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Glossary of Medical Terms
Angina (Angina Pectoris): Pain or discomfort which occurs when the heart does not receive adequate blood flow – and thus oxygen -- to the heart muscle. Angina may be experienced in the chest, neck, jaw, arms, shoulder or back. No permanent damage is done to the heart.
Angioplasty: A procedure performed by cardiac surgeons to open an obstruction or narrowing of a blood vessel, using a balloon that is inserted with a catheter. Also known as a Percutaneous Transluminal Coronary Angioplasty (PTCA).
Anticoagulant: A drug that slows or prevents the blood from clotting.
Aorta: The main artery leaving the heart.
Arteries: Vessels that transport oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the rest of the body.
Atrial Fibrillation:A rapid and irregular rhythm that begins in the upper chambers of the heart (the atria). As a result, the lower chambers also beat irregularly. This condition requires diagnosis and treatment.
Arterial Line: A small plastic tube that is placed in an artery in your wrist in order to monitor arterial blood pressure. Blood samples can also be taken through this tube.
Arrhythmia: An abnormal rhythm of the heart, including rate, regularity, or site of impulse origin. Types of arrhythmias include tachycardias (fast heart rhythms) and bradycardias (slow heart rhythms).
Bypass Graft (Vein, Mammary Artery, Aorta-Coronary Bypass Graft): A surgical procedure where a piece of vein, taken from the leg, or a piece or artery, taken from the inside of the chest wall, replaces a diseased coronary artery. The graft helps get more blood to the heart muscle.
Calcium Channel Blocker: A drug used to treat high blood pressure and angina. It decreases the workload of the heart by blocking the influx of calcium ions into the smooth muscle cells, which reduces the oxygen demand on the heart.
Cardiac: Relating to the heart.
Cardiac Angiogram or Catheterization: An X-ray procedure which involves the injection of dye into the heart chambers and into the coronary arteries for diagnostic purposes. An X-ray reveals the exact site where the artery is narrowed or blocked and measures how well the heart is pumping.
Catheter: A hollow, flexible tube used to withdraw or inject fluid into the body.
Chest Tube: A tube or tubes in the chest which drain fluids from the area of the operation. The chest tubes remain in place for approximately two days.
Cholesterol: A waxy substance that circulates in the blood and plays a role in the formation of blockages. Cholesterol originates in foods that are rich in animal fats.
Coronary Arteries: Special arteries which supply the heart muscle with blood.
Coronary Artery Disease: A condition in which the arteries supplying the heart muscle become blocked. The cause of this is unknown, but some known risk factors include: hypertension, family history, smoking, diabetes, obesity, diet and stress.
Diabetes: A disease that negatively affects the metabolism of glucose (sugar) and cause changes in blood vessels that, untreated, may lead to circulation issues, development of coronary artery disease, blindness and other health issues.
Dilation: The gradual opening of the narrowed coronary artery by cracking and compressing the narrowing or obstructing plaque.
Electrocardiogram (EKG/ ECG): A recording of the electrical activity of the heart. The EKG recording can be used to detect many abnormalities in the heart.
Endotrachael Tube (ETT): Breathing tube placed in the trachea during surgery or respiratory emergencies to assist with breathing. Removed when the patient is able to breathe on his/her own.
Fibrillation, Atrial : See Atrial Fibrillation.
Ischemia:Lack of or insufficient oxygen to the heart muscle. Ischemia is a reversible condition if normal blood flow is restored.
IV (Intravenous): Small tubes which are placed into the veins for the purpose of giving fluids and drugs, taking blood samples, and measuring pressures. These "lines" as they are called, will remain in place for several days after surgery.
Local (Anesthetic): Numbing medicine which is used to decrease discomfort when intravenous lines are put into place.
Lungs: Sponge-like organs of the body which allow oxygen to enter the blood when you breathe.
Murmur: A heart murmur is defined as the sound caused by turbulent blood flow through the heart, as heard by a physician through a stethoscope. Most heart murmurs are benign, but sometimes a murmur can indicate problems such as a malfunctioning heart valve.
Myocarditis: An inflammatory disease of the heart muscle (myocardium) that can result from a variety of causes. While most cases are produced by a viral infection, an inflammation of the heart muscle may also be instigated by toxins, drugs, and hypersensitive immune reactions. Myocarditis is a rare but serious condition that affects both males and females of any age.
Pericarditis: Two thin membranes enclose the heart in a sac-like structure. If these membranes become irritated or inflamed, the condition is known as pericarditis. Pericarditis is fairly common, affecting about 1 in 1,000 people at some point in their lives. It can be caused by flu, polio, injury, or German measles. Other causes are rheumatoid arthritis or lupus. This condition sometimes follows a heart attack.
Pericardial Tamponade: Pericardial Tamponade is a dangerous form of pericarditis. The membranes enclosing the heart do not easily stretch, so if fluid accumulates between the membranes and the heart, pressure from it may prevent the heart from working as a pump. Pericardial tamponade usually is the result of trauma, such as an automobile accident, and must be treated immediately.
Percutaneous: Performed through a small opening in the skin.
Percutaneous Transluminal Coronary Angioplasty (PTCA).:
Plaque: The accumulated wax-like material that causes a blockage in a blood vessel. Also known as a lesion or stenosis.
Platelets: A substance in the blood that is involved in the formation of a clot.
Pressure monitors and pressure lines: Devices used to measure the internal pressures that the heart and lungs are emitting. Usually inserted through arteries in the neck, arm or leg.
Pulmonary Function Studies: A series of tests which are performed before surgery to evaluate the condition of your lungs.
Stenosis:A narrowing of any canal. Used to describe narrowed coronary arteries or a narrowed heart valve.
Stent: An expandable, slotted metal tube that is inserted into a vessel. A stent acts as a scaffold to provide structural support for a vessel.
Sternum: The breastbone.
Suctioning: A procedure performed on patients connected to a ventilator. A small tube placed down the throat draws out mucous, in order the keep the lungs clear.
Sutures (also called Stitches): The material used to close a surgical incision.
Telemetry Monitory: A specialized wireless monitor that allows patients to move freely in their rooms and the hall, but still enables the staff to observe their EKG.
Thrombosis:A blockage caused by clumps of cells.
Triglycerides: Substances in the blood that are a component of the "bad" type of cholesterol.
Veins: Vessels that transport blood back to the heart after the oxygen has been used by the body.
Vein Graft: A piece of a vein taken from either a leg or arm that is used to bypass the damaged coronary artery and restore blood flow to the heart muscle.
Ventilator:A machine that helps patients breathe after surgery.
Ventricle: One of the two lower chambers of the heart.
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