2016 Sentara Heart Annual Report

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We have provided this glossary for those readers who may not be as familiar with some of the medical terms used in this annual report.


Chest pain that occurs when an area of the heart muscle does not receive enough oxygen-rich blood.


The largest artery in the body, it receives blood from the heart that has been oxygenated in the lungs, and delivers this blood to the body and brain.

aortic stenosis

A progressive disease that affects the aortic valve of the heart.

aortic valve

The heart valve that regulates the one-way flow of blood from the left ventricle to the aorta.


Blood vessels that carry blood away from your heart to other parts of your body.


The two upper chambers of the heart that receive blood returning from the body.

atrial fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation, or AF, is the most common type of heart rhythm disorder (arrhythmia). During an arrhythmia, the heart can beat too fast, too slow, or with an irregular rhythm. AF occurs if rapid, disorganized electrical signals cause the heart’s two upper chambers (the atria) to contract very quickly and irregularly (fibrillate).

atrial septal defect (ASD)

A form of congenital heart defect that enables blood flow between two compartments of the heart and can lead to lower-than-normal oxygen levels in the arterial blood that supplies the brain, organs and tissues. However, an ASD may not produce noticeable signs or symptoms, especially if the defect is small.

balloon valvuloplasty

A procedure performed to open a narrowed heart valve using a thin tube called a catheter with a small balloon at its tip. The catheter is inserted through a small incision in the groin and then threaded up to the opening of the narrowed heart valve. The balloon is then inflated to stretch the valve open and relieve valve obstruction.


A valve that has two leaflets that regulate the flow of blood. A normal aortic valve has three leaflets.


A disease state in which calcium from the blood collects in the body tissues. When this occurs on the leaflets of the heart’s valves, it may cause them to harden and reduce their ability to open and close properly.

cardiac ablations

A procedure that can correct heart rhythm problems, typically using long, flexible tubes inserted through a vein in the groin (or wrist) and threaded to the heart to correct structural problems. Cardiac ablation works by scarring or destroying tissue in the heart that triggers an abnormal heart rhythm.

cardiac catheterization

Cardiac catheterization is a minimally invasive procedure commonly used to diagnose and treat heart conditions. During catheterization, small tubes (catheters) are inserted into the circulatory system to determine if there are obstructions within the blood vessels that feed the heart.

cardiopulmonary bypass (CPB)

Bypass of the heart and lungs. During this technique, which is often used during heart surgery, a heart-lung machine temporarily takes over the function of the heart and lungs.


A procedure in which a thin tube called a catheter is inserted into the body.


The presence of one or more additional disorders or diseases that occur at the same time as a primary disease or disorder.

congestive heart failure

A condition in which the heart cannot pump enough blood to the body’s other organs.

coronary artery disease

A narrowing of the small blood vessels that supply blood and oxygen to the heart.

echocardiogram (ECHO)

A test that uses sound waves to produce live images of your heart, allowing your doctor to monitor how your heart and its valves are functioning. An echo can help spot blood clots in the heart, fluid in the sac around the heart, and problems with the aorta.

echocardiogram (EKG)

A test that checks for problems with the electrical activity of your heart and translates the heart’s electrical activity into line tracings – spikes and dips, called waves – on paper.


A diagnostic test in which ultrasonic waves are used to produce images of the position and motion of the heart and its internal structures.

ejection fraction

The percentage of blood pumped out of the right and left ventricles with each heartbeat.

electrophysiology (EP)

A branch of cardiology that deals with the diagnosis and treatment of heart rhythm disorders. EP doctors (electrophysiologists) ablate tissue, implant and manage cardiac devices, and otherwise care for patients with heart rhythm disorders.


Inflammation of the lining of the heart and valve leaflets.

extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO)

The technique of providing both cardiac and respiratory support (oxygen) to patients whose heart and lungs are so severely diseased or damaged that they can no longer function. Other variations of its capabilities have been tested and used over the last few years, making it an important tool in life and organ support (extracorporeal circuitry). With all of these uses, a new term, extracorporeal life support (ECLS), is now commonly used to describe this technology.

femoral artery

A large artery in the thigh that connects to the aorta.

implantable cardioverter defibrillators

A small device that’s placed in the chest or abdomen to help treat irregular heartbeats called arrhythmias. An ICD uses electrical pulses or shocks to help control life-threatening arrhythmias, especially those that can cause sudden cardiac arrest.


Unsuitable for a surgical procedure.


A group of naturally occurring molecules that include fats, waxes, sterols, and fat-soluble vitamins.

mitral valve

The only bi-leaflet valve in the heart, it regulates the flow of blood from the left ventricle to the left atrium.

mitral valve repair

A surgical procedure to treat the narrowing (stenosis) or leakage (regurgitation) of the mitral valve – the “inflow valve” for the left side of the heart.

myocardial biopsies

The removal of a small piece of heart muscle for examination.

myocardial infarction

Otherwise known as a heart attack, this occurs when blood vessels that supply blood to the heart are blocked, preventing enough oxygen from getting to the heart. The heart muscle dies or becomes permanently damaged.


The fibrous muscle tissue of the heart.


A rapid or irregular heartbeat.

patent foramen ovale (PFO)

A “hole” in the heart that is often harmless. About 1 in 5 Americans have PFO. Many don’t know it until a medical condition like a stroke or mini stroke occurs. PFOs often have no symptoms but they increase your risk for stroke.

pericardial tissue

The tough, protective sac surrounding the heart.

percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI)

A procedure more commonly known as coronary angioplasty that is used to treat the narrowed (stenotic) coronary arteries of the heart found in coronary heart disease. These narrowed segments are due to plaque buildup.


The time period describing the duration of a patient’s surgical procedures from check-in through recovery—preoperative, intraoperative, and postoperative.

peripheral vascular disease (PVD)

A slow and progressive circulation disorder. It may involve disease in any of the blood vessels outside of the heart or in the arteries, veins, or lymphatic vessels. Organs supplied by these vessels, such as the brain, heart, and legs, may not receive adequate blood flow. The legs and feet are most commonly affected.

pressure ulcers

Also known as bedsores, pressure ulcers are localized injuries to the skin and/or underlying tissue that usually occur over a prominence as a result of pressure or friction.

pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH)

An increase of blood pressure in the pulmonary arteries. These arteries carry blood from your heart to your lungs to pick up oxygen. PAH causes symptoms such as shortness of breath, dizziness, fainting, chest pain, and leg swelling. As the condition worsens, its symptoms may limit all physical activity.

pulmonary valve

The valve that regulates the flow of blood from the pulmonary artery to the right ventricle.


The backward flow of blood (in the opposite direction than it would normally flow).


The narrowing of an opening.


A small mesh tube that’s used to treat narrow or weak arteries.


A loss of consciousness, or fainting, caused by a temporary lack of oxygen to the brain.

ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI)

A type of heart attack that occurs when a coronary artery suddenly becomes at least partially blocked by a blood clot, causing at least some of the heart muscle being supplied by that artery to die.


Advanced technology that enables doctors and nurses to monitor patients remotely.

transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR)

(also referred to as TAVI or transcatheter aortic valve implantation): A treatment option for inoperable patients that allows doctors to replace a heart valve using a catheter put into a small cut – avoiding the need for open-heart surgery.

transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE)

A type of echo test that provides a close look at the heart’s valves and chambers, without interference from the ribs or lungs. During a TEE, an ultrasound transducer, positioned on an endoscope, is guided down a patient’s throat into the esophagus.

tricuspid valve

The heart valve that regulates the flow of blood from the right ventricle to the right atrium.

tricuspid valve repair

The tricuspid valve is located between the heart’s right upper chamber (atrium) and lower chamber (ventricle). Its role is to make sure blood flows the correct way through the heart. In some people, this valve does not function correctly (tricuspid valve disease). The valve can be repaired (preferred) or replaced.


A valve with three leaflets. A normal aortic valve is a tri-leaflet valve.

valve leaflets

Flaps of tissue that open and close to help regulate the flow of blood in one direction through the valve.


A procedure in which a catheter is advanced from a blood vessel in the groin through the aorta into the heart. A large balloon at the tip of the catheter is inflated until the flaps of the valve are opened. Once the valve has opened, the balloon is deflated and the catheter is removed. Valvuloplasty is performed in certain situations in order to open a heart valve that has become stiff.


The blood vessels that return de-oxygenated blood to the heart and lungs.


The large, lower blood-pumping chambers of the heart.