Peninsula Regional Medical Center - Part of Peninusula Regional Health System


Glossary of Terms


Ablation - is a procedure for the treatment of abnormal heart rhythms. During ablation a catheter is inserted into the heart and then a special machine directs energy to tiny areas of the heart muscle that cause the abnormal rhythms.  This energy "disconnects" the pathway of the abnormal rhythm and can also be used to disconnect the electrical pathway between the upper chambers (atria) and the lower chambers (ventricles) of the heart. The type of ablation performed depends upon the type of arrhythmia.

Angioplasty - A specially designed balloon catheter with a small balloon tip is guided to the point of narrowing in the artery.  Once in place, the balloon is inflated to compress the fatty matter into the artery wall and stretch the artery open to increase blood flow to the heart.

Biventricular ICD - Leads are attached in the right atrium, the right ventricle and the left ventricle.  This procedure helps the heart beat in a more balanced way and is specifically used for patients with heart failure.

Biventricular Pacemaker - Three leads are placed in the right atrium, right ventricle and left ventricle.

Cardiac Computed Tomography (CT) - is an x-ray procedure that combines many x-ray images with the aid of a computer to generate cross-sectional views of the body.  Cardiac CT uses the advanced CT technology with intravenous (IV) contrast (dye) to visualize your cardiac anatomy, coronary circulation and great vessels.

Catheterization - is an invasive imaging procedure that involves inserting a catheter into a blood vessel in the arm or leg, and guiding it to the heart with the aid of a special x-ray machine.  Contrast dye is injected through the catheter so that x-ray movies of valves, coronary arteries and heart chambers can be taken.

Coronary Artery Bypass (CAB or CABG or "Cabbage") - is surgery in which one or more blocked coronary arteries are bypassed by a blood vessel graft to restore normal blood flow to the heart.  These grafts usually come from the patient's own arteries and veins located in the chest, leg or arm.  The graft goes around the clogged artery (or arteries) to create new pathways for oxygen-rich blood to flow to the heart. 

Echocardiogram (echo) - is a graphic outline of the heart's movement.  During an echocardiogram test, ultrasound (high-frequency sound waves) that come from a hand-held wand placed on the chest, is used to provide pictures of the heart's valves and chambers and help the sonographer evaluate the pumping action of the heart.  Echo is often combined with Doppler ultrasound and color Doppler to evaluate blood flow across the heart's valves.

Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) - is used to record the electrical activity of the heart. A computer draws the picture from information supplied by the electrodes.

Electrophysiological Study - is a recording of the electrical activity of the heart. This test helps the doctor find out the cause of rhythm disturbances and the best treatment options.  During the test, the doctor may safely reproduce an arrhythmia, and then give the patient medications to see which one controls it best.

Endoscopic Vein Harvesting - used to obtain veins for coronary artery bypass grafts.  This procedure uses specially designed instruments and video equipment to create small incisions along the upper and lower leg, rather than one long leg incision.  This technique decreases patient discomfort and leg wound infection and is cosmetically more appealing.  It has led to faster and easier recoveries for patients undergoing coronary bypass surgery.

Exercise Stress Echocardiogram - is used to provide information about how the heart responds to stress.  It usually involves walking on a treadmill or pedaling a stationary bike at increasing levels of difficulty, while the electrocardiogram, heart rate and blood pressure are monitored.  Immediately following exercise, an echocardiogram is performed to evaluate heart and valve functions.  If the patient is unable to exercise on a treadmill or stationary cycle, medicines (Dobutamine, Persantine) are used to stimulate the heart and make it "think" it is exercising.

Exercise Tolerance Test (Stress Test) - is used to provide information about how the heart responds to stress.  It usually involves walking on a treadmill or pedaling a stationary bike at increasing levels of difficulty, while the electrocardiogram, heart rate and blood pressure are monitored.  If the patient is unable to exercise on a treadmill or stationary cycle, medicines (Dobutamine, Persantine) are used to stimulate the heart and make it "think" it is exercising.

Holter Monitor - is a device used to continuously record (for a period of 24 hours or longer) the electrical activity of the heart.  A computer draws the picture from information supplied by the electrodes.

Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD) - is an electronic device that constantly monitors a patient's heart rate and rhythm.  When it detects a very fast, abnormal heart rhythm, it delivers energy to the heart muscle.  This energy causes the heart to beat in a normal rhythm again.

MAZE Procedure - Certain patients with isolated atrial fibrillation are candidates. These patients generally have continuous atrial fibrillation and/or enlarged atria. In these patients, the procedure can treat the atrial fibrillation and restore the atria to a more normal size.  The surgery involves creating precise incisions in the right and left atria to interrupt the conduction of abnormal impulses and to direct normal sinus impulses to travel to the atrioventricular node (AV node) as they normally should.

Nuclear Exercise Tolerance Test (Cardiolite, Adenosine) - used to provide information about how the heart responds to stress.  It usually involves walking on a treadmill or pedaling a stationary bike at increasing levels of difficulty, while the electrocardiogram, heart rate and blood pressure are monitored.  A radioactive isotope is injected into the bloodstream during peak exercise, a scan is performed immediately after exercise and then again in about three hours.  This test provides the physician with significantly more information than an Exercise Tolerance Test.  If the patient is unable to exercise on a treadmill or stationary cycle, medicines (Dobutamine, Persantine) are used to stimulate the heart and make it "think" it is exercising.

Pacemaker - is a small device that sends small electrical impulses to the heart muscle to maintain a suitable heart rate or to stimulate the lower chambers of the heart (ventricles). A pacemaker may also be used to treat fainting spells (syncope), congestive heart failure and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.

Stent - is a small stainless steel mesh tube that acts as a scaffold to provide support the the inside of a coronary artery.  A balloon catheter, placed over a guide wire, is used to insert the stent into the narrowed coronary artery.  Once in place, the balloon tip is inflated and the stent expands to the size of the artery and holds it open.  The balloon is deflated and removed and the stent stays in place permanently.  Over a several-week period the artery heals around the stent.  The newer stents have a drug coating that helps prevent the artery from becoming blocked again.

Tilt Table Test - is used to determine the cause of fainting spells.  The test involves being tilted, always with the head-up, at different angles for a period of time.  Heart rhythm, blood pressure and other symptoms are closely monitored and evaluated with changes in position.

Transesophageal Echocardiogram (TEE) - an ultrasound transducer (which produces high frequency sound waves) provides pictures of the heart's valves and chambers and helps the physician evaluate the pumping action of the heart.  The ultrasound transducer is positioned on an endoscope (a long, thin, flexible instrument about 1/2 inch in diameter).  The endoscope is placed into the mouth and passed into the esophagus (the "food pipe" leading from the mouth into the stomach) to provide a close look at the heart's valves and chambers without interference from the ribs or lungs.

Transmyocardial Laser Revascularization (TMR) - is a new treatment aimed at improving blood flow to areas of the heart that were not treated by angioplasty or surgery.  A special carbon dioxide (CO2) laser is used to create small channels in the heart muscle, improving blood flow in the heart.

Valve Repair/Replacement Surgery - The old valve is either repaired or removed.  If removed, a new valve, either mechanical or biological, is sewn in.  

     Valve Replacement - Mechanical - Valves are made totally of mechanical parts that are tolerated well by the   body.   The bileaflet valve is used most often.  It consists of two carbon leaflets in a ring covered with polyester knit fabric.

     Valve Replacement - Biological - Valves (also called tissue or bioprosthetic valves) are made of tissue.  They may have some artificial parts to help give the valve support and sew it in place.  They can be made from pig tissue (porcine) or cow tissue (bovine).