Glossary of Medical Terminology

A

AAA

ABPM

AEB

AF

A FL

Angina

Anticoagulants

Aorta

AR

AS

B

BP

BNP

Bradyarrhythmia

C

CABG

Cardiac CT

Cardiac MRI

Cardiomemo

CCF

CAD

CKD

CHB

CRT

D

DDD

DCCV

Diastolic Dysfunction and Diastolic heart failure

DSE

DVT

E

ECG

ETT

F

G

GA

H

HOCM

HTN

I

ICD

IHD

ILR

INR

J

JVP

K

L

LAD

LBBB

LIMA

LV

M

MI

MPS

MR

MV

N

NKDA

NOACs

NSTEMI

NYHA

O

One time pad

P

PAF

PCI

PE

PH

PHRM

PPM

PND

PR

Q

Q waves

R

RA

RACPC

RCA

RDN

R-test

RV

S

SA node

SOB

SOBOE

Stokes - Adams attack

T

TAVI

U

V

Ventricles

VT

VF

X

Y

Z

AAA

Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm. An enlargement of the blood vessel in the abdomen. If discovered this condition usually requires regular monitoring or intervention. 

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ABPM 

Ambulatory Blood Pressure Monitor is an investigation worn for 24 hours to assess a patient's blod pressure trend. This method has been shown to be more accurate than taking a one-off blood pressure reading in a clinic.

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Angina 

The symptom, usually of chest pain, produced when the blood vessels to the heart receive an insufficient blood supply.

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Anticoagulants

'Blood-thinning' drugs, for example Warfarin, used to prevent stroke in AF and also to treat blood clots in the leg and lung (deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolus)

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 Aorta 

The blood vessel carrying blood from the heart to the major organs

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 AR (Aortic Regurgitation)

A 'leaky' aortic valve causing blood to flow in the wrong direction.

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AS (Aortic Stenosis)

Narrowing of the Aortic Valve potentially restricting the flow of blood out of the heart

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AVR (Aortic Valve Replacement)

Usually a surgical procedure to replace a leaky or narrowed aortic valve

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Atrial Ectopic Beat (AEB ) or Atrial Premature Beat (APB)

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Atrial Fibrillation (AF)

An abnormal heart rhythm characterised by chaotic electrical activity of the left and right atria which leads to loss of atrial contractile function, and an erratic pulse.

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Atrial Flutter (A Fl)

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BP (Blood Pressure)

Refers to the arterial pressure exerted on the walls of the blood vessels.  The blood pressure reading is the maximum pressure (systolic, when the heart has contracted) and the lowest pressure (diastolic, when the heart is relaxed).

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BNP

Brain Naturetic Peptide (or BNP for short)

BNP is a peptide first discovered in brain tissue, but which is predominantly released from the heart when it is not working as effectively as it should.

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Bradyarrhythmia 

An abnormally slow heart rhythm (less than 60 beats per minute).

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CABG (Coronary Artery Bypass Grafts)

Coronary Artery Bypass Surgery or open heart surgery, sometimes referred to by medical staff as CABBAGE is a surgical procedure performed on patients with severe coronary artery narrowings.

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Cardiac CT 

A non-invasive test to look directly at the coronary arteries. This involves the use of a contrast agent (dye) as well as radiation (x-rays).

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Cardiac MRI 

A sophisticated scan using a magnetic field to assess the structure of the heart in detail.

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Cardiomemo 

A small, portable device used against the chest wall in the event of any symptoms suggestive of an arrhythmia such as palpitationsMore information .

CHB (Complete Heart Block)

Complete heart block. A slow heart rhythm which arises when there is a complete breakdown in the electrical conduction between the top and bottom chambers of the heart at the atrioventricular node. In the majority of cases this is an indication for a pacemakerMore information .

CKD (Chronic Kidney Disease.)

A progressive impairment of the kidneys' function. This is usually estimated by GFR (glomerular filtration rate)More information .

Congestive Cardiac failure

Impairment of the heart muscle. This takes two forms: Systolic heart failure – failure of heart to pump blood out to other organs; Diastolic heart failure – failure of the heart to relax and fill with blood.

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CAD (Coronary Artery Disease)

A condition caused by progressive build-up of cholesterol in the blood vessels supplying the heart muscle causing a narrowing and reduction in blood supply.

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CRT

Cardiac Resynchronisation Therapy or CRT is a relatively new form of heart treatment that involves a sophisticated pacemaker being fitted with a number of leads connected to difference areas of the heart. The overall aim is to reduce symptoms of breathlessness due to heart failure by improving the heart's function.

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DDD 

A particular type of pacemaker (dual chamber) with a lead inserted into the right atrium and right ventricle.

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 DCCV

Direct Current Cardioversion (DCCV) is a procedure performed in hospital, usually under general anaesthetic or conscious sedation. Cardioversion is a procedure performed to try and correct an abnormal heart rhythm,(e.g, Atrial Fibrillation, Atrial Flutter). This is achieved by using a machine called a defibrillator which passes a brief electrical current to the heart via two pads attached to the front and back of your chest. This treatment aims to interrupt the abnormal electrical activity and encourages the heart to return to a normal sinus rhythm. 

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Diastolic Dysfunction and Diastolic heart failure

With ageing and in conditions that increases the 'stiffness' of the left ventricle, the left ventricle's 'sucking' action is impaired and there is greater resistance to blood entering the left ventricle. This is known as 'diastolic dysfunction' which leads to high left atrial pressure and lung congestion, as well as greater dependence on the priming action of the left atrium, that normally preceeds each heart beat.  When breathlessness and fluid retention happen as a result of diastolic dysfunction, many doctors call it 'diastolic heart failure' which is really a misnomer because the main pump has not failed due to weakness or enlargement, but rather by simply becoming 'stiff'.

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DSE (Dobutamine stress echocardiography)

A test to assess the heart under ‘stress’ which can be used for a number of purposes. The heart rate is sped up using different drugs and hence is doing more work. Images of the heart are taken using echocardiography before and after. If, for example, significant coronary artery disease is present, an area of the heart muscle will become sluggish at high heart rates. This is because the demand of blood exceeds the supply due to the narrowing of a coronary artery.

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DVT(Deep vein thrombosis)

A blood clot located in a deep vein in the leg with the potential to detach to the lung and cause pulmonary embolus. Common causes include malignancy, prolonged immobility, recent surgery and long-haul flights.

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ECG

Electrocardiogram (ECG).  A simple, non-invasive procedure that records the electrical activity in the heart.

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 Exercise tolerance test (ETT)

Otherwise also referred to as exercise ECG. A test usually used to diagnose or assess for significant coronary artery disease. It involves the patient exercising on a treadmill whilst being attached to a cardiac monitor.

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GA

An abbreviation for General Anaesthetic.

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HOCM  (Hypertrophic Obstructive Cardiomyopathy).

This is a condition affecting the heart muscle causing it to thicken 'hypertrophy'. Approximately 50% of cases are found to have genetic mutations in genes that are known to be involved in the development of heart muscle cells.

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HTN (Hypertension)

Hypertension or high blood pressure is a condition in which the blood pressure in the arteries is elevated. A normal blood pressure is thought to be between 100-140/60-90mmHg.

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ICD

An Implantable Cardiac Defibrillator (ICD) is a device similar to a heart pacemaker. It is usually implanted under the skin in the upper chest and connects to the chambers of the heart via the great veins.

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IHD (Ischaemic Heart Disease)

Another term for coronary artery diseasea condition caused by progressive build-up of cholesterol in the blood vessels supplying the heart muscle causing a narrowing and reduction in blood supply.

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ILR (Implantable Loop Recorder)

A small device, the size of a memory stick, placed under the skin to monitor for arrhythmias, or irregular heart rhythms. The devices usually remain in place for up to three years

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INR (Internationall Normalised Ratio)

This tests whether Warfarin, and some other similar anticoagulants, are effective.  It measures the time taken for blood to clot and then compares it against the average.  The higher the INR the longer the blood takes to clot. Many people who are known to have atrial fibrillation are started on Warfarin to prevent clots from forming which can then go on to cause strokes.  The INR of a healthy patient who does not take Warfarin should be about 1.0. People who are in atrial fibrillation should usually have their INR kept between 2.0-3.0. However some people with mechanical heart valves aim for an INR of  3.0-4.0. The INR can be tested in two ways: Some surgeries/clinics will test it through a finger prick blood test and get an immediate reading. Other places require a blood sample from a vein which is sent to a laboratory and tested with results available later that day.

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JVP (Jugular Venous Pressure)

The method to measure the central venous pressure from the neck.  It is a good diagnostic tool to help make a distinguish between heart and lung disease.  It has differing wave forms and abnormalities of these wave forms can help diagnose different heart conditions.

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LAD

Left Anterior Descending artery (LAD).  This is the blood vessel that supplies the front wall of the heart.

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LBBB (Left Bundle Branch Block)

This is a characteristic ECG finding which demonstrates slow electrical conduction to the left ventricle causing a delay in contraction compared with the right ventricle. Sometimes there is no demonstrable cause found for this but common causes include: high blood pressure, heart failure and sometimes coronary artery diseaseMore information .

LIMA

Left Internal Mammary Artery (LIMA).  Also known as the internal thoracic artery.  This artery supplies the chest wall and breasts.  It is often the artery of choice for surgeons to use on patients undergoing coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG).  It has been shown in studies that using a LIMA shows greater long-term patency that vein grafts, it is used to bypass blockages in the LAD.

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LV (Left Ventricle)

One of the bottom chambers of the heart which pumps blood to the systemic organs (the brain, kidneys, bowel, liver and spleen for example).

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MI (Myocardial Infarction)

A shortened version of Myocardial Infarction or heart attack

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MPS (Myocardial Perfusion Scan)

A noninvasive scan usually performed to identify any significant narrowings of the coronary arteries.

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MR (Mitral Regurgitation)

 A leaky mitral valve (the valve connecting the left atrium to the left ventricle) causing blood to flow in the wrong direction.

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MV (Mitral Valve)

This is the valve in between the left atrium and left ventricle. It prevents blood from travelling backwards into the left atrium.  In a healthy individual the pressure increases in the left atrium, the mitral valve is forced open and the blood empties in to the left ventricle. As the pressure increases inside the left ventricle, the mitral valve is forced shut.  This ensures that there is no back flow of blood in to the atrium.

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NKDA

A medical acronym for No Known Drug Allergies which is commonly documented in patient notes and letters.

NOACs (Novel Oral AntiCoagulants)

 A new class of novel oral anticoagulant (or blood thinner) which is an alternative to Warfarin to prevent stroke in AF.

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NSTEMI

 Stands for Non ST-elevation Myocardial Infarction or a heart attack which does not affect the entire thickness of the heart muscle in the affected area.

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NYHA

The New York Heart Failure Association classification. This provides a simple, effective way for medical practitioners to classify patients' symptoms of breathlessness if they have heart failure.  It enables clinicians to treat patients appropriately according to their functional capacity.

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One time pad

A virtually unbreakable encryption system for sending messages. An adaptation can be used to send results between a patient and their healthcare professional team. An 8 digit/letter passcode is agreed between each party and used to encipher the messages which can then be passed over the open Internet. Unless you know the passcode, the message cannot be intercepted and read. Simple yet secure.

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PAF (Paroxysmal Atrial Fibrillation)

 An intermittent form of atrial fibrillation. This can be notoriously difficult to pick up because it is often infrequent and causes no symptoms in approximately 50% of people affected.

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 PCI (Percutaneous Coronary Intervention)

An interventional procedure, used in a number of specialities in medicine, performed through the skin. In Cardiology this approach can be used for coronary artery stents, ablation and, more recently in TAVI (Transcatheter Aortic Valve Implantation).

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PE (Pulmonary embolus)

 A detached blood clot found in the veins in the lung, usually originating from a blood clot in the leg.

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PH (Pulmonary hypertension)

This is a condition causes by high blood pressure in the blood vessels in the lung. The most common associated symptoms are breathlessness. There are a number of potential causes for this.

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PHRM

A Personal Heart Rhythm Monitor is a single channel ECG recorder that is owned, borrowed or loaned by a patient in order to make recordings of their heart rhythm. It differs from a full ECG in that it cannot reliably detect many features such as electrical axis, presence of Q waves and T abnormalities. If used correctly a PHRM appears to be a useful way of detecting intermittent heart rhythm disorders such as Ventricular and Atrial Ectopic beats and Atrial Fibrillation. 

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PPM (Pacemaker) 

 A device placed under the skin usually to prevent abnormally slow heart rhythms and so prevent symptoms such as black outs.

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PND (Paroxysmal nocturnal dyspnoea)

This describes a phenomenon of breathlessness which occurs at night time commonly associated with heart failure.

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PR (Pulmonary regurgitation)

 A leaky pulmonary valve (the valve connecting the right ventricle to the lungs) causing blood to flow in the wrong direction.

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Q waves

This is the deflection seen on an ECG after after an old full thickness (affecting all the heart muscle) myocardial infarction (heart attack)

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RA (Right Atrium)

One of the top chambers of the heart, receiving blood from all organs apart from the lungs.

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RACPC

Rapid Access Chest Pain Clinic (RACPC).  This service allows medical practitioners, especially GPs, to access a clinic quickly if they suspect a patient may have new angina.

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RCA (Right Coronary Artery)

This is the artery that delivers blood to the right side and usually the bottom wall of the heart muscle.

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RDN (Renal Denervation)

An invasive procedure which disconnects the nerve supply to and from the kidney. This has been shown to be a promising method to reduce blood pressure in patients with resistant high blood pressure.

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R Test

A particular brand of heart monitor to investigate for an arrhythmia. This is usually worn around the neck continuously for one week but can be worn for up to 32 days.

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RV (Right Ventricle)

One of the bottom chambers of the heart which is responsible for pumping blood to the lungs.

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SA node (Sinoatrial node)

The sinoatrial node is formed from a group of cells at the top of the right atrium that generates the first electrical impulse to activate a heart beat.  It is often referred to as the hearts natural pacemaker.

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SOB and SOBOE

SOB and SOBOE stand for shortness of breath and shortness of breath on exertion respectively. These are just some of the abbreviations commonly used by busy medical professionals.

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Stokes - Adams attack

A term used to describe a sudden loss of consciousness.  Lasting seconds rather than minutes.

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TAVI

Transcatheter Aortic Valve Implantation (TAVI).  This may be an alternative approach to having the aortic valve replaced in patients who are not suitable for open heart surgery.  The procedure is normally carried out via the femoral artery, 'transapical' or 'transventricular approach', this involves going through the chest wall using a mini thoracotomy.  Once access has been gained a special catheter is guided over a thin wire across the aortic valve which is then dilated and the prosthetic valve is positioned and stabilised.  Once the valve has a stable platform the catheter and sheath are removed.

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Ventricles

The two bottom chambers of the heart: the right ventricle and the left ventricle. The left ventricle receives oxygenated blood from the pulmonary (lung) circulation and then pumps it around the body.  The right ventricle receives deoxygenated blood from the other organs (e.g. the brain, kidneys, liver). The right ventricle then sends the blood to the pulmonary circulation where it receives oxygen. This cycle repeats itself approximately 100,000 times each day!

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VF

Ventricular Fibrillation (VF) is a dangerous heart rhythm disturbance that left untreated will cause death within minutes. 

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VT

Ventricular Tachycardia (VT).  This is a very fast and sometimes fatal rhythm.  If left untreated it can cause people to feel very breathless and unwell and can, on occasion, cause death.