Glossary of Cardiac Terms
Below are some helpful cardiology-related terms and definitions most commonly used in cardiac care.
(Click on + to reveal terms for each letter)
Ablation therapy is a type of minimally invasive procedure done to destroy abnormal tissue that can be present in a small amount of heart tissue that’s causing abnormal heart rhythms.
Angiography (also known as coronary angiography)
Angiography is an image of blood vessels captured through use of a minimally invasive fluoroscopic instrument and contrast dye injected into the body.
Angioplasty (also called percutaneous coronary intervention)
Angioplasty is a procedure that involves insertion of a tiny balloon to unclog heart arteries.
The aortic valve is a valve located at the exit of the heart’s left ventricle.
Aortic Valve Stenosis
Aortic valve stenosis is a narrowing of the aortic valve that prevents it from opening fully, reducing the volume of blood that can pass through it.
Arrhythmia is an electrical system malfunction of the heart related to its rhythm and characterized by an abnormal heart rhythm, notably in the pace and number of heartbeats.
Arteriosclerotic Heart Disease (ASHD)
Arteriosclerotic heart disease (ASHD) is a hardening of the arteries that can be the result of fatty deposits, calcification or thickening arterial walls.
This procedure is done to close a small hole that is in the inside wall of the heart between the left and right chambers
Atherectomy is a minimally invasive technique for removing plaque from blood vessels within the body.
The atria are the two top (left and right) chambers of the heart.
Atrial Fibrillation (Also Called Afib)
Atrial fibrillation is a type of racing of the upper part of the heart (supraventricular tachycardia) caused by multiple abnormal electrical short circuits in the heart’s top left chamber (left atrium), just outside the pulmonary veins.
Atrial flutter is a type of arrhythmia. More specifically, it is a type of supraventricular tachycardia caused by an abnormal electrical short circuit in the top chambers of the heart (atria).
Atrial Septal Defect
Atrial septal defect is an opening in the wall between the left and right upper chambers of the heart.
Atrial tachycardia is a type of supraventricular tachycardia caused by the abnormal firing of a group of cells in one of the top chambers of the heart (atria).
The atrioventricular node is a small channel of heart tissue separating the heart’s atria (top chambers) and ventricles (bottom chambers). It helps regulate the heart rate.
Broken Heart Syndrome
Broken heart syndrome is a temporary heart condition associated with chest pain that can be triggered by major stress, such as death of a loved one or serious physical illness. Bradycardia Bradycardia is a very slow heart rhythm (under 50-60 beats per minute) with symptoms that can include lightheadedness, shortness of breath or fainting.
Cardiac catheterization is a procedure in which a thin tube and contrast dye are inserted into a vessel in the arm, upper thigh or neck to access the heart and determine how well it is functioning (angiogram).
Cardiac PET Imaging
A heart positron emission tomography (PET) scan is an imaging test that uses a radioactive substance called a tracer to look for poor blood flow in the heart.
Cardiomyopathy is a heart disease in which the heart muscle becomes weakened, stretched or has another structural problem.
A Carotid Ultrasound is an ultrasound of the carotid arteries in the neck to evaluate how they carry blood to the head/brain.
Catheter ablation is a minimally-invasive procedure to treat tissue in the heart responsible for its abnormal rhythm (arrhythmia).
Congestive Heart Failure
Congestive heart failure is a condition caused when fluid builds up in the lungs and interferes with breathing and healthy functioning.
A coronary angioplasty is a procedure used to widen blocked or narrowed coronary arteries.
Coronary Artery Disease
Coronary artery disease is a narrowing or blockage of the heart’s coronary arteries caused by buildup of calcified plaque from cholesterol deposits.
Coronary Bypass Surgery
Coronary bypass surgery is a surgical procedure that restores normal blood flow to a blocked coronary artery.
Coronary Heart Disease
Also known as coronary artery disease, coronary heart disease is a narrowing or blockage of the heart’s coronary arteries caused by buildup of calcified plaque from cholesterol deposits.
A coronary stent is a small, metal mesh tube that expands inside a coronary artery to help prevent the artery from closing up.
Cryptogenic stroke is a stroke with no known cause that can sometimes be traced later to previously undiagnosed cardiovascular conditions.
Diastolic Heart Failure
Diastolic heart failure is a condition in which the heart’s left ventricle cannot fill adequately with blood, resulting in less oxygenated blood pumped from the heart out to the body.
Echocardiogram is a test that uses sound waves to create moving pictures of the heart, particularly its chambers and valves.
Electrocardiogram is a test used to assess a heart’s rhythm.
Electrophysiology study is a test used to diagnose an abnormal heart rhythm.
Exercise Stress Test
Exercise stress test is a physical test during which a patient’s heart rate, heart rhythm and blood pressure are continuously monitored.
Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO)
Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) is a type of acute mechanical circulatory support device used in a hospital setting to help provide 24/7 acute care for heart patients.
Heart attack is a sudden and potential fatal event that kills heart muscle when there is blockage in one of the heart’s arteries.
Heart CT Scan
Heart CT scan is an imaging test that provides a digital picture of the heart’s vessels.
Also known as coronary artery disease, heart disease is a narrowing or blockage of the heart’s coronary arteries caused by buildup of calcified plaque from cholesterol deposits.
HeartFlow FFR/CT is a patented, advanced imaging test to assess coronary artery disease.
Heart failure is a condition caused by the heart’s inability to pump blood properly to deliver enough oxygen to the body.
Heart palpitations are a sensation that the heart is racing, pounding or fluttering, and can be caused anxiety, medications, panic disorders and more.
Heart Valve Disease
Heart valve disease is a condition in which a heart valve is not functioning properly and limits regular flow of blood to the body.
Heart Valve Surgery
Heart valve surgery is a surgical procedure to repair a diseased or faulty heart valve.
Heart rate is the number of heartbeats measured in a unit of time, typically one minute.
High Blood Pressure
Also known as hypertension, high blood pressure is defined by the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology as 130/80 or higher for systolic (top) and diastolic (bottom) readings.
A Holter monitor is a device worn on the body to measure heart rhythm.
Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is a complex condition in which heart muscle cells enlarge and can cause the walls of the ventricles to thicken, weakening its ability to pump oxygenated blood to the body.
Hypertension is a term to describe high blood pressure, which is defined by the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology as 130/80 or higher for systolic (top) and diastolic (bottom) readings
Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD)
An implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) is a small, battery-powered device placed under the skin to monitor heart rate and heart rhythm and provide an electrical shock to restore normal rate and rhythm.
Intravascular ultrasound is an imaging test that uses sound waves to evaluate coronary arteries that supply the heart with blood.
Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD)
A left ventricular assist device (LVAD) is an implanted device that helps the heart supply a sufficient amount of oxygen-rich blood to the body.
LINQ is a patented, implantable wireless cardiac monitoring system.
Mitral Valve Regurgitation
Mitral valve regurgitation is the abnormal and reverse flow of blood from the heart’s left ventricle to the left atrium.
Mitral Valve Surgery
Mitral valve surgery is a surgical procedure to repair a diseased mitral valve.
MitraClip is also known as a transcatheter mitral valve repair, a proprietary non-surgical procedure to repair a diseased mitral valve.
A nanostim is a tiny patented leadless and wireless type of pacemaker that is implanted directly in the heart and designed for patients with bradycardia.
Non Invasive Vascular Imaging
Non Invasive Vascular Imaging uses high-frequency sound waves to create images to detect blood clots and narrowed blood vessels throughout the body.
Nuclear Imaging is a method of producing images by detecting radiation from different parts of the body after a radioactive tracer is given to the patient.
A pacemaker is a small device implanted under the skin to set the heart rate of the bottom chambers to correct heart arrhythmia.
Patent Foramen Ovale
Patent foramen ovale is an opening in the wall between the left and right chambers of the heart.
Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD)
Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is a condition in which narrowed arteries reduce blood flow to limbs, most commonly the legs.
Peripheral Vascular Intervention
Peripheral Vascular Intervention is a minimally invasive outpatient (same day) procedure used to treat peripheral artery disease, which causes plaque buildup in the arteries leading to the intestines, head, arms and most commonly the legs.
Peripartum cardiomyopathy is a form of heart failure that can occur in women during pregnancy.
Pulmonary Valve Stenosis
Pulmonary valve stenosis is a narrowing of the pulmonary valve that can result in the reduction of blood flow to the lungs to be oxygenated.
The procedure involves implanting a half-dollar sized pacemaker, usually just below the collarbone. Three wires (leads) connected to the device monitor the heart rate to detect heart rate irregularities and emit tiny pulses of electricity to correct them. In effect, it is “resynchronizing” the heart.
The sinoatrial node is a group of cells in the upper right atrium that start a heartbeat. It’s our body’s natural pacemaker.
Also known as the sinoatrial node, The sinus node is a group of cells in the upper right atrium that start a heartbeat. It’s our body’s natural pacemaker.
A stent is a tiny, mesh wire tube inserted into a clogged or blocked artery to reopen it and restore normal blood flow.
This test starts with a resting echocardiogram to get an ultrasound of the heart’s movement. Once the sonographer is done with the echocardiogram, the patient will exercise on a treadmill. After exercising, the sonographer will perform another echocardiogram to compare the images with the resting echocardiogram and asses how well the heart works under stress.
Structural Heart Disease
Structural heart disease is a term that can be used to describe abnormalities in the walls, valves and vessels of the heart that are congenital (present at birth) or due to other causes such as age and wear and tear.
Supraventricular Tachycardia (SVT)
Supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) is a group of heart arrhythmias that involves the top chambers of the heart (atria) and causes your heart to beat too fast (tachycardia). “Supra” means “above,” so supraventricular literally translates to “above the ventricles.”
Tachycardia is a very fast heart rhythm (over 120 beats per minute), with symptoms that can include the sensation of a racing heart, as well as lightheadedness, shortness of breath, chest tightness and fainting.
Thrombolysis, also called fibrinolytic therapy, is the breakdown of blood clots formed in blood vessels, using medication.
Transcatheter Mitral Valve Replacement is to treat severe mitral regurgitation or mitral stenosis without surgery. Using a catheter (a thin, flexible tube) inserted in a vein in the groin and expert imaging, it helps guide a new valve to the heart
Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR)
Transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) is a minimally invasive procedure in which an artificial device is placed inside a diseased aortic valve to push out old valve leaflets and restore normal blood flow.
Transesophageal Echocardiography (TEE)
Transesophageal echocardiography (TEE) is a test that uses sound waves to assess structure and function of the heart.
Transtelephonic monitoring is the ability for patients with permanent pacemakers, implantable defibrillators or implantable loop recorders to be monitored real-time for earlier detection of arrhythmias, heart failure decompensations or other possible issues.
Ventricles are the two lower (right and left) chambers of the heart.
Ventricular fibrillation is the most serious type of heart arrhythmia. During ventricular fibrillation, the heart’s electrical system becomes chaotic and disordered, causing the lower chambers (ventricles) to “flutter” instead of beating normally and pumping blood to the body.
Ventricular tachycardia is a type of arrhythmia that originates in the heart’s ventricles and involves a very fast heartbeat.
A Venous Ablation is a procedure to close off varicose veins which are twisted, large veins near the surface of the skin.
Watchman is a patented device and procedure to treat atrial fibrillation. The Watchman closes off the left atrial appendage with the goal of reducing risk of stroke and ending reliance on blood thinners.