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Glossary of Cardiovascular Terms

Widening of a portion of an artery, due to disease or congenital abnormality.
Angina Pectoris:
Pain in the central front of the chest brought about by effort. Usually a symptom of ischaemic heart disease.
Lack of oxygen. The condition which causes the death of tissue when arteries are blocked.
Drugs which reduce high blood pressure
The main trunk artery, receiving blood from the left ventricle.
Aortic insufficiency:
Improper closing of the aortic valve, allowing a back flow of blood.
Aortic valve:
The valve between the left ventricle and the aorta.
Lower portion of the heart, tip of the ventricles. The apex points leftward, downward, and forward.
Abnormal rhythm of the heart. May refer to rate, rhythm, or propagation sequence of depolarisation. Some are harmless. some are very serious.
Arterial Compliance:
An index of the stiffness of the arterial wall.
The smallest arterial vessels resulting from repeated branching of the arteries. They conduct the blood to the capillaries.
Thickening, hardening, and loss of elasticity to the arterial wall.
Blood vessel carrying blood away from the heart
Noise which distorts a recording. For example, physical noise on a pressure tracing, or electrical noise on an ECG.
A period during which the heart does not contract. recorded on a tracing as a straight line.
Deposits, usually fatty, on the inside of the artery.
Atrial septum:
The wall separating the left and right atria.
Atrioventricular (AV) Node:
The small bundle of specialised conductive cells which transmits electrical impulses from the atria to the ventricles.
One of the two upper chambers of the heart.
The act of listening to sound from within the body. In cardiology usually with a stethoscope or automatic microphone based system.
The inherent property of myocardial cells to generate an electrical impulse by spontaneous depolarisation.
Autonomic nervous system:
The system which controls tissues not under voluntary control such as the heart muscle. Divided into the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems.
Low heart rate (usually defined as below 60BPM).
Bundle branch:
Either of the branches of the specialised conduction system just below the His Bundle.
Bundle of His:
The bundle of conduction fibres linking the AV node to the bundle branches.
The very narrow tubes forming the network between the arterioles and the veins.
Cardiac Arrest:
Cessation of Ventricular activity. Absence of heartbeat.
Cardiac Cycle:
One complete heart beat, contraction and relaxation. Normally takes about 0.85 seconds.
Cardiac Output:
Volume of blood pumped by the heart per minute.
Disease of the heart muscle from various causes.
Chordae Tendinae:
The fibrous cords which anchor the atrioventricular valves to prevent them being turned inside out by ventricular contractions.
Collateral circulation:
Circulation of the blood through nearby smaller vessels when a main vessel has been occluded.
The transmission of an electrical impulse.
Coronary arteries:
The small arteries supplying blood to the tissue of the heart.
Cor Pulmonale:
Heart disease caused by impairment of blood flow through the lungs. Ultimately can cause failure of the right ventricle among other problems.
The sudden change in electrical potential from negative to positive. In normal circumstances usually results in a contraction.
The relaxation period of the heart.
Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG):
Graphic representation of the electrical activity of the heart as detected by electrodes on the skin or internally.
Occlusion of a blood vessel by particles such as fat or air.
A substance in a blood vessel which may be carried to a smaller vessel to become an obstruction to the flow.
The thin smooth membrane lining the inner surface of the heart. A specialised form of endothelial tissue.
The outer layer of tissue of the heart.
Essential hypertension:
Hypertension of unknown origin, the commonest form of consistently elevated blood pressure.
A premature contraction of the heart, in most cases harmless.
Chaotic, high rate unsynchronised vibrations of the myocardium, resulting in absent or ineffectual pumping.
The study of blood flow and the forces involved.
Heart attack:
A non-specific term relating to disturbance of heart function in coronary and other cardiac diseases.
Heart block:
Total or partial blocking of electrical impulse travel from atria to ventricles resulting in slow or irregular pumping action.
High blood pressure, can relate to systolic, mean, or diastolic pressures.
The enlargement of a body due to increase in size of the cells. In the heart it is usually a result of increased demand for output.
Low blood pressure.
Idioventricular rhythm:
Relatively slow rhythm arising from a ventricular focus, normally during heart block.
Area of tissue which is dead or severly damaged, usually due to lack of blood supply.
Inherent rate:
The rate of impulse formation in the various areas of the conduction system.
Ischemic tissue:
Tissue with inadequate blood supply to maintain normal function.
Korotkoff sounds:
The sounds heard via stethoscope or microphone during release of pressure in the arm cuff. The basic principle of auscultatory BP measurement.
The passageway inside a blood vessel.
Malignant hypertension:
Severe high blood pressure causing rapid damage to other organs such as the eyes and kidneys.
Mean Arterial Pressure (MAP):
The time-weighted average of systolic and diastolic pressures.
Mitral valve:
The valve between the left atrium and the left ventricle.
An abnormal heart sound heard between the normal heart sounds.
The muscular wall of the heart, lying betweeen the endocardium and the epicardium.
Having normal blood pressure.
Measurement of changes in magnitude of arterial pressure pulses.
Pulmonary valve:
The valve between the right ventricle and the pulmonary artery.
Purkinje Fibres:
Network of electrical conducting fibres at the end of the specialised ventricular conducting system.
Refractory period:
The length of time after depolarisation during which the muscle is incapable of another depolarisation.
Renal Hypertension:
High blood pressure caused by kidney disease.
Electrical recovery of the heart when the cell returns to a negative state.
Sino-Atrial (SA) Node:
The small bundle of specialised cells high in the right atrium which initiates the regular cardiac depolarisation cycle.
An instrument for measuring arterial blood pressure.
Stroke volume:
The amount of blood pumped out of the heart at each contraction.
Supraventricular tachycardia:
A tachycardia originating in the atria, AV node, or His Bundle.
The period of contraction of the heart muscle. The depolarisation period.
Rapid heart rate, usually defined as in excess of 100BPM.
Occlusion of a blood vessel by clotting of the blood within the vessel itself at the site of the occlusion
Tricuspid valve:
The valve between the right atrium and the right ventricle.
Any vessel in the body carrying blood back to the heart.
Vena Cava:
The superior and inferior venae cavae carry the blood from the body back into the right atrium.
one of the two lower chambers of the heart.
Ventricular septum:
( or Interventricular septum). The muscular wall separating the ventricles.
Shape and/or structure of a pressure or electrical pulse recording cardiac activity.