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Heart Failure Health Center

A Glossary of Heart Failure Terms

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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 The blood is withdrawn from a large vein in the body and passes through a pumping mechanism, and then through a device that puts oxygen into the blood and removes carbon dioxide from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.

Edema: Swelling; the accumulation of fluids, usually in the hands, feet, or abdomen.

Ejection Fraction (EF): The amount of blood -- given as a percentage -- pumped out of a ventricle during each heartbeat. The ejection fraction evaluates how well the heart is pumping. Normal ejection fractions range from 55% to 65%.

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