Glossary of Heart Terms
Ablation: A procedure to correct an abnormal heart rhythm. The goal is to remove or destroy the region of the heart where the abnormal rhythm is originating from. (see also Radiofrequency Ablation) Watch
Aortic valve: The three-leafed valve that separates the left ventricle from the aorta.
Arrhythmia: An arrhythmia is abnormal heart beat. Some abnormal heartbeats are harmless while others can be dangerous. An arrhythmia is identified on an Electrocardiogram or EKG. Watch
Atrium (plural: atria): The upper chamber of the heart. There are two atria: left and right.
Automated External Defibrillator (AED): An AED is a device that can detect life-threatening abnormal heart rhythms and can correct them by delivering an electric shock. If a life-threatening heart rhythm is present, the AED will deliver an electric shock to the individual. An AED is simple to use- just open the lid and the instructions will be read to you. The AED will not shock somebody if they have a normal pulse. AED devices should be used with care. It is important to make sure that no one else is touching the patient when the shock is delivered. Watch
Cardiac catheterization: A procedure to look at the heart more closely. During this procedure, a tube is placed through the patient’s arm into the blood vessel and advanced to the heart. Once in place, the doctor puts dye through the tube into the heart that shows up on x-ray. This lets the doctor see how the chambers, valves, and arteries of the heart are working.
Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR): CPR is needed when an individual is unresponsive and they don’t have pulse and/or they are not breathing. CPR can keep blood flowing to the brain and other important organs. CPR involves pushing hard and fast on the center of the chest until medical personnel arrives or an automated external defibrillator (AED) is available. Watch
Cardiovascular MRI (CV MRI): The CV MRI looks at the structure of the heart to identify any abnormalities. Watch
Cardioversion: A procedure to correct an abnormal heart rhythm. The procedure involves placing a pad on the patient’s bare chest which senses the abnormal electric current and applies a mild electric shock to correct it. Patients are usually sedated so that they don’t feel the shock.
Congenital Disease: Congenital refers to a condition diagnosed at birth.
Echocardiogram: An echocardiogram is a type of ultrasound test that is used to look at the structure of the heart. The sonographer will move a transducer, with cool gel on it, across your chest and upper ribs. The transducer uses painless sound waves to look at the structure of the heart. Watch
Electrophysiologic Testing: A procedure where the patient is sedated and small wires called electrode catheters are put into the thigh and run into the heart. These wires are able to accurately monitor the electrical pathways of the heart.
Exercise Stress Test: The exercise stress test is done while the individual walks or runs on a treadmill while connected to the EKG machine (see EKG). The test determines how the heart responds to exercise. Watch
Gene: A gene is a segment of DNA which determines how the cells of the body function. Genes determine everything from an individual’s hair color to height. The alteration of a gene is called a genetic mutation. Watch
Genetic Mutation: A genetic mutation is a change in an individual’s DNA that can lead to improper functioning of their body’s cells. These mutations or changes may be passed down through generations. Watch
Genetic Syndrome: A condition that runs in families. This may be present in a variety of patterns. It is not necessary that one’s parents have to show a disease for it to be passed on.
Holter Monitor: A Holter monitor is a portable form of an EKG that keeps track of an individual’s heartbeat. An individual will usually have to wear a Holter monitor for 24-48 hours. Watch
Hypertrophy/ic: Hypertrophy is the increased growth of a tissue or organ.
Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD): The ICD is a device put under the skin that tracks the heartbeat and can deliver a shock to correct the heartbeat if an irregular heartbeat occurs.Watch
Mitral Valve: The two-leafed valve that separates the left atrium from the left ventricle.
Pacemaker: Pacemakers are devices that are implanted under the skin. The pacemaker has wires that connect to the heart. A pacemaker can detect an abnormal heart beat and then send an electrical impulse to correct it. Watch Video unavailable
Paroxysmal: Symptoms that come suddenly and unexpectedly.
Radiofrequency Ablation: Performed during electrophysiologic testing, high frequency electricity is sent to the area where an abnormal electrical pathway is found, preventing it from causing an abnormal heartbeat.
Seizure: A neurologic event due to abnormal electrical activity in the brain. Seizures can range from affecting a single body part to affecting the whole body. Watch
Supraventricular: Supraventricular refers to any abnormal electric current in the heart which starts in the upper chambers of the heart (atria).
Supraventricular Tachycardia (SVT): See Paroxysmal Supraventricular Tachycardia
Tachycardia: Tachycardia refers to a fast heartbeat. A fast heartbeat is one that is greater 100 beats per minute.
Valve: The heart has valves that direct blood flow through its chambers (the atria and ventricles). The valves open to let blood through and close to prevent blood from moving backward.
Ventricle: (plural: ventricles): The lower chamber of the heart. There are two ventricles: left and right.