removal. A therapeutic method that physically destroys the heart tissue that causes or contributes to some types of fast heartbeats (tachycardia).

    ACE inhibitor - a medication that lowers blood pressure. ACE stands for angiotensin-converting enzyme.

    anesthesiologist - a physician specializing in the practice of anesthesiology and the use of anesthetic medicines. These medications result in a loss of sensation, memory, pain and consciousness and are used in all surgical cases.

    aneurysm - a sac-like protrusion from a blood vessel.

    angina - recurring chest pain or discomfort that happens when some part of the heart does not receive enough blood.

    angiography - an x-ray that uses dye injected into arteries so that blood circulation can be studied.

    angioplasty - a non-surgical, invasive catheterization procedure where a narrowed portion of a blood vessel, e.g., coarctation of the aorta, pulmonary artery stenosis, is enlarged by inflating a balloon that straddles the narrowed segment. Severe coarctation of the aorta or pulmonary artery narrowings resemble an hourglass. The balloon dilation intentionally tears part of the wall of the blood vessel.

    anticoagulant - a medication that keeps blood from clotting.

    antihypertensive - a medication or other therapy that lowers blood pressure.

    aorta - the largest artery in the body and the primary blood vessel leading from the heart to the body.

    aortic valve - the valve that regulates blood flow from the heart into the aorta.

    arrhythmia - an abnormal heartbeat.

    arterioles - small branches of arteries.

    arteriosclerosis - commonly called hardening of the arteries. A variety of conditions caused by fatty or calcium deposits in the artery walls causing them to thicken.

    artery - a blood vessel that carries oxygenated blood away from the heart to the body.

    atherectomy - a non-surgical procedure that involves removing plaque from the walls of arteries with a rotating blade.

    atherosclerosis - a type of arteriosclerosis caused by a build-up of plaque in the inner lining of an artery.

    atrioventricular block - an interruption of the electrical signal between the atria and the ventricles.

    atrioventricular node - a cluster of cells between the atria and ventricles that regulate the electrical current.

    atrium (atria pl.) - one of two upper chambers in the heart.



    balloon angioplasty - An invasive catheterization procedure where a narrowed portion of a blood vessel (e.g., coarctation of the aorta, pulmonary artery stenosis) is enlarged by inflating a balloon that straddles the narrowed segment. Severe coarctation of the aorta or pulmonary artery narrowings resemble an hourglass. The balloon dilation intentionally tears part of the wall of the blood vessel.

    beta blocker - an anti-hypertensive medication that limits the activity of epinephrine (a hormone that increases blood pressure).

    biopsy - the procedure of taking a small tissue sample for examination.

    blood clot - a gelled mass of blood tissue.

    blood pressure - the force or pressure exerted by the heart when pumping blood; also, the pressure of blood in the arteries.

    blood pressure cuff - a device usually placed around the upper part of the arm to measure blood pressure.

    body mass index (BMI) - a measure of weight proportionate to height.

    brady - suffix meaning slow.

    bradycardia - abnormally slow heartbeat.

    bundle-branch block - a condition in which the heart's electrical system is unable to normally conduct the electrical signal.



    calcium channel blocker - a medication that lowers blood pressure.

    capillaries - tiny blood vessels between arteries and veins that distribute oxygen-rich blood to the body.

    cardiac - pertaining to the heart.

    cardiac arrest - the stopping of heartbeat.

    cardiac arrhythmia surgery - the MAZE procedure is a surgical procedure to treat atrial fibrillation (AFib), an abnormality of the electrical system of the heart. The procedure is performed by cardiothoracic surgeons who make incisions in both atria, disrupting the elctrical impulses that cause an abnormal heart rhythm. Some patients with AFib are able to tolerate the arrhythmia or can control it with medication and the procedure is not necessary. However, in some patients, a surgical option is very appropriate. 

    cardiac catheterization - a diagnostic, invasive procedure in which a tiny, hollow tube (catheter) is advanced from a blood vessel in the groin through the aorta into the heart chambers using X-Ray guidance in order to image the heart and blood vessels. In addition, X-ray pictures (angiograms) of the heart and blood vessels are made by injecting a dye into the bloodstream.

    cardiac output - the amount of blood that goes through the circulatory system in one minute.

    cardiology - the clinical study and practice of treating the heart.

    cardiomyopathy - a disease of the heart muscle that causes it to lose its pumping strength.

    cardiovascular (CV) - pertaining to the heart and blood vessel (circulatory) system.

    cardioversion - the procedure of applying electrical shock to the chest to change an abnormal heartbeat into a normal one.

    carotid artery - the major arteries in the neck that supply blood to the brain.

    cerebral embolism - a blood clot from one part of the body that is carried by the bloodstream to the brain where it blocks an artery.

    cerebral hemorrhage - bleeding within the brain.

    cerebral thrombosis - formation of a blood clot in an artery that supplies blood to the brain.

    cerebrovascular - pertaining to blood vessels in the brain.

    cerebrovascular accident - apoplexy or stroke; an impeded blood supply to the brain.

    cerebrovascular occlusion - an obstruction in the blood vessel in the brain.

    cholesterol - a waxy substance that is produced in the human body, animal fats, and in dairy products and is transported in the blood.

    cineangiography - the procedure of taking moving pictures to show the passage of dye through blood vessels.

    circulatory system - pertaining to the heart and blood vessels, and the circulation of blood.

    claudication - pain or fatigue in arms and legs due to poor supply of oxygen to the muscles.

    computed tomography (CT) scan - a CT scan ("cat scan") is an x-ray technique that uses a computer to create cross-sectional (or slice-like) pictures of the heart. A CT scan shows detailed images of any part of the body, including the bones, muscles, fat, and organs. CT scans are more detailed than general x-rays.

    congenital - present at birth.

    congestive heart failure (CHF) - a condition in which the heart cannot pump out all of the blood that enters it, which leads to an accumulation of blood in the vessels and fluid in the body tissues. Congestive heart failure can be due to poor heart muscle function, abnormal communications or holes within the heart, or other abnormal burdens of the heart such as obstructed valves, leaky (regurgitant) valves, poorly controlled rhythm disturbances or shunts.

    A combination of clinical signs and symptoms; in infants manifested as poor feeding, rapid breathing, sweatiness, rapid heart rate and failure to gain weight; in adults, manifested as fluid retention, shortness of breath, being easily fatigued and exercise intolerance.

    continuous renal replacement therapy (CRRT) - is any extracorporeal blood purification therapy designed to substitute for impaired renal function over an extended period, and intended to be applied for up to 24 hours a day. 

    coronary arteries - arteries that come from the aorta to provide blood to the heart muscle.

    coronary artery bypass graft (CAB or CABG) - a surgical procedure in which a healthy blood vessel is transplanted from another part of the body into the heart to replace or bypass a diseased vessel.

    coronary artery spasm - a sudden closing of an artery, which cuts off blood flow to the heart and causes symptom of angina or heart attack.

    coronary heart disease (CAD) - a condition in which the coronary arteries narrow from an accumulation of plaque (atherosclerosis) and cause a decrease in blood flow.

    coronary occlusion - an obstruction of one of the coronary arteries that decreases flow to the heart muscle.

    coronary thrombosis - the formation of a clot in one of the arteries that carry blood to the heart muscle.

    cyanosis - insufficient oxygen in the blood.



    defibrillator - A battery-driven, mechanical device used to treat life-threatening heart rhythm abnormalities and establish normal heartbeat. The battery and electrical circuits ("generator") are implanted in the body, usually under the clavicle. Wires leading from the generator are placed on the heart muscle to deliver the electrical current needed to treat the abnormal rhythm.

    diastolic blood pressure - the lowest blood pressure measure in the arteries, which occurs between heartbeats.

    diuretic - a medication that lowers blood pressure by causing excess fluid to be excreted.

    doppler ultrasound - A procedure that uses sound waves to evaluate the heart, blood vessels, and valves.

    dyspnea - shortness of breath.

    dysrhythmia - an abnormal heart rhythm.



    echocardiography - a procedure that evaluates the structure and function of the heart by using sound waves recorded on an electronic sensor that produce a moving picture of the heart and heart valves. Complete studies may take over an hour to image all of the important structures; limited examinations may only require a few minutes. In small infants and toddlers, sedation may be necessary to obtain reliable information. "Doppler" techniques are often also used to look for obstructions in the heart or leakiness ("regurgitation") of any of the heart valves.

    3D Echocardiogram - is a painless, safe and highly effective way to produce images of a beating heart using the same sound wave technology obstetricians use when they view an unborn baby in the womb. This state-of-the-art imaging procedure allows the physician to see clear, color images in real-time. The 3D echocardiogram is used when there is a critical, or difficult diagnosis. 

    edema - swelling.

    ejection fraction - the measurement of the blood pumped out of the ventricles.

    electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) - a test that records the electrical activity of the heart, shows abnormal rhythms (arrhythmias or dysrhythmias), and detects heart muscle damage. The test uses measurements of the heart's electrical activity by placing electrodes on the arms, legs and chest. This test helps identify abnormally enlarged heart chambers or abnormalities of the heart's electrical system (arrhythmias).

    electrophysiological study (EPS) - a cardiac catheterization to study the heart's electrical current in patients who have arrhythmias.

    endarterectomy - the surgical removal of plaque or blood clots in an artery. endocardium - the membrane that covers the inside surface of the heart.

    endocarditis - a bacterial infection of the heart lining.

    enlarged heart - a condition of the heart in which it is abnormally larger than normal.

    epicardium - the membrane that covers the outside of the heart.

    estrogen - a hormone produced by the ovaries.

    exercise stress test - this test helps doctors assess blood flow through coronary arteries in response to exercise, usually walking, at varied speeds and for various lengths of time on a treadmill. A stress test may include use of electrocardiography, echocardiography, and injected radioactive substances. Also called exercise test, stress test, or treadmill test.

    extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) - usually used as an emergency to support for improving circulation for a short period either for recovery or longer. It supports both ventricles of the heart at the same time and also has an oxygenator attached to it which gives support to the lings as well.


    fibrillation – rapid contractions of the heart muscles.

    flutter - ineffective contractions of the heart muscles.



    gated blood pool scan - a nuclear scan to see how the heart wall moves and how much blood is expelled with each heart beat.



    heart attack - also called myocardial infarction; damage to the heart muscle due to insufficient blood supply.

    heart block - interrupted electrical impulse to heart muscles.

    heart-lung machine - a machine that pumps blood during open heart surgery.

    heart valve prolapse - a condition of the heart valve in which it is partially open when it should be closed.

    high blood pressure - blood pressure that is above the normal range.

    high density lipoprotein (HDL) - a protein in the blood plasma (the "good" cholesterol) that promotes breakdown and removal of cholesterol from the body.

    holter monitor - an EKG recording done over a period of 24 or more hours.

    hypertension - high blood pressure.

    hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy (HOCM) - a bulge in the ventricle that causes impeded blood flow.

    hypoglycemia - low levels of blood sugar.

    hypoxia - abnormally low oxygen content in the organs and tissues of the body.



    immunosuppressive medications - medications that suppress the body's immune system used to minimize rejection of transplanted organs.

    impedance plethysmography - a test to evaluate blood flow through the leg.

    impella - the world's smallest left ventricular assist device (LVAD). It is used to support a failing heart before or after emergency revascularization. 

    inferior vena cava - the large blood vessel (vein) that returns blood from the legs and abdomen to the heart.

    inotropic medications - medications that increase strength of the contractions in the heart.

    intravascular echocardiography - echocardiography used in cardiac catheterization.

    ischemia - decreased flow of oxygenated blood to an organ due to obstruction in an artery.

    ischemic heart disease - coronary artery disease or coronary heart disease caused by narrowing of the coronary arteries and decreased blood flow to the heart.



    jugular veins- veins that carry blood from the head back to the heart.



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    lesion - an injury or wound.

    lipid - a fatty substance in the blood.

    lipoproteins - transporters of fatty substances in the blood.

    low density lipoprotein (LDL) - the body's primary cholesterol-carrying molecule. High blood levels of LDL increase a person's risk of heart disease by promoting cholesterol attachment and accumulation in blood vessels.

    lumen - the hollow area within a tube.



    magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) - a diagnostic procedure that uses a combination of large magnets, radiofrequencies, and a computer to produce detailed images of organs and structures within the body. MRI technology uses the body's magnetic field and high-tech computers to "reconstruct" images of the heart, blood vessels, lungs and trachea. MRI can be used in virtually all patients, unless metal structures (e.g., a pacemaker) are in the chest.

    maze procedure - a surgical procedure to control atrial fibrillation and/or atrial flutter. A number of incisions are made in the atria to block the path of the arrhythmia.

    mitral valve - the valve that controls blood flow between the left atrium and left ventricle in the heart.

    mitral valve prolapse - a bulge in the valve between the left atrium and left ventricle of the heart that causes backward flow of blood into the atrium.

    monounsaturated fats - dietary fats, such as olive oil or canola oil, that do not seem to have any affect on blood cholesterol.

    murmur - a blowing or rasping sound heard while listening to the heart that may or may not indicate problems within the heart or circulatory system.

    myocardial infarction (also called heart attack) - occurs when one of more regions of the heart muscle experience a severe or prolonged decrease in oxygen supply caused by a blocked blood flow to the heart muscle.

    myocardial ischemia - insufficient blood flow to part of the heart.

    myocardium - the muscle wall of the heart.



    necrosis - pertaining to the death of tissue.

    nitroglycerin - a medication used to relax or dilate arteries.

    noninvasive procedures - a diagnostic effort or treatment that does not require entering the body or puncturing the skin.

    nuclear stress test - this test is almost the same as the exercise stress test, except doctors will give you a small amount of a radioactive substance just before the end of the exercise part of the test. This radioactive substance is not harmful to your body or your organs. The test can give information about the size of the heart's chambers, how well the heart is pumping blood, and whether the heart has any damaged or dead muscle.



    obesity - an excessive accumulation of fat in the body. A person with a body mass index (BMI) greater than 30 is considered obese.

    occluded artery - an artery that is narrowed by plaque that impedes blood flow.

    open-heart surgery - surgery that involves opening the chest and heart while a heart-lung machine performs for the heart. Also called Coronary Bypass Grafting (CABG)

    overweight - a label of ranges of weight that are greater than what is generally considered healthy for a given weight. A person with a body mass index (BMI) between 25 and 30 is considered overweight.



    pacemaker, mechanical - a battery-driven, mechanical device used to treat heart rhythms that are too slow, too fast or irregular. The battery and electrical circuits ("generator") are implanted in the body, usually under the clavicle. Wires leading from the generator are placed on the heart muscle to deliver the small amount of electrical current needed to treat the abnormal rhythm and regulate heartbeat.

    palpitations - the sensation of the heart beating rapidly or irregularly.

    percutaneous mechanical circulatory support - offering new hope, more time and quality of life to end-stage heart failure patients, a percutaneous mechanical ciculatory support device is powered by a source that remains outside of the body and is implanted by a specially trained physician. The device's job is to  take over all or some of the heart's work when it is too weak to pump properly.

    percutaneous transluminal angioplasty - angioplasty.

    percutaneous ventricular assist device - is a temporary piece of equipment that is used to aid the heart in pumping blood when a patient's heart muscle is too weak to pump adequate blood to the body. The ventricles of the heart need temporary support. The device is a catheter with a tiny pump inside and is so small that it can be inserted into the patient's heart through a small catheter placed through an artery in the leg. This is usually done in the cardiac catheterization laboratory. 

    perfusionist - a specially trained individual who manages the cardiopulmonary bypass heart/lung machine.

    pericardiocentesis - a diagnostic procedure that uses a needle to draw fluid from the pericardium.

    pericarditis - inflammation of the membrane that surrounds the heart.

    pericardium - the membrane that surrounds the heart.

    phlebotomy - removal of blood from the vein.

    plaque - deposits of fat or other substances attached to the artery wall.

    platelets - cells found in the blood.

    polyunsaturated fat - a type of fat found in vegetable oils and margarines that does not appear to raise blood cholesterol levels.

    positron emission tomography (PET) - a nuclear scanning device that gives a three-dimensional picture of the heart to provide information about the flow of blood through the coronary arteries to the heart muscle.

    pulmonary - pertains to lungs and respiratory system.

    pulmonary edema - a condition in which there is a fluid accumulation in the lungs caused by an incorrectly functioning heart.

    pulmonary valve - the heart valve located between the right ventricle and the pulmonary artery that controls blood flow to the lungs.

    pulmonary vein - the vessel that carries newly oxygenated blood to the heart from the lungs.

    pulse oximeter - a device that measures the amount of oxygen in the blood.



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    radioisotope - a radioactive material injected into the body so that a nuclear scanner can make pictures.

    radionuclide ventriculography - a diagnostic procedure used to determine the shape and size of the heart's chambers.

    regurgitation - backward flow of blood caused by a defective heart valve.

    renal - pertains to kidneys.

    rheumatic fever - a childhood disease that may damage the heart valves or the outer lining of the heart.

    risk factor - a condition, element, or activity that may adversely affect the heart.



    saturated fat - fat that is found in foods from animal meats and skin, dairy products and some vegetables.

    septal defect - a hole in the wall of the heart.

    septum - the muscle wall that divides the heart chambers.

    shock - impaired body function due to blood loss or a disturbance in the circulatory system.

    shunt - a connector to allow blood flow between two locations.

    silent ischemia - ischemia not accompanied by chest pain.

    sinus node - the cells that produce the electrical impulses that cause the heart to contract.

    sphygmomanometer - an instrument used to measure blood pressure.

    stent - cylindrical metal device that is placed on a balloon catheter, and used to enlarge narrowed areas of blood vessels or the airway. When expanded, stents have the appearance of a "chicken wire" cylinder, and resist collapsing. When non-expanded, the stents are long and thin. Stents can be used in blood vessels (coronary arteries, pulmonary arteries or veins, major systemic veins, or the aorta).

    stenosis - the narrowing or constriction of a blood vessel or valve in the heart.

    sternum - the breastbone.

    stethoscope - the instrument used to listen to the heart and other sounds in the body.

    streptokinase - a clot-dissolving medication.

    stress - mental or physical tension that results from physical, emotional, or chemical causes.

    stress test - a patient uses a treadmill while heart rate, blood pressure and EKG are monitored to determine how the heart functions during exercise to diagnose coronary artery disease, possible causes of symptoms, heart-related conditions and safe levels of exercise.

    stroke - the sudden disruption of blood flow to the brain.

    subarachnoid hemorrhage - bleeding on the surface of the brain.

    sudden death - death that occurs unexpectedly or immediately after onset of symptoms.

    superior vena cava - the large vein that returns blood to the heart from the head and arms.

    supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) - very rapid beating of the heart's upper chambers (atria).

    syncope - light-headedness or fainting caused by insufficient blood supply to the brain.

    systolic blood pressure - the highest blood pressure measured in the arteries.



    tachycardia - rapid heart beat.

    tachypnea - rapid breathing.

    telemetry unit - a small transmitter that is used to send information about the heart via radio transmission to healthcare professionals for evaluation. thallium.

    stress test - a study in which a radioactive substance is carried by the blood and its progress through the circulation of a specific body area is followed by x-ray pictures.

    therapeutic hypothermia - including mild therapeutic hypothermia in selected patients surviving out-of-hospital sudden cardiac arrest can significantly improve rates of long-term neurologically intact survival and may prove to be one of the most important advancements in the science of resuscitation. The goals of treatment include achieving the target temperature as quickly as possible; in most cases, this can be reached within 3-4 hours of initiation cooling. Rewarming is begun 24 hours after the time of initiation of cooling. At San Antonio we have the latest available internal cooling methods using catheter-based technologies and are able to provide rapid and ffective cooling which increases the benefit to the patient.

    thoracic endovascular aneurysm repair (TEVAR) - is a minimally invasive alternative to major open surgery for the repair of thoracic aortic aneurysms. TEVAR can result in reduced recovery time and potentially improved survival rates. In the major surgical method, the thoracic aneurysm is replaced with a synthetic graft by creating a large incision. The the less invasive TEVAR procedure, a thoracic stent graft is inserted into the aneurysm through small incisions in the groin. 

    thoracoscopic surgery - similar to arthroscopic surgery for joint surgery or laparoscopic surgery in the abdomen, thoracoscopic surgery is performed by using small incisions and video cameras to do procedures typically done through larger, open incisions.

    thrombolysis - the breaking up of a blood clot.

    thrombosis - a blood clot formed in a blood vessel or in the heart.

    thrombolytic therapy - the use of a medication that dissolves blood clots.

    tissue plasminogen activator (TPA) - a medication used to dissolves blood clots.

    trans fat - vegetable oil that has been treated with hydrogen in order to make it more solid and give it a longer shelf life.

    transesophageal echocardiography (TEE) - an ultrasound technique in which the ultrasound probe (about as large as a pinky finger) is placed in the esophagus to "look" at the heart from behind using sound waves that "bounce" off the heart. Transesophageal echocardiography is much more sensitive than transthoracic (across the chest) echocardiography, as overlying structures (bone and lungs) do not obscure the view. This technique requires sedation in almost all cases.

    transient ischemic attack (TIA) - a stroke-like event that lasts for a short period of time and is caused by a blocked blood vessel.

    transplantation - replacing a damaged organ with one from a donor.

    tricuspid valve - the heart valve that controls blood flow from the right atrium into the right ventricle.

    triglyceride - a fat-like substance found in the blood.



    ultrasound - a diagnostic tool used to measure high-frequency sound vibrations.



    valves (the heart valves are tricuspid, pulmonic, mitral, and aortic) - the "doors" between the chambers of the heart.

    valvuloplasty - the repair of a heart valve using a balloon catheter inside the valve.

    varicose vein - an abnormally dilated vein.

    vascular - pertaining to blood vessels.

    vasodilator - a medication that dilates or widens the opening in a blood vessel.

    vasodepressors - a medication that raises blood pressure.

    vein - a blood vessel that carries blood from the body back into the heart.

    ventricle - one of the two lower chambers of the heart.

    ventricular fibrillation - a condition in which the ventricles contract in rapid and unsynchronized rhythms and cannot pump blood into the body.

    ventricular tachycardia - a condition in which the ventricles cause a very fast heartbeat.

    vertigo - dizziness.



    Wolff-Parkinson -

    White syndrome - An extra electrical pathway that connects the atria and ventricles and causes rapid heartbeat.



    X-ray - a machine that uses radiation to produce pictures of the inside of the body.



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