Medical terms


ALCAPA Anomalous origin of the left coronary artery arising from the pulmonary artery (ALCAPA) is a rare but serious congenital anomaly. ALCAPA anomaly may result from (1) abnormal septation of the conotruncus into the aorta and pulmonary artery, or from (2) persistence of the pulmonary buds together with involution of the aortic buds that will eventually form the coronary arteries. In the current era, the prognosis for patients with ALCAPA is dramatically improved through early diagnosis utilizing echocardiography with color flow mapping and through improvements in surgical techniques, including myocardial preservation. See
Angiocardiogram An X-ray of the heart assisted by a liquid introduced through a catheter.
Anticoagulant A drug whose purpose is to reduce blood clotting.
Aorta Main artery of the heart which carries blood to the body.
Aortic valve The valve between the left ventricle (pumping chamber) and the aorta.
Arrhythmia Disturbance of normal rhythm of the heart.
Artery Vessel which carries oxygenated blood from the heart to all parts of the body.
ASD Atrial Septal Defect – a hole in the septum (wall) between the two atria (collecting chambers) allowing blood to flow between the two sides of the heart.
Atresia Connection that is either blocked or missing altogether.
Atrium An upper collecting chamber in the heart which receives incoming blood.
AVSD Atrial Ventricular Septal Defect – holes in the septum between the atria and between the ventricles with often a common valve between all four chambers. The most common heart defect in babies with Down’s Syndrome.


Banding Narrowing of the pulmonary artery with a band to reduce blood flow to the lungs.
Blue Baby A baby who has too little oxygenated blood circulating and therefore has a blue tinge to certain parts of the skin (see cyanosis).
Bradycardia Abormally slow heart rate.


Cardiac Relating to the heart.
Cardiac Liaison Sister A senior nurse in cardiac units to assist families with queries or problems.
Cardiac Surgeon A surgeon who specialises in the heart.
Cardiologist A physician specialising in the heart.
Cardiopulmonary Bypass A machine which takes over the heart’s functions while it is stopped during surgery.
Catheter A narrow tube inserted into a vein or artery and fed to the heart, where it is used to assist in finer diagnosis or repair.
Coarctation A narrowing in a blood vessel.
Congenital Existing at birth.
Congestion An excess of fluid in part of the body, i.e. the lungs.
CPAP Constant Positive Airway Pressure – this is a way of keeping small airways open, often used before a patient is taken off complete ventilation.
Cyanosis Blueness of the skin caused by insufficient oxygen in the blood.


Digoxin A drug which increases the contraction of the heart muscle.
Diuretics Drugs which assist the kidneys to produce and excrete more urine.
Doppler A test using sound waves to measure the speed and direction of blood flow in the heart.
Drain A tube to remove fluid from the body.
Duct A tube in the body which conducts fluid.


Echocardiogram A technique using high frequency sound waves to produce a picture on a screen of the heart and surrounding blood vessels.
Electrocardiogram A technique which records the electric currents produced by the heart.
Endocarditis An infection of the heart lining or the heart valves.


Fallot’s see Tetralogy of Fallot.


Heart Failure Inability of the heart to maintain adequate blood circulation. It does not mean that the heart has ceased to function, but that it is operating seriously below what is required.
Heart Lung Machine A machine, through which the bloodstream is diverted, which is used to oxygenate blood and pump it round the body during open heart operations.
Heart Murmur The sound made by blood flowing through the heart.


ICU (or ITU) Intensive Care Unit – provides a high level of specialist care immediately after surgery.


Mitral Valve Valve between the left atrium and left ventricle.
Murmur The noise produced by blood flow within the heart, which can indicate a heart defect.


Oedema A build up of excess fluid accumulating in body tissue.
Open Heart Surgery Operations performed on the inside of the opened heart.


Pacemaker A device which controls the rhythm of the heart if it becomes unsettled.
Pacing Wires Wires which are used to connect a pacemaker to the heart.
Paediatrics (or pediatrics) The branch of medicine dealing with the diseases of children.
PDA Persistent Ductus Arteriosus – a congenital condition where the duct between the aorta and the pulmonary artery sides of the heart fails to close after birth, as it should do, and allows blood to flow between the two sides of the heart.
Pericardium The sac or bag surrounding the heart.
Polycythaemia A condition where there are an increased number of red cells within the blood.
Prognosis The estimated outcome of the particular problem a patient has.
Pulmonary Relating to the lungs.
Pulmonary Artery The large artery which conveys deoxygenated blood from the heart to the lungs.
Pulmonary Hypertension Elevated pressure of blood flowing into the lungs, caused by the left to right shunting though a septal defect.
Pulmonary Valve The valve between the right ventricle and the pulmonary artery.


SADS Sudden Adult/Arrhythmia Death Syndrome
Septum The tissue wall in the heart which divides the chambers on the left side from the chambers on the right side and, thus, separates the oxygenated blood from the deoxygenated blood, with their different blood perssures.
Shunt A natural or inserted passageway between the two sides of the heart.
Stenosis A narrowing of a vessel.
Sternum The breastbone.


Tachycardia An abnormally rapid heart rate.
Tetralogy of Fallot A congenital malformation of the heart involving four distinct defects.
Tricuspid Valve Valve, consisting of three cusps, or triangular segments, between the right atrium and the right ventricle.


Valve A structure which opens and closes and when open allows blood flow in one direction and when closed prevents back flow or leakage.
Vascular Pertaining to blood vessels.
Vasodilators Drugs which increase the size of the blood vessels and thus reduce blood pressure.
Vein A vessel carrying blood back to the heart.
Ventricle The lower chambers of the heart which act as the pump for the blood’s circulation.
VSD Ventricular Septal Defects – hole in the septum between the two ventricles (pumping chambers) which allows blood to flow between the two sides of the heart.

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