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Heart Failure Health Center

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A Glossary of Heart Failure Terms


Nitroglycerin: A drug used to relax and dilate the blood vessels (vasodilator), improving blood flow. It is the most common vasodilator used to treat angina.

Nuclear Scan: Nuclear imaging is a method of producing images by detecting radiation from different parts of the body after the administration of a radioactive tracer material.

Obesity: Excess fat due to eating more calories than used. It is usually defined having a body mass index (BMI -- see above) of 30 or higher.

Occlusion: Blockage.

Off Pump Heart Surgery: Heart surgery done without the use of the cardiopulmonary bypass machine.

Pacemaker: A small electronic device is implanted under the skin and sends electrical impulses to the heart muscle to maintain a suitable heart rate and to prevent slow heart rates.

Palpitation: A fluttering sensation in the chest that is often related to a missed heart beat or rapid heartbeat.

Papillary Muscles: Small muscles that are part of the inside walls of the ventricles and attach to the chordae tendineae.

Patency Rate: The likelihood that a vessel will remain open.

Pericardiocentesis (pericardial tap): An invasive procedure that involves using a needle and catheter to remove fluid from the sac around the heart. The fluid may then be sent to a lab for tests to look for signs of infection or cancer.

Pericardium: The sac that surrounds the heart.

Pericarditis: Pericarditis is an inflammation of the pericardium. The pericardium is the sac around the heart.

Plaque: Deposits of fats, inflammatory cells, proteins, and calcium material along the lining of arteries seen in atherosclerosis. The plaque builds up and narrows the artery

Platelets: Components of blood that aid in clotting.

Positron Emission Tomography (PET or cardiac viability study): An imaging procedure that uses radioactive tracers to create 3-dimensional pictures of the tissues inside of the body and can monitor metabolic processes.

Premature Ventricular Contractions (PVCs): An irregular heartbeat in which the lower chambers of the heart (the ventricles) beat before they are supposed to.

Prophylaxis: The prevention of disease.

Pulmonary Edema: An abnormal swelling of tissue in the lungs due to fluid build-up. This condition often causes shortness of breath.

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