Covenant Health Glossary

This glossary presents and defines terms you may hear during pre- and post-operative discussions with your physician or nursing staff.

young male doctor talks to senior male patient

ABG/Arterial Blood Gas: a blood sample measuring oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in your blood.  Blood is drawn from your arterial line and wrist area.

Anesthesiologist: a doctor who specializes in the science of anesthesia. This is the physician who “puts people to sleep” during surgery.

Angina Pectoris: the medical term for chest pain due to coronary artery disease. Angina Pectoris is a condition in which the heart muscle does not receive enough blood and oxygen, typically resulting in chest pain.

Angiogram: the x-ray images that are made of blood vessels or chambers of the heart by tracing the course of a special fluid (called contrast medium or dye) that has been injected into the bloodstream.

Anticoagulant: a drug that prevents new blood clots from forming or the existing blood clot from getting larger. The drug does not dissolve an existing clot.

Aorta: the main trunk artery that receives blood from the lower left chamber of the heart. The aorta begins at the base of the heart, arches up over the heart like the handle of a walking cane, and passes down through the chest and abdomen in front of the spine. It branches off into many lesser arteries that delivers blood to every part of the body (except the lungs).

Arteries: blood vessels that carry blood away from the heart to the various parts of the body.  Arteries usually carry oxygenated blood, except for the pulmonary artery that conducts unoxygenated blood from the heart to lungs where it is oxygenated.

Arteriosclerosis: commonly called hardening of the arteries. This is a generic term for a variety of conditions that cause the arterial walls to become thick and hard and lose elasticity.

Arterial Line: a catheter in your wrist that closely monitors your blood pressure and allows nursing staff to draw blood for lab tests.

Atherosclerosis: a type of arteriosclerosis in which the inner walls of an artery become coated with thick, irregular deposits of a fatty substance. These deposits decrease the diameter of the blood vessels and restrict the amount of blood that can flow to the heart.

Atrial Fibrillation (Afib): an irregular heart rhythm that can sometimes occur after surgery.

CABG (Cabbage): refers to coronary artery bypass graft surgery. This involves using a vein from your leg and/or artery from your arm, chest or abdomen to bypass a narrowed or blocked artery around your heart. This surgery is performed to improve the blood supply to the heart muscle.

Cardiac Catheterization: the process of examining the heart by introducing a thin tube (catheter) into a vein or artery and passing it through to the heart.

Cardiac Rehab: an exercise and educational program designed to help you live a heart healthy lifestyle.

Catheter: a thin tube inserted into a vein or artery.

Chest Tubes: drainage tubes in your chest near your incision to drain blood and other fluid.

Cholesterol: a fat-like substance in animal tissue. A higher-than-normal level of cholesterol increases the risk of coronary atherosclerosis.

Collateral Circulation: detoured circulation of the blood through smaller vessels when a main vessel has been blocked off. This usually develops from regular exercise.

Coronary Artery Disease: a build up of fatty materials on the inside of arteries that bring blood to the heart muscle. The diameter of the inner walls of the (coronary) arteries is narrowed and the blood supply to the heart itself is decreased.

Coronary Arteries: two arteries, arising from the aorta, which arch down over the top of the heart, branch, and conduct blood to the heart muscle.

Coronary Occlusion: an obstruction (usually a blood clot) in a branch of one of the coronary arteries that hinders the flow of blood to a part of the heart muscle.

Coronary Thrombosis: a form of coronary occlusion. This is the formation of a clot in a branch of one of the coronary arteries that moves blood to the heart muscles.

Electrocardiogram/ECG/EKG: a record of electrical impulses that are produced by the heart.

Endotracheal Tube/ETT: a tube in your mouth that is connected to a breathing machine.

Extubation: removal of the breathing tube (endotracheal tube) from your mouth.

Foley Catheter: a tube inserted into the bladder to drain and measure urine.

Heart Pillow: heart shaped pillow given to support your chest and protect your incision when you cough and start increasing activity.

Heart Hugger: a support harness to protect your chest and incisions during activity and respiratory exercises.

Hematocrit: your blood count/level. It is important to check for anemia after surgery. Your surgeon may recommend you receive blood transfusions.

Intensive Care Unit: a unit where you are taken directly after heart surgery where patients are closely monitored by nursing staff.

Ischemia: a local – and usually temporary – deficiency of blood in a part of the body, often caused by a constriction or blockage in the blood vessels.

Myocardial Infarction, “MI” or “Heart Attack”: caused when an area of the heart muscle is damaged from lack of blood and nutrients.

Myocardium: the thickest layer and muscular wall of the heart.

Nitroglycerin: a drug that relaxes the muscles in the blood vessels and allows them to expand (dilate). It is often used to relieve chest pain.

NPO: this means nothing by mouth. If a doctor has ordered NPO this means that you are not allowed to eat or drink. This is ordered before surgery and right after surgery.

Occupational Therapy: a healthcare profession designed to help patients perform everyday activities.

On & Off Bypass or “Pump” Bypass: also called the heart and lung machine, it circulates your blood while your doctor is working on your heart. You are placed on the machine during a portion of surgery and off near the conclusion of surgery.

Pacing Wires/Pacer/Pacemaker: wires placed in your chest during surgery to be used after surgery to regulate your heart rate or rhythm (if needed).

Percutaneous Transluminal Coronary Angioplasty/PTCA: a procedure sometimes used to dilate (widen) narrowed arteries.  A catheter with a deflated balloon on its tip is passed into the narrowed artery, the balloon is inflated and the narrowed segment is widened.

Physical Therapy: a healthcare profession designed to help treat, prevent and evaluate physical limitations.

Plaque: a deposit of fatty substances on the inner lining of the arterial walls.

Polyunsaturated fat: a fat that is usually a liquid oil of vegetable origin, such as corn oil or safflower oil. Polyunsaturated fats tend to lower the amount of blood cholesterol and lessen the hazard of fatty build-up within the vessels.

Pulse Oximetry/Pulse Ox: a machine with a light connected to your finger to measure how much oxygen is in your blood.

Saturated Fat: a fat (usually a solid fat of animal origin like that found in milk, butter, meat). A diet high in saturated fats increases the amount of blood cholesterol. These fats should be limited in your diet to reduce the hazard of fatty deposits building up inside the vessels.

Stent: a flexible wire mesh placed within the artery wall that pushes plaque against the wall and allows blood to flow more freely to the heart.

Swan Ganz/ PA Catheter: an IV in your neck or shoulder used to measure pressures in your heart and lungs and to give you medications and fluids.

Telemetry Monitor: a heart monitor connected to white patches on your chest. The monitor is used to watch your heart rate and rhythm. A small box, placed in a pouch, will be carried around your neck to accommodate your activities.

Ventilator “Vent”: the breathing machine which is connected to the breathing tube in your mouth.

Ventricle: either of the two lower chambers of the heart. The left ventricle pumps oxygenated blood through the arteries to the body, while the right ventricle pumps unoxygenated blood through the pulmonary artery to the lungs.

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