Cardiology Glossary Of Terms


  • Aneurysm: A sac-like protrusion from a blood vessel or the heart, resulting from a weakening of the vessel wall or heart muscle.
  • Angina: The medical term for chest pain due to coronary heart disease, a condition in which the heart muscle doesn’t receive enough blood, resulting in pain in the chest.
  • Angiography: An X-ray examination of the blood vessels or chambers of the heart. It is done by tracing the course of a special fluid (called contrast or dye) that has been injected into the bloodstream. The X-ray pictures are called angiograms.
  • Anticoagulant: Any drug that keeps blood from clotting; a blood thinner.
  • Antihypertensive: Any drug or other therapy that lowers blood pressure.
  • Aorta: The large artery that receives blood from the left ventricle of the heart and distributes it to the body.
  • Aortic Aneurysm: An aortic aneurysm is the dilation, bulging or ballooning out of part of the wall of the aorta, the artery through which blood flows out of the heart to the body.
  • Aortic Regurgitation: The return of blood from the aorta into the left ventricle of the heart due to aortic insufficiency, incomplete closure of the aortic valve.
  • Aortic Valve: The heart valve between the left ventricle and the aorta. It has three flaps, or cusps.
  • Arrhythmia: (Dysrhythmia) An abnormal rhythm of the heart.
  • Artery: Any one of a series of vessels that carry blood from the heart to the various parts of the body.
  • Atrium: Either one of the two upper chambers of the heart in which blood collects before being passed to the ventricles; also called auricle.
  • Atherosclerosis: A medical condition in which fatty material collects along the walls of arteries. This fatty material thickens, hardens and may eventually block the arteries.
  • Atrial Fibrillation: Atrial fibrillation (AF) is the most common, abnormal rhythm of the heart.


  • Balloon Angioplasty: A procedure in which a balloon is inserted into a narrowed area of a blood vessel. When the balloon is inflated, the narrowed area is stretched open and then the balloon is removed. Also called balloon dilation angioplasty.
  • Balloon Valvuloplasty: A procedure in which a balloon is inserted into the opening of a narrowed heart valve. When the balloon is inflated, the valve is stretched open and then the balloon is removed.
  • Blood Pressure: The force or pressure exerted by the heart in pumping blood; pressure of the blood in the arteries.
  • Bradycardia: Abnormally slow heartbeat.
  • Bypass: Surgery that can improve blood flow to the heart (or other organs and tissues) by providing a new route, or “bypass,” around a section of clogged or diseased artery.


  • Cardiac: Pertaining to the heart.
  • Cardiac Arrest: When the heart stops beating.
  • Cardiac Catheterization: The process of examining the heart by introducing a thin tube (catheter) into a vein or artery and passing it into the heart.
  • Cardiology: The study of the heart and its functions in health and disease.
  • Cardiomyopathy: A disease of the heart muscle that leads to generalized deterioration of the muscle and its pumping ability.
  • Cardiopulmonary Bypass: The process by which a machine is used to do the work of the heart and lungs so the heart can be stopped during surgery.
  • Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR): An emergency measure that can maintain a person’s breathing and heartbeat. The person who performs CPR actually helps the patient’s circulatory system by breathing into the patient’s mouth to give them oxygen and by giving chest compressions to circulate the patient’s blood.
  • Cardiovascular: Pertaining to the heart and blood vessels.
  • Catheter: A thin tube inserted into a vein or artery.
  • Cerebrovascular Disease: The word “cerebrovascular” is made up of two parts “cerebro” which refers to the large part of the brain and “vascular” which means arteries and veins. Together, “cerebrovascular” refers to blood flow in your brain. The term cerebrovascular disease covers acute stroke and other diseases that may lead to stroke, like carotid stenosis and aneurysms. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease: Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is comprised primarily of two related diseases – chronic bronchitis and emphysema. In both diseases, there is chronic obstruction of the flow of air through the airways and out of the lungs, and the obstruction generally is permanent and progressive over time.
  • Congenital Heart Defect: Part of the heart or its major blood vessels that is not formed properly and does not work as it should at birth.
  • Congestive Heart Failure: The inability of the heart to pump out all the blood that returns to it. This results in blood backing up in the veins that lead to the heart. Sometimes, fluid builds up in various parts of the body.
  • Coronary Arteries: Two arteries arising from the aorta. The arteries arch down over the top of the heart, branch and provide blood to the working heart muscle.
  • Coronary Artery Disease: Conditions that cause the coronary arteries to narrow so blood flow to the heart muscle is reduced.


  • Diabetes: A disease in which the body doesn’t produce or properly use insulin. Insulin is needed to convert sugar and starch into the energy needed in daily life.
  • Diastolic Blood Pressure: The blood pressure inside the arteries when the heart muscle is relaxed.
  • Diastolic Heart Failure: This occurs when the heart has a problem relaxing. The heart cannot properly fill with blood because the muscle has become stiff, losing its ability to relax. This form may lead to fluid accumulation, especially in the feet, ankles, and legs. Some patients may have lung congestion.
  • Dyspnea: Shortness of breath.


  • Echocardiography: A diagnostic method in which pulses of sound are transmitted into the body. The echoes returning from the surfaces of the heart and other structures are plotted and recorded on electronic equipment.
  • Edema: Abnormal fluid accumulation in body tissues.
  • Endocarditis: An inflammation of the inner lining of the heart or heart valves.
  • Enlarged Heart: A state in which the heart is larger than normal due to heredity, long-term heavy exercise or diseases and disorders such as obesity, high blood pressure and coronary artery disease.


  • Fibrillation: Rapid, uncoordinated contractions of individual heart muscle fibers. The heart chamber involved can’t contract all at once and pumps blood ineffectively, if at all.
  • Flutter: The rapid, ineffective contractions of any heart chamber. A flutter is considered to be more coordinated than fibrillation.


  • Heart Attack: Death of, or damage to, part of the heart muscle due to an insufficient blood supply.
  • Heart Failure: Loss of blood-pumping ability by the heart.
  • Heart Murmur: An abnormal heart sound caused by turbulent blood flow. The sound may indicate that blood is flowing through a damaged or overworked heart valve, that there may be a hole in one of the heart’s walls or that there is a narrowing in one of the heart’s vessels. Some heart murmurs are a harmless type called innocent heart murmurs, which are common in children and usually do not require treatment.
  • High Blood Pressure: A chronic increase in blood pressure above the normal range. The increase persists over two or more measurements.
  • Hypertension: Same as high blood pressure.
  • Hypoglycemia: Low levels of glucose in the blood.


  • Infarct: The area of heart tissue permanently damaged by an inadequate supply of oxygen.
  • Inferior Vena Cava: The large vein returning blood from the legs and abdomen to the heart.
  • Ischemic Heart Disease: Also called coronary artery disease and coronary heart disease, this term is applied to heart ailments caused by narrowing of the coronary arteries, and therefore characterized by a decreased blood supply to the heart.
  • Ischemic Stroke: A type of stroke that is caused by blockage in a blood vessel.


  • Mitral Stenosis: A narrowing of the mitral valve, which controls blood flow from the heart’s upper left chamber (the left atrium) to its lower left chamber (the left ventricle). May result from an inherited (congenital) problem or from rheumatic fever.
  • Mitral Valve: The heart valve between the left atrium and left ventricle. It has two flaps, or cusps.
  • Mitral Valve Prolapse: A condition that occurs when the leaflets of the mitral valve between the left atrium (upper chamber) and left ventricle (lower chamber) bulge into the ventricle and permit backflow of blood into the atrium. The condition is often associated with progressive mitral regurgitation.
  • Mitral Valve Regurgitation: Failure of the mitral valve to close properly, causing blood to flow back into the heart’s upper left chamber (the left atrium) instead of moving forward into the lower left chamber (the left ventricle).
  • Myocardial Infarction (Heart Attack): The damaging or death of an area of the heart muscle (myocardium) resulting from a reduced blood supply to that area.


  • Open-Heart Surgery: Surgery done on the opened heart while the bloodstream is diverted through a heart-lung machine.


  • Pacemaker: An artificial pacemaker controls the heart’s beating and rhythm by emitting a series of electrical discharges.
  • Palpitation: An uncomfortable sensation within the chest caused by an irregular heartbeat.
  • Pericarditis: Inflammation of the outer membrane surrounding the heart. Rheumatic fever, tuberculosis, and many other agents are its possible causes.
  • Peripheral Vascular Disease (PVD): Diseases of the blood vessels (arteries and veins) located outside the heart and brain.
  • Plaque: Also called atheroma, this is a deposit of fatty (and other) substances in the inner lining of the artery wall characteristic of atherosclerosis.
  • Pulmonary Artery: The large artery that receives blood from the right ventricle and takes it to the lungs.


  • Regurgitation: The abnormal backward flowing of blood through a valve of the heart.


  • Septum: One of the muscular walls dividing the two chambers on the left side of the heart from the two chambers on the right. The atrial septum separates the top chambers and the ventricular septum separates the bottom chambers.
  • Stenosis: The narrowing or constriction of an opening (such as a heart valve).
  • Stroke: A sudden disruption of blood flow to the brain, either by a clot or a leak in a blood vessel.
  • Sudden Cardiac Death: During sudden cardiac death, the electrical system to the heart suddenly becomes irregular. The ventricles may flutter or quiver (ventricular fibrillation), and blood is not delivered to the body.
  • Systolic Blood Pressure: Pressure inside the arteries when the heart contracts with each beat.
  • Systolic Heart Failure: This occurs when the heart’s ability to contract decreases. The heart cannot pump with enough force to push a sufficient amount of blood into the circulation. Blood coming into the heart from the lungs may back up and cause fluid to leak into the lungs, a condition known as pulmonary congestion.


  • Tachycardia: Accelerated beating of the heart. Paroxysmal tachycardia is a particular form of rapid heart action, occurring in seizures that may last from a few seconds to several days.
  • Tricuspid Valve: The heart valve between the right atrium and right ventricle. It has three flaps, or cusps.


  • Ultrasound: High-frequency sound vibrations, that a human ear cannot hear, used in medical diagnosis. In pediatric cardiology the ultrasound test includes both echocardiography (shows a picture of the heart) and the Doppler test (analyzes blood flow).


  • Valve: An opening, covered by membrane flaps, between two chambers of the heart or between a chamber of the heart and a blood vessel. When it’s closed, no blood normally passes through.
  • Vascular: Pertaining to the blood vessels.
  • Vein: Any one of a series of vessels that carry blood from various parts of the body back to the heart.
  • Ventricle: One of the two lower chambers of the heart.
  • Ventricular Fibrillation: An abnormal irregular heart rhythm whereby there are very rapid uncoordinated fluttering contractions of the lower chambers (ventricles) of the heart. Ventricular fibrillation disrupts the synchrony between the heartbeat and the pulse beat. Ventricular fibrillation is most commonly associated with heart attacks or scarring of the heart muscle from previous heart attack. It is life threatening.

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