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Heart Disease Health Center

A Glossary of Heart Disease Terms

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Cardiomyopathy: An abnormal heart condition in which the heart is dilated (poor pumping power), restrictive (impaired ability of the heart to fill), and hypertrophic (enlarged heart).

Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR): A technique designed to temporarily circulate oxygenated blood through the body of a person whose heart has stopped. It involves assessing the airway; if necessary, breathing for the person; determining if the person is without a pulse; and if necessary, applying pressure to the chest to circulate blood.

Cardiovascular: Relates to the heart and blood vessels.

Cardioversion: A procedure used to convert an irregular heart rhythm to a normal heart rhythm by applying electric shock or using certain medications.

Catheter: A slender, hollow, flexible tube.

Chest X-ray (CXR, chest film): A very small amount of radiation is used to produce an image of the structures of the chest (heart, lungs, and bones) on film.

Cholesterol: A fatty substance made by the body and found in some foods. Cholesterol is deposited in the arteries in coronary artery disease.

Chordae Tendinae: Thin chords that provide support to the tricuspid and mitral valves of the heart, helping them to open and shut properly.

Clubbing: An abnormality where the ends of the fingers and toes enlarge and the nails curve; often it is related to an inadequate oxygen-rich blood supply. However, it can be hereditary and completely normal. It is often seen with congenital heart defects, but may be present in other conditions such as severe lung disease.

Coarctation of the Aorta: A severe narrowing of the aorta, causing a decrease in blood flow to the lower part of the body. This narrowing is a congenital defect and can be corrected with surgery.

Collateral Blood Vessels: Small capillary-like branches of an artery that form over time in response to narrowed coronary arteries. The collaterals "bypass" the area of narrowing and help to restore blood flow. However, during times of increased exertion, the collaterals may not be able to supply enough oxygen-rich blood to the heart muscle.

Commissurotomy: A surgical or catheter procedure that helps to repair the damage caused by defective heart valves. In some patients, specifically those with rheumatic heart disease, this area of the heart (also called the commissures) can become scarred and the valve leaflets fail to open and allow blood to flow through easily. In this surgery, the commissures can be released or reopened.

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