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Heart Disease Health Center

Heart Disease Glossary of Terms

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Aortic Valve Replacement: When the aortic valve is diseased, it can become either stenotic (too narrow) or insufficient (leaky). In such cases, the aortic valve may need to be replaced with either a prosthetic or human valve.

Aortic Valve Homograft: When replacement of an aortic valve is necessary, it is possible to replace the valve with another human valve known as an aortic valve homograft. This operation involves cardiopulmonary bypass.

Aortic Valve Repair: The aortic valve is the last valve in the heart through which the blood travels prior to circulating in the body. When this valve is leaking or too tight, a surgeon may be able to repair the valve rather than replace it.

Arrhythmia: An irregular heartbeat.

Arterial Grafting: In patients who require coronary artery bypass graft surgery, it is sometimes desirable to use arteries from other parts of the body to provide the bypass grafts. This is known as arterial grafting. 

Arteries: Blood vessels that carry blood away from the heart.

Atherectomy (Directional Coronary Atherectomy or DCA): This procedure is used to clean out clogged heart arteries. A DCA catheter has a hollow cylinder on the tip with an open window on one side and a balloon on the other. When the catheter is inserted into the narrowed artery, the balloon is inflated, pushing the window against the fatty matter clogging the vessel. A blade (cutter) within the cylinder rotates and shaves off any fat, which protruded into the window. The shavings are caught in a chamber within the catheter and removed. This process is repeated as needed to allow better blood flow. 

Atherosclerosis ("hardening of the arteries"): The process whereby abnormal deposits of lipids, cholesterol, and plaque build up on the walls of the coronary arteries, leading to coronary artery disease and other cardiovascular problems.

Atria: The upper chambers of the heart. (Atrium refers to one chamber of the heart).

Atrial Fibrillation (AF): Atrial fibrillation is an irregular heart rhythm in which many impulses begin and spread through the atria. The resulting rhythm is disorganized, rapid, and irregular and the atria are not able to fully empty their contents into the ventricles.

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