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Cardiology Definitions

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Ablation: Ablation, or Catheter Ablation, is performed mainly to treat various forms for tachycardia, or fast heartbeat. A low-voltage, high-frequency form of energy is used to bring the heart back into rhythm by heating very small sections of the heart muscle to such a degree that the nerve cells causing the irregular heartbeat are destroyed.


Ambulatory Event Recorder: A portable device that can be used for up to 60 days to monitor a patient's heart rate. Unlike a Holter Monitor, AER's do not record every heart beat. They use a memory chip that records approximately 120 seconds of a patient's heart rhythm. At any given time, while a patient is wearing the AER, it will record the most recent 120 seconds of the patient's EKG. When a patient experiences a symptom, he/she presses a button that freezes the recording, which is then transmitted by telephone to an interpreting station.


Arrhythmia: Any deviation from the normal rhythm or pattern of the heartbeat. Arrhythmias can occur in a healthy heart and be of minimal consequence. If you feel your heart beating differently than normal, you should have it checked by a doctor, though, as it could be an indication of a serious cardiac problem.


Atrial Fibrillation: An abnormal rhythm of the heart in which the upper chambers of the heart beat out of time with the lower chambers. When a person is in "A-fib", the atria (upper chamber) "quiver" chaotically and the ventricles beat irregularly.


Bradycardia: A term used to describe an abnormally slow heart rate.


Cardiac Catheterization: A procedure where the doctor inserts a long, thin, flexible catheter into a blood vessel and moves it toward the heart. This allows the doctor to assess how well your heart is pumping and to look at the coronary arteries.


Cardiac Resynchronization Therapy (CRT): Another name for biventricular pacing. The use of a biventricular pacemaker or a biventricular ICD.


Carotid Doppler: An ultrasound of the carotid arteries. Done in the office and is painless. It is used to evaluate the flow of blood in the neck vessels and to look for possible narrowing (stenosis) which could lead to stroke.


Congestive Heart Failure: A condition in which the heart is not able to pump enough blood out of the lungs and out to the organs to supply their need for oxygen. This results in fluid accumulation in the lungs and difficulty breathing.


Coronary Angioplasty (PTCA): A catheter with a balloon at the tip is inserted into your artery to widen the passageway. Once the artery is widened, these are removed. This procedure improves the blood flow to your heart.


Echocardiogram: An ultrasound of the heart that enables your doctor to view the structure and function of the heart.


EKG (Electrocardiogram): A non-invasive recording of your heart rate and rhythm. This can be done in the doctor's office and only takes a few minutes.


Electrical Cardioversion: A procedure during which the heart is given a brief electrical shock to change an abnormal heart rhythm back to a normal rhythm. Used to treat atrial fibrillation and certain types of tachycardia.


Electrophysiology study: Commonly known as an EP, an electrophysiology study tests the electrical conduction system of the heart. EP's are commonly used when an arrhythmia is detected that cannot be diagnosed with an EKG or Holter, stress test or echo. An EP study is often done in conjuction with an ablation.


Exercise Stress Test: Also called a treadmill test. The patient is hooked to equipment to monitor his/her heart then walks on a treadmill. As the test proceeds, the speed and slope of the treadmill is increased. Heart rate, breathing, blood pressure and fatigue are all measured. This test is frequently done to diagnose coronary artery disease or other chest pain. This test may be done in conjunction with other modalities to image the heart or its circulation.


Holter Monitor: A device that records the heart rhythm continuously for 24 hours. It is connected to the chest by sticky patches (electrodes) and is carried with the patient for 24 hours. Every heart beat, arrhythmia and abnormality is recorded and the information is given to your doctor to help diagnose your heart condition.


Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD): A small electronic device, like a pacemaker, that is placed permanently under the skin to monitor your hearts speed and pattern of beating. It sends electrical signals to the heart if the rhythm is too slow. It can deliver a lifesaving shock to the heart if dangerous arrhythmias occur.


MUGA: A noninvasive test used for assessing the function of the heart. The images this test produce are moving images of the heart while beating.


Non-exercise Stress Test: Also known as a pharmacologic stress test it is used when patients cannot ambulate (walk) adequately. A medication is given to simulate exercise while the ECG is monitered. Almost always combined with another imaging modality to assess the hearts function and circulation.


Nuclear Cardiology: A term used to describe the use of an radionuclide imaging agent to assess circulation to the heart. This includes various types of stress testing.


Permanent Pacemaker: A small, lightweight electronic device that is implanted beneath the skin to stimulate the heart beat if needed.


Tilt Table Test (TTT or HUT): A test done during which a patient lies on a special table that can be moved to a nearly upright position. This test is done to evaluate dizziness and fainting.


Tachycardia: A term used to define abnormally fast heart rate.


Transesophogeal Echocardiogram (TEE): A special kind of cardiac ultrasound. This test is done with a mild sedative to relax the patient. A small ultrasound transducer is passed down the patient's throat and ultrasound images are obtained. Useful for obtaining high resolution ultrasound images of cardiac structures.