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Glossary of Cardiovascular Terms

Aneurysm:
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.
Anoxia:
Lack of oxygen. The condition which causes the death of tissue when arteries are blocked.
Antihypertensives:
Drugs which reduce high blood pressure
Aorta:
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.
Apex:
Lower portion of the heart, tip of the ventricles. The apex points leftward, downward, and forward.
Arrhythmia:
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.
Arterioles:
The smallest arterial vessels resulting from repeated branching of the arteries. They conduct the blood to the capillaries.
Arteriosclerosis:
Thickening, hardening, and loss of elasticity to the arterial wall.
Artery:
Blood vessel carrying blood away from the heart
Artifact:
Noise which distorts a recording. For example, physical noise on a pressure tracing, or electrical noise on an ECG.
Asystole:
A period during which the heart does not contract. recorded on a tracing as a straight line.
Atherosclerosis:
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.
Atrium:
One of the two upper chambers of the heart.
Auscultation:
The act of listening to sound from within the body. In cardiology usually with a stethoscope or automatic microphone based system.
Automaticity:
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.
Bradycardia:
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.
Capillaries:
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.
Cardiomyopathy:
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.
Conduction:
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.
Depolarisation:
The sudden change in electrical potential from negative to positive. In normal circumstances usually results in a contraction.
Diastole:
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.
Embolism:
Occlusion of a blood vessel by particles such as fat or air.
Embolus:
A substance in a blood vessel which may be carried to a smaller vessel to become an obstruction to the flow.
Endocardium:
The thin smooth membrane lining the inner surface of the heart. A specialised form of endothelial tissue.
Epicardium:
The outer layer of tissue of the heart.
Essential hypertension:
Hypertension of unknown origin, the commonest form of consistently elevated blood pressure.
Extrasystole:
A premature contraction of the heart, in most cases harmless.
Fibrillation:
Chaotic, high rate unsynchronised vibrations of the myocardium, resulting in absent or ineffectual pumping.
Haemodynamics:
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.
Hypertension:
High blood pressure, can relate to systolic, mean, or diastolic pressures.
Hypertrophy:
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.
Hypotension:
Low blood pressure.
Idioventricular rhythm:
Relatively slow rhythm arising from a ventricular focus, normally during heart block.
Infarction:
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.
Lumen:
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.
Murmur:
An abnormal heart sound heard between the normal heart sounds.
Myocardium:
The muscular wall of the heart, lying betweeen the endocardium and the epicardium.
Normotensive:
Having normal blood pressure.
Oscillometry:
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.
Repolarisation:
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.
Sphygmomanometer:
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.
Systole:
The period of contraction of the heart muscle. The depolarisation period.
Tachycardia:
Rapid heart rate, usually defined as in excess of 100BPM.
Thrombosis:
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.
Vein:
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.
Ventricle:
one of the two lower chambers of the heart.
Ventricular septum:
( or Interventricular septum). The muscular wall separating the ventricles.
Waveform:
Shape and/or structure of a pressure or electrical pulse recording cardiac activity.