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Cardiac Definitions & Terminology

A rundown of terms to help you learn more

In heart care, doctors evaluate and treat people who have heart disease, often called cardiovascular disease.

Cardiovascular disease refers to both heart and blood vessel conditions, including coronary artery disease and heart valve disease, abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias), heart conditions present at birth (congenital heart disease), congestive heart failure and other heart conditions.

When a patient presents symptoms of cardiovascular disease or other condition, our doctors and surgeons will evaluate thoroughly to determine the best course of medical and surgical treatment.

With the heart's arteries

Acute Coronary Syndrome
Acute Coronary Syndrome is a general term that includes heart attack and unstable angina.

Angina, also known as angina pectoris, refers to pain originating from the heart. This sensation may be felt as chest pain or pressure in the chest. Most often, there is a feeling of tightness in the chest, which may spread to the neck, jaw, shoulders, and occasionally one or both arms possibly as far down as the hands.

Coronary Artery Disease
Coronary artery disease refers to any illness that affects the arteries that supply blood to the heart muscle.

Heart Attack
A heart attack, or myocardial infarction, begins when a portion of the heart muscle suddenly loses its blood supply due to an obstruction of the coronary arteries. The obstruction is typically due to coronary arteriosclerosis.

Unstable Angina
Unstable angina is a condition in which your heart doesn't get enough blood flow and oxygen. It may lead to a heart attack.

With the heart's electrical system

An arrhythmia is an irregularity in the pace at which the heart beats that, in turn, causes a variation in the pulse rate.

Atrial Fibrillation
Atrial fibrillation is a type of cardiac arrhythmia (abnormality of heart rate or rhythm).

Bradycardia is an abnormally low heart rate of fewer than 60 beats per minute.

Tachycardia is a heart rate of more than 100 beats per minute.

With the heart's pumping ability

Heart Failure
When your heart isn't pumping enough blood, it's a serious but manageable condition. Learn what you can do to live well and reduce your symptoms.

With the heart's structure (congenital or acquired)

Adult Congenital Heart Disease
Congenital heart defects (CHD) are problems with the heart's structure that developed in the womb or early development and are present at birth or shortly thereafter.

Cardiomyopathy is any disease or condition that changes the structure of or weakens the heart muscle. "Cardio" refers to the heart, "myo" refers to muscle, and "pathy" refers to disease. The heart muscle can either be enlarged, abnormally thick, rigid, or replaced with scar tissue. Often, the result of cardiomyopathy is heart failure, a condition in which a modified heart muscle is unable to pump an adequate amount of blood to the rest of the body.

Mitral Valve Prolapse
Mitral valve prolapse, also called Barlow's syndrome, floppy valve syndrome, or click-murmur syndrome, occurs when one or both of the two leaflets (flaps composing the mitral valve) bulge backwards (prolapse) into the left atrium when the left ventricle contracts, allowing blood to leak backward.

Pericardial Disorders
An inflammation of the membranous sac that surrounds the heart (the pericardium) is called pericarditis.

Septal Defects
Septal defects occur in the wall (septum) separating the right and left sides of the heart either between the two atria (atrial septal defect), the two ventricles (ventricular septal defect), or in the valves that control blood flow from atria to ventricles (atrioventricular septal defect).

Valvular Heart Disease
The heart has four heart valves that function as one-way gates, opening and closing to allow the chambers to fill and empty at opportune moments. When something is wrong with one of these valves, you have heart valve disease. Some people with heart valve disease are born with it, while others develop heart valve disease later in life.

With the arteries outside the heart

Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD)
PAD may be diagnosed when blood vessels of your legs, arms or torso are narrowed by plaque. Discover the options for treatment and prevention.

Stroke occurs when a blood vessel either bursts or is blocked. It's the fourth leading cause of death, yet many risk factors are preventable.

Leading to cardiovascular diseases

High Blood Pressure
Hypertension is a condition where a person's blood pressure is persistently above normal. Untreated HBP damages and scars your arteries, which can have deadly consequences.

Hyperlipidemia (High Cholesterol)
High cholesterol can put you at risk for heart disease or stroke. But you can improve your cholesterol numbers with a sound treatment plan.

Medical Services

In office procedures (noninvasive):

  • Cardiovascular health evaluation
  • Carotid ultrasound
  • Cardiac imaging
  • Cardiac monitoring
  • Coumadin management
  • 2D and 3D echocardiography
  • EKGs
  • Exercise stress testing
  • Holter monitoring/event recorder
  • Lipid management
  • Nuclear cardiology studies
  • Permanent pacemaker/ICD follow up
  • Vascular studies
  • Rapid diuresis (for heart failure patients)

Hospital procedures (invasive):

  • Transcatheter aortial valve replacement (TAVR)
  • Cardiac catheterization
  • Coronary artery angioplasty and stenting
  • Carotid artery stenting
  • Cardiac electrophysiology
  • Cardioversion
  • Radio-frequency catheter ablation of arrhythmias
  • Permanent pacemaker
  • Implantable defibrillator (ICD)
  • Transesophageal echo (TEE)