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Glossary

If you've recently been diagnosed with advanced heart failure or are considering therapy options, you're probably hearing a lot of new terms. Talk to your doctor and consult this list to learn more.

  • ACE inhibitors: A class of blood pressure-lowering drugs which lower the blood pressure by relaxing arteries. Lower blood pressure improves the pumping efficiency of a weak or damaged heart, improving cardiac output in patients with heart failure.Back
  • Acute Myocardial Infarction (AMI): Commonly called a heart attack, the sudden death of part of the heart muscle due to insufficient blood supply. While heart attacks can lead to heart failure by weakening the heart, they are not the same thing.Back
  • Advanced heart failure: A stage of heart failure in which therapies for earlier stages, such as optimal medical management with drugs, are not enough to provide enough heart function for the patient.Back
  • Angiotensin Receptor Blockers (ARBs): A class of drugs which lower blood pressure by relaxing the arteries. Lower blood pressure improves the pumping efficiency of a weak or damaged heart, improving cardiac output in patients with heart failure. Back
  • Aorta: The main vessel exiting the heart, it carries blood from the left ventricle of the heart to arteries that provide blood flow to the rest of the body.Back
  • Arrhythmia: Any disruption of heart rhythm, often referred to as an irregular heartbeat.Back
  • Arteries: Thick, muscular vessels that carry oxygenated blood away from the heart to supply the rest of the body.Back
  • Atherosclerosis: A condition where cholesterol and platelets accumulate on the inside surface of the arteries and cause narrowing, or hardening of the arteries. Atherosclerosis can lead to Coronary Artery Disease.Back
  • Beta-blockers: A class of drugs for hypertension or heart failure that decrease the force and rate of heart contractions by modulating the autonomic nervous system.Back
  • Bi-VAD: Bi-Ventricular Assist Device, a VAD that can assist the function of either the right or the left side of the heart.Back
  • Blood thinner: Medication used to prevent blood clots (for example, Coumadin or Lovenox).Back
  • Bridge-to-transplantation (BTT): Temporary mechanical circulatory support (MCS) for advanced heart failure patients waiting for a donor heart to become available, BTT involves implantation of a ventricular assist device (VAD).Back
  • Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting (CABG): Commonly called heart bypass, CABG is an open-heart surgery that reroutes (or 'bypasses') blood flow around blockages in the coronary arteries, restoring blood flow to the heart muscle.Back
  • Cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT): A therapy to restore normal electrical heart rhythm in patients with heart failure or arrhythmias.Back
  • Cardiologist: Specialists in the structure, function and disorders of the heart, cardiologists are the first line of treatment for many heart failure patients. Heart failure cardiologists focus exclusively on patients with this condition.Back
  • Cardiomyopathy: A disease in which an enlarged or damaged heart is severely weakened.Back
  • Cardiopulmonary: Pertaining to or affecting both the heart and the lungs and their functions.Back
  • Cardiothoracic surgeons: Surgeons specially trained to operate on the heart and chest cavity, performing heart transplants, VAD implantations, and coronary artery bypass grafts (CABGs).Back
  • Continuous inotropic infusion: Intravenous (IV) administration of inotropes, medications which increase the pumping efficiency of the heart. See also Inotropes.Back
  • Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) or Coronary Artery Disease (CAD): A condition in which plaques containing cholesterol and platelets block arteries, decreasing blood flow and leading to chest pain, heart attacks, and heart failure. See also Atherosclerosis.Back
  • Destination Therapy (DT): Long-term mechanical circulatory support for advanced heart failure patients who are not eligible for a heart transplant. Compare to Bridge-To-Transplantation Therapy.Back
  • Dyspnea: Difficult or labored breathing, a common symptom of numerous medical disorders, including heart failure.Back
  • Echocardiogram: An ultrasound of the heart that provides a moving picture of the heart structure, along with information on its function.Back
  • Edema: Swelling of soft tissues as a result of excess water accumulation. Edema can occur in almost any location in the body, but the most common sites are the feet and ankles.Back
  • Ejection fraction: The efficiency with which the heart pumps blood, expressed in a percentage.Back
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG): One of the main tools for the diagnosis of heart diseases, an EKG measures the electrical voltage of the heart.Back
  • Heart attack: See Acute Myocardial Infarction.Back
  • Heart chambers: The four sections of the heart through which blood is pumped. The two upper chambers are called the left and right atria. The two lower chambers are the left and right ventricles. The right side of the heart receives oxygen-poor blood from the body and pumps it to the lungs. The left side of the heart receives oxygen-rich blood from the lungs and pumps it to the rest of the body. The left ventricle performs 80% of the heart's work.Back
  • Heart failure (HF): Also called congestive heart failure (CHF), a gradual weakening of the heart so that it cannot pump enough blood to the body's organs. Chronic conditions such as high blood pressure or blocked arteries can contribute to heart failure.Back
  • Heart failure cardiologist: A cardiologist or heart specialist whose practice focuses specifically pn the treatment of heart failure.Back
  • Hypertension: The medical term for high blood pressure.Back
  • Inotropes: Drugs that affect the strength of contraction of the heart muscle. Inotropes are frequently used in the treatment of heart failure to increase the heart muscle's function.Back
  • Ischemic: Not receiving adequate blood flow.Back
  • IVAD: Implantable Ventricular Assist Device.Back
  • LVAD: Left Ventricular Assist Device.Back
  • LVAS: Left Ventricle Assist System, which includes the LVAD (blood pump), and other system components (drive line, system controller, batteries, PBU and display module).Back
  • Mechanical circulatory support (MCS): A way of improving blood flow using a ventricular assist device (VAD), which is an implantable, electrically powered heart pump that works to improve blood flow in cooperation with the heart. MCS is used either as Bridge-to-Transplantation therapy for heart failure patients awaiting heart transplant, or as Destination Therapy for patients ineligible for heart transplant. Additional uses include Post-Cardiotomy Recovery, for patients who are unable to wean from cardiopulmonary bypass, and short-term support for patients at risk of shock from acute heart failure while longer-term treatment decisions are being made.Back
  • Myocardial infarction (MI): See Acute Myocardial Infarction.Back
  • Myocardial revascularization: Restoring blood flow to the heart muscle, or myocardium.Back
  • Paracorporeal: Literally, "outside the body;" describes the location of the PVAD, which is positioned on top of the abdomen.Back
  • Post-Cardiotomy Recovery: Mechanical circulatory support for patients who are unable to wean from cardiopulmonary bypass.Back
  • PVAD: Paracorporeal Ventricular Assist Device.Back
  • Risk factors: The list of activities or health habits that contribute to, or cause, heart failure, including drinking alcohol, diabetes, smoking, poor diet, lack of exercise, stress, salt intake and obesity, or family history. The impact of these factors may be reduced by making appropriate lifestyle changes.Back
  • RVAD: Right Ventricular Assist Device.Back
  • Sputum: Matter that is coughed up from the respiratory tract, such as mucus or phlegm, mixed with saliva. In heart failure patients, sputum may be pink or blood-tinged.Back
  • Tachycardia: An abnormally rapid heartbeat, defined as a resting heart rate of 100 or more beats per minute in an average adult. It can have harmful effects in two ways. First, when the heart beats too rapidly, it is unable to fill correctly and performs less efficiently. Second, it increases the work of the heart, causing it to require more oxygen.Back
  • VAD: A ventricular assist device (VAD) is a heart pump designed to help restore proper pumping function to a weakened or damaged heart through a process called mechanical circulatory support (MCS). It works to improve blood flow in cooperation with your heart, but does not replace your own heart.Back
  • VAD center: A medical center trained and equipped to implant ventricular assist devices (VADs) for the treatment of advanced heart failure. The VAD team consists of the VAD coordinator, cardiologist, cardiothoracic surgeon, operating room and nursing staff.Back
  • Ventricular assist device: See VAD.Back
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