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A Glossary of Heart Failure Terms

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Antiarrhythmic: A drug that is used to treat abnormal heart rhythms.

Anticoagulant ("blood thinner"): A drug that prevents blood from clotting; used for people at risk for stroke or blood clots.

Antihypertensive: A drug used to treat high blood pressure.

Antioxidant: Vitamins (A, C, and E) that may help to limit the cellular damage caused by free radicals (which are released when tissue is being injured, such as during the progression of heart disease.) 

Aorta: The large artery leaving the heart that carries blood to other parts of the body.

Aortic Insufficiency: Aortic insufficiency refers specifically to the aortic valve, which is the valve the blood passes through as it leaves the heart and enters the aorta. When blood leaks back through the valve it is known as aortic insufficiency. Small amounts of aortic insufficiency may be inconsequential, but larger amounts require repair or replacement of the aortic valve.

Aortic Valve: The aortic valve is the last valve through which the blood passes before it enters the aorta or main blood vessel of the body. The valve's role is to prevent blood from leaking back into the left ventricle from the aorta after it has been ejected from the heart.

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, arteries from other parts of the body can be used to provide the bypass grafts. This is known as arterial grafting. The alternative is to use vein grafts for coronary bypass surgery.

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.

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