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A Glossary of Heart Failure Terms

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Coronary Artery Disease (atherosclerosis): A build-up of fatty material in the wall of the coronary artery that causes narrowing of the artery. 

Coronary Spasm: Repeated contractions and dilations of the coronary arteries, causing a lack of blood supply to the heart muscle. It may occur at rest and can even occur in people without significant coronary artery disease.

Cyanosis: A blue tint to the skin, indicating the body is not receiving enough oxygen-rich blood.

Defibrillator: A machine that is used to administer an electric shock to the heart in order to re-establish normal heart rhythm.

Diabetes: A condition in which the body does not produce or respond to insulin (a hormone produced by your body, which allows blood sugar or glucose into your body's cells for energy).

Diastolic Pressure: The pressure of the blood in the arteries when the heart is filling. It is the lower of two blood pressure measurements; for example, if the blood pressure is 120/80, then 80 is the diastolic pressure.

Dilated Cardiomyopathy: A disease of the myocardium (heart muscle) that causes the heart cavity to become stretched and enlarged, and the pumping capacity of the heart is reduced.

Dilatation: The increase in size of a blood vessel.

Dipyridamole Stress Test: If you are unable to exercise on a treadmill or stationary bicycle for a stress test, a drug called dipyridamole (Persantine) is used instead of exercise to test the heart's blood flow.

Diuretic: A drug that enables the kidneys to rid the body of excess fluid. It may also be referred to as a "water pill."

Dobutamine Stress Echocardiogram (Dobutamine echo): A procedure that involves infusing a medication (dobutamine) through an intravenous (IV) line while you are closely monitored. This drug stimulates your heart allowing evaluation of heart and valve function at rest and with exertion, when you are unable to exercise on a treadmill or stationary cycle. An echocardiogram is then performed repeatedly during a stress test to evaluate the pumping chambers of the heart.

Dyspnea: Difficulty breathing.

Echocardiogram (echo): An imaging procedure that creates a moving picture outline of the heart's valves and chambers using high-frequency sound waves that come from a hand held wand placed on your chest or passed down your throat. Echo is often combined with Doppler ultrasound and color Doppler to evaluate blood flow across the heart's valves. Doppler senses the speed of sound and can pick up abnormal leakage or blockage of valves.

ECMO(Extra corporeal Membrane Oxygenation): In people who are unable to provide oxygen for their own blood or enough blood circulation, they can be put on life support known as extra corporeal membrane oxygenation. The blood is withdrawn from a large vein in the body and passes through a pumping mechanism, and then through a device that puts oxygen into the blood and removes carbon dioxide from the blood. The blood is then returned to the body and circulated in such a way as to sustain life.

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