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Heart Disease Health Center

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A Glossary of Heart Disease Terms


Atrial Myxoma: A myxoma is a tumor of the heart. It resides in the atrial chamber and causes symptoms when its growth produces a tumor so large it obstructs blood flow through the heart chambers.

Atrial Septal Defect: An abnormal hole located in the walls between the two atria of the heart. Tiny defects called patent foramen ovale are present in up to 30% of people and are of no consequence except in unusual circumstances, but may be implicated in strokes. Moderate size to larger size defects should be corrected and may require heart surgery.

Atrioventricular (AV) Node: A group of special cells located near the center of the heart that helps to regulate the heart rhythm. Here, the electrical current slows for a moment before going on to the ventricles.

Atrium: The top chamber of the heart. There are two atria -- the left and the right, divided by a muscular wall, called the septum. The atrium contracts before the ventricle to allow optimal filling of the ventricle.

Balloon Angioplasty (Percutaneous Transluminal Coronary Angioplasty or PTCA): A procedure used to clean out clogged heart arteries. 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 and plaque into the artery wall and stretch the artery open to increase blood flow to the heart.

Batista Procedure: During this surgical procedure to treat heart failure, the surgeon cuts out a piece of the patient's enlarged left ventricular muscle. The intention is to reduce the size of the left ventricular cavity, improve left ventricular function, and reverse congestive heart failure. This procedure is not successful in the long term, but it has led to better surgical techniques to treat those with heart failure (see infarct exclusion surgery).

Beta-Blocker: A drug that slows heart rate, lowers blood pressure, controls angina, and protects patients with prior heart attacks from future heart attacks. It increases the time that the heart can fill with blood, and therefore decreases the amount of work the heart needs to do.

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