Cardiac Arrest Glossary


Glossary of Cardiac Arrest Terms

angina: chest discomfort from inadequate blood flow through partially blocked coronary artery

angioplasty: reconstitution or recanalization of a blood vessel; may involve balloon dilation or placement of a stent

aorta: the main artery that carries blood away from the heart artery vessel through which blood passes away from the heart to the various parts of the body

arrhythmia: irregular heartbeat or one that is too fast or too slow

atherosclerosis: a build-up of cholesterol or other fatty deposits called plaque that can occur on the inner walls of blood vessels and arteries

atrial fibrillation: an irregular heartbeat that causes a fluttering sensation of the heart

atrioventricular (AV) node: a collection of cells that establish an electrical connection between the otherwise electrically isolated atria and ventricles

automated external defibrillator (AED): a portable electronic device that automatically detects irregular heart rhythms, and if a problem is present, will deliver an electric shock to the heart, allowing it to reestablish a normal rhythm

bradycardia: slowness of the heartbeat, as evidenced by slowing of the pulse rate to less than 60 beats per minute in an adult

brugada syndrome: an inherited electrical disease of the heart bundle branch block, which can cause a delay in the conduction of the electrical impulse of the heart to the ventricle

cardiomyopathy: disease of the heart muscle, causes weakening of heart muscle and decreased cardiac output

congenital heart disease: a heart defect present at birth

congestive heart failure: refers to a heart failure condition in which the body has accumulated extra fluid so that the lungs are congested

coronary artery disease (CAD): result of the build-up of plaque deposits on the inner lining of the coronary arteries

defibrillation delivery: of an electric shock to the heart. This helps reestablish normal contraction rhythms in a heart having dangerous arrhythmia or in cardiac arrest

dyspnea: shortness of breath

echocardiogram: the use of ultrasound imaging to view the structure and function of the heart

ejection fraction (EF): the measurement of how much blood is pumped by the ventricles with each heart beat; a rate less than 50% is abnormal

electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG): a method for studying the heart by measuring the electrical impulses of the heart as they are detected on the surface of the body

heart attack: a critical medical situation that occurs when the blood supply to the heart is blocked and death of heart muscle occurs

heart block: impairment of the conduction system of the heart, blocks the heart’s electrical pathways

heart failure (HF): a condition where the heart fails in its duties of circulating blood through the lungs and back out to the tissues

hypertension: high blood pressure that is exerted against the walls of blood vessels as blood is pumped through the body

implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD): a small batterypowered electrical impulse generator that delivers electrical shocks, or pacing therapy, when the heart suffers arrhythmias. ICDs are implanted through a surgical procedure

long QT syndrome: an inherited electrical disease of the heart

myocardial infraction: irreversible damage to the heart muscle due to a blocked coronary artery

pacemaker: an electrical device which delivers electrical impulses to produce a heartbeat of desired frequency (fixed frequency)

pacing: delivery of electrical stimulation to the heart muscle to produce a heartbeat

palpitation: forcible or irregular pulsation of the heart, usually with an increase in frequency or force, with or without irregularity in rhythm

plaque: a combination of cholesterol, fatty deposits, cellular debris and calcium that form deposits on the inner lining of the coronary arteries

pulse: the rhythmic expansion of an artery that can be felt with the finger on your wrists, neck and temple, reflects the number of times your heart beats each minute

sinus node: the heart’s natural pacemaker, produces electrical impulses to keep the heart beating at a healthy pace by causing the heart to contract and pump blood at regular intervals

sudden cardiac arrest: a sudden abrupt loss of the heart’s pumping function. The most common cause of the arrest is an irregular heart rhythm (arrhythmia) called ventricular fibrillation (VF), in which the heart ventricles begin to quiver (fibrillate) instead of contract. When this happens, blood is no longer pumped to the rest of the body

syncope: loss of consciousness and postural tone caused by diminished cerebral blood flow

tachycardia: excessive rapidity in the action of the heart, usually above 100 beats per minute in an adult; ventricular tachycardia (VT) occurs within ventricles

valve: membrane in a passage that prevents the reflux of the contents flowing through it

ventricle: the inner chambers of the heart that have thick muscular walls and propel blood out of the heart

ventricular fibrillation (VF): a rapid, disorganized, and chaotic contraction of ventricular muscle accompanied by loss of effective pumping of blood, resulting in loss of consciousness and death if it is not terminated immediately by delivery of shock with a defibrillator

vessel: any channel for carrying a fluid, such as blood vessels, which include arteries, arterioles, capillaries, venules and veins

wolff-parkinson-white syndrome: a syndrome with abnormal ECG and where aberrant conducting pathways allow inappropriate transmission of signals from the atria to the ventricles or back to the atria from the ventricles

adapted with permission from Sudden Cardiac Arrest Association