Anatomy and Terms

Aorta: The largest artery in the body carrying oxygenated blood from the heart to the body.


Artery: A vessel that carries oxygenated blood from the heart to the body.


Atresia: Absence or non-development of a valve.


Atrium (Atria plural): The atria are the two smaller chambers of the heart that receive blood from the body or lungs and then pump blood into the ventricles.


Blood pressure: The blood pressure is the pressure of the blood within the arteries. It is produced primarily by the contraction of the heart muscle. It’s measurement is recorded by two numbers. The first (systolic pressure) is measured after the heart contracts and is highest. The second (diastolic pressure) is measured before the heart contracts and lowest. A blood pressure cuff is used to measure the pressure.


Bradycardia: slow heartbeat


Cardiac: Having to do with the heart.


Cardiac output: the amount of blood the heart pumps thru the circulatory system in 1 minute.


Congenital heart disease: A malformation of the heart or the large blood vessels near the heart. The term “congenital” speaks only to time, not to causation; it means “born with” or “present at birth.”


Congestive heart failure: A condition in which the heart is unable to circulate enough oxygenated blood to the body because it’s not pumping strong enough.  This causes back up in the veins and the body retains fluid.


Coronary arteries: The vessels that supply the heart muscle with blood rich in oxygen. The coronary arteries encircle the heart.


Cyanosis/Cyanotic: A bluish color of the skin and the mucous membranes due to insufficient oxygen in the blood.


Diastole: The time period when the heart is in a state of relaxation and dilatation (expansion).


Edema: Build up of fluid in the body that causes swelling.


Esophagus: The tube that connects the pharynx (throat) with the stomach.


Fatigue: Reduced efficiency, usually accompanied by feeling tired.


Fibrillation: rapid, irregular contraction of the heart resulting in lack of coordination between atria & ventricles and an ineffective heartbeat.


Genetic: A hereditary cause contained in the genes.


Heart transplant: A surgical procedure in which a diseased heart is replaced with a healthy heart from a deceased person.


Heart valves: There are four heart valves. All are one-way valves.


Hypertension: High blood pressure.


Hypertrophy: Enlargement or overgrowth of the heart due to increased work. Cardiac hypertrophy is recognizable microscopically by the increased size of the cells.


Ischemia: lack of oxygen in body tissue.


Left atrium: The upper right chamber of the heart. The left atrium receives oxygenated blood from the lungs and pumps it down into the left ventricle which delivers it to the body.


Left ventricle: The left lower chamber of the heart that receives blood from the left atrium and pumps it out under high pressure through the aorta to the body.


Mitral Valve: valve between the left atrium and the left ventricle.


Murmur: A sound due to vibrations from the flow of blood through the heart or great vessels. A murmur may be innocent and be of no significance is also present when a shunt is placed and working properly. Or it may reflect disease. A murmur is usually heard with a stethoscope.


Occlusion: total blockage of a blood vessel


Profusion: circulation of blood through organs and tissues.


Pulmonary: Having to do with the lungs.


Pulmonary artery: One of the two vessels taking blood to the lungs.


Pulmonary valve: The pulmonary valve stands at the opening from the right ventricle in the pulmonary artery trunk. It lets blood go to the lungs and keeps it from sloshing back into the heart.


Pulse: The rhythmic contraction and expansion of an artery due to the surge of blood from the beat of the heart. There is also a pulse, although far weaker, in veins.


Regurgitation: A backward flowing or the sloshing of blood back into the heart (or between chambers of the heart) when a heart valve is incompetent and does not close effectively.


Right atrium: The right upper chamber of the heart. The right atrium receives deoxygenated blood from the body through the vena cava and pumps it into the right ventricle which then sends it to the lungs to be oxygenated.


Right ventricle: The lower right chamber of the heart that receives deoxygenated blood from the right atrium and pumps it under low pressure into the lungs via the pulmonary artery.


Septum: Dividing wall between the two sides of the heart.


Stenosis: A narrowing of a valve of blood vessel.


Syndrome: A set of signs and symptoms that tend to occur together and which reflect the presence of a particular disease or an increased chance of developing a particular disease.



Systole: The time period when the heart is contracting. The period specifically during which the left ventricle of the heart contracts.



Thrombolysis: use of medication to dissolve blood clots



Transplant: The grafting of a tissue from one place to another. The transplanting of tissue can be from one part of the patient to another (autologous transplantation), as in the case of a skin graft using the patient’s own skin; or from one patient to another (allogenic transplantation).



Tricuspid: Having three flaps or cusps. The valve that is called the tricuspid valve is situated between the right atrium and right ventricle and permits blood to flow only from the atrium into the ventricle. The aortic valve in the heart also has three cusps.



Vein: A blood vessel that carries blood low in oxygen content from the body back to the heart. The deoxygenated form of hemoglobin in venous blood makes it appear dark.



Vena cava: The superior vena cava is the large vein which returns blood to the heart from the head, neck and both upper limbs. The inferior vena cava returns blood to the heart from the lower part of the body.



Ventricle: A chamber of an organ. For example, the lower two chambers of the heart are called ventricles.



Vessel: A tube in the body that carries fluids: blood vessels or lymph vessels.