To read about some cardiac catheterizations, click here. To learn more about hospital staff, click here. To read more about medications that may be prescribed to your CHD baby, click here.


This glossary includes many common terms you may hear at the hospital, doctor’s visits or may come across in your own research:

Allograft – a valve or tissue donated by a human and used in heart surgery to replace a dysfunctional valve.

Anastomosis – a connection between blood vessels or between tissue and patch material; a suture line.

Aneurysm – ballooning in the wall of an artery, vein or inside the heart due to weakening of the wall by disease, injury or abnormality present at birth.

Anoxia – literally, no oxygen. This condition occurs when oxygen supply to a part of the body is cut off, resulting in death of the affected tissue.

Anticoagulant – a drug that delays clotting and may prevent new clots from forming, however it does not dissolve existing clots.

Aorta – the main artery to the body that receives blood from the left ventricle of the heart and distributes it to the body.

Aortic Stenosis – narrowing at, above or below the valve opening between the left ventricle and aorta.

Aortic Valve – valve between left ventricle and aorta which has three leaflets.

Apgar Score – a test done on an infant at the first minute and first five minutes after birth.

Arrhythmia – any variation of the normal heartbeat rhythm.

Artery – blood vessel that carries oxygenated blood from the heart out to the body.

Asphyxia – injury to more than one organ system.

Aspiration – inhalation of foreign material into the trachea or lungs.

Asymptomatic – without symptoms. No evidence of disease or condition.

Atresia – the absence or closure of a normal opening, such as a valve.

Atrium (left and right) – one of the upper two chambers of the heart. The left atrium receives oxygenated blood from the lungs and the right atrium receives unoxygenated blood from the body.

Autograft – the use of one of a child’s valves in another location in his or her heart.

Bacterial Endocarditis – a bacterial infection of the inner layer of the heart.

Balloon Angioplasty – a procedure used during cardiac catheterization or surgery where a balloon tipped catheter is inserted into a vessel and used to dialate a narrowing or open a blockage.

Balloon Valvuloplasty – a procedure in which a balloon tipped catheter is inserted into the opening of a narrowed heart valve, then inflated to stretch the valve open.

Banding – a constrictive band placed around a blood vessel (often on the pulmonary artery) in order to control or decrease blood flow to the lungs.

Bicuspid Valve – a valve with two leaflets instead of three (except the Mitral Valve, which normally has two leaflets).

Blood Gases – tests done on a small amount of blood. CBG is when a heel sample is used and ABG when an arterial source is used.

Blood Pressure – the pressure of the blood in the arteries.

Blue Babies – babies who have a bluish color to the skin (cyanosis) due to lack of oxygen in the arterial blood. Can be caused by a heart defect, premature birth or poor breathing.

Bolus – a large dose of a drug injected into an IV rapidly or a large amount of food given through an NG or G feeding tube.

Bradycardia – unusually slow heart rate (anything under 60 beats per minute).

Bronchodilator – a drug used to open bronchial tubes in the lungs to ease breathing.

Bronchopulmonary Dysplasia – chronic lung disease in infants, resulting from mechanical ventilation or high oxygen concentrations.

Capillaries – very small blood vessels between arteries and veins that distribute oxygenated blood to the body’s tissues.

Cardiac – pertaining to the heart.

Cardiac Arrest – when the heart stops beating. Blood pressure will drop abruptly and circulation of the blood stops.

Cardiologist – a specialist in the diagnosis and treatment of heart disease.

Cardiomegaly – enlargement of the heart.

Cardiomyoplasty – a muscle from the back (latissimus dorsi) is wrapped around the heart and is trained, with the help of a pacemaker, to assist the pumping of the left ventricle.

Cardioplegia – the temporary stopping of the heart during heart surgery with cold or chemical agents.

Cardiopulmonary Bypass (heart/lung machine) – oxygen-poor blood is taken from patient into the machine where oxygen is added to the blood and then pumped back into the patient through the aorta. It “bypasses” the heart and lungs to allow the surgeon to operate on the heart.

Cardiovascular – pertaining to the heart and blood vessels.

Carditis – inflammation of the heart.

Catheter – a thin, flexible tube that can be guided and inserted into an artery or vein. It is made of a woven plastic or other material that blood will not adhere to. They are also used to drain fluids or introduce medication or nutrition into the body.

Catheterization – the process of inserting a catheter into an artery or vein and guiding it through the heart chambers for purposes of examination or treatment.

Central Venous Catheter (CVC) – a catheter threaded into a major vein.

Chest Tube – a plastic tube placed in the chest cavity to remove trapped air or fluid.

Closed-Heart Surgery – surgery performed on blood vessels in the chest but not in the heart. No bypass machine used.

Clubbed Fingers – fingers with a short broad tip and overhanging nail, caused by very low blood oxygen content over an extended period of time.

Coarctation – narrowing of the aorta where the aorta and pulmonary arteries are joined by the ductus arteriosus.

Collateral Circulation – a network of small arteries that are normally closed. When the coronary artery is blocked, they may open to carry blood to the heart.

Congenital – present at birth.

Congenital Heart Defect (CHD) – is a defect in the structure of the heart and/or great vessels of a newborn. Most heart defects either obstruct blood flow in the heart and/or vessels near it or cause blood to flow through the heart in an abnormal pattern. Other defects affecting heart rhythm (such as Long QT Syndrome) can also occur. Heart defects are among the most common birth defects and are the leading cause of birth defect-related deaths.

Congestive Heart Failure – a condition in which the heart is unable to pump the amount of blood needed to the body. The build-up of fluid on lungs and tissue can be acute or gradual.

Coronary Arteries – the two arteries that arise from the aorta, then arch down over the top of the heart and branch out to provide blood to the working heart muscle.

Cyanosis – blueness of the skin, lips and/or nail beds caused by insufficient oxygen in the blood.

Cyclosporine – an immunosuppressive drug that is made from soil molds and is taken by the vast majority of transplant recipients (Sandimmune or Neoral).

Dextrocardia – abnormal position of the heart within the chest. The heart is usually on the left and in this condition, it is on the right.

Diastolic Blood Pressure – the blood pressure inside the arteries when the heart muscle is relaxed. It is the bottom of the two blood pressure numbers.

Digoxin (Digitalis) – a drug that causes the heart muscle to pump more efficiently. It slows heart rate, strengthens contractions, and helps move fluid away from the body tissues.

Ductus Arteriosis – an open artery that connects the aorta and pulmonary artery before birth. It normally closes after birth but if it doesn’t, then surgery or medical treatment may be required.

Dysphagia – difficulty swallowing.

Dyspnea – difficulty breathing.

Echocardiography – a method in which pulses of high frequency sound (ultrasound) are transmitted into the body and the “echoes” from the heart are recorded. The Doppler color flow gives a picture to show the direction of blood flow.

Edema – swelling due to excessive fluid in the body.

Electrocardiogram (ECG/EKG) – a print out of the electrical impulses produced by the heart.

Endocardium – the inner lining of the heart wall.

Endotracheal Tube (ET Tube) – a plastic tube inserted through the mouth or nose into the windpipe. It is then connected to a respirator (or ventilator) to help a patient breathe.

Enlarged Heart – when the heart is larger than normal, usually due to a birth defect or underlying issue.

Enteral Feeding – tube feeding using an NG or G tube.

Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (EMCO) – a portable or longer term heart/lung machine. Oxygen poor (blue) blood is taken from body into the ECMO where oxygen is added to the blood. A pump then returns the reoxygenated blood to the body.

Extrasystole – a form of arrhythmia often referred to as an extra heartbeat.

Extubate – to remove an endotracheal tube that has been helping a patient breathe.

Fibrillation – when the heart muscle fibers contract individually and quickly disable the heart from pumping effectively.

Fluoroscope – a tool for looking at internal organs.

Foramen Ovale – an opening between the right and left upper chambers (Atria) of the heart in an infant that closes shortly after birth.

Fundoplication (Nissen Fundo) – a surgerical procedure to treat gastroesophageal refux disease (GERD). In a fundoplication, the upper part of the stomach is wrapped around the lower end of the esophagus and stitched in place, reinforcing the closing function of the lower esophageal sphincter. Whenever the stomach contracts, it also closes off the esophagus instead of squeezing stomach acids into it. This prevents the reflux of gastric acid in GERD.

Gastroenterologist – a doctor who specializes in the care of the digestive tract.

Gastroesophageal Reflux (GERD) – free movement of gastric contents up into the esophagus.

Gastric Tube (G Tube/Mickey Tube) – a method of feeding via a tube placed into the stomach. Part of the G tube sits outside the stomach so a tubing extension set can be hooked to it to administer bolus or continuous feedings.

Heart Attack – the death of a portion of heart muscle. It occurs when an obstruction in one of the coronary arteries prevents an adequate oxygen supply to the heart.

Heart Block – the electrical impulses causing the heart to beat are slowed or blocked along the pathway between the upper and lower chambers and usually requires a pacemaker.

Hematocrit – a test to measure the concentration of red blood cells in the blood.

Hemoconcentration – a technique used after cardiopulmonary bypass to remove fluid from the blood in order to increase the concentration of red blood cells.

Hemoptysis – blood in the respiratory tract secretions.

Hemorrhage – another term for bleeding.

Heparin – a medicine used to slow the clotting of blood.

Heterotaxy – abnormal structure of the heart and other abdominal organs. Usually present with multiple heart defects and the absence of or multiple spleens.

Holter Monitoring – an instrument worn 24 to 72 hours at a time that records EKG information which is later analyzed for arrhythmias and other abnormalities.

Horner’s Syndrome – drooping of the upper eyelids, contraction of the eye pupil and lack of sweating surrounding the forehead. Acquired Horner’s Syndrome may be a complication from placing of the tubes during cardiopulmonary bypass.

Hypertension – high blood pressure.

Hypertrophy – when cells increase in size and cause enlarged tissues and organs.

Hypocalcemia – a blood calcium level below normal.

Hypoglycemia – a blood sugar level below normal.

Hypoplastic – an underdeveloped tissue or organ.

Hypotension – low blood pressure.

Hypoxia – low oxygen content in the body.

Isoproterenol – a drug that can be used as a cardiac stimulant to treat an abnormally slow heartbeat and to increase the strength of the heart’s pumping.

Idiopathic – a disease or condition arising from an unknown cause.

Immune Response – a defensive action by the immune system to an infection or foreign material.

Immunosuppression – prevention or suppression of an immune response.

Inotropic – affecting the contraction of the muscles.

Intubate – to place an endotracheal tube into the trachea to assist with breathing.

Ischemia – decreased blood flow to an organ, usually because of a constriction or blockage of an artery.

Leads – sticky patches that attach to the skin and connect to the monitor by a lead wire.

Ligation – tying off or cutting of tissue and/or of a blood vessel.

Looping – when the looping of the heart is formed early in developmental stages of the fetus.

Lumbar Puncture – a procedure where a sample of spinal fluid is taken using a needle.

Median Sternotomy – a chest incision.

Mitral Valve – the valve between the left ventricle and left atrium. It has two leaflets that prevent backflow.

Mitral Valve Insufficiency – an incomplete closing of the mitral valve. It normally prevents backflow or leak of blood in the wrong direction.

Mitral Valve Stenosis – a narrowing of the mitral valve.

Murmur – a noise between normal heart sounds caused by blood flow which may or may not be normal.

Myocardium – the muscle of the heart wall that contracts to push blood out.

Myocardial Infarction – damage to a portion of the heart muscle because of a blocked blood supply to that area.

Nebulizer – a device that adds moisture to the air or oxygen given to a patient.

Neonatology – the medical specialty that deals with diseases of newborn infants.

Neurology – the medical specialty that deals with the nervous system and its disorders.

Naso-Gastric Tube (NG Tube) – a plastic tube that is passed through the nose into the stomach in order to administer bolus or continuous feedings.

Nosocomial Infection – an infection inside or around the heart.

NPO – means “nothing by mouth”, an order often given by a doctor for a patient who will soon have surgery.

Obstructive Airway Disease – the air passages have an anatomic obstruction.

Occupational Therapy (OT) – therapy designed to improve or restore fine motor skills to normal.

Open-Heart Surgery – an operation inside the heart with the aid of a cardiopulmonary (heart/lung) machine.

Oximetry – a method of measuring the oxygen content of blood.

Pacemaker – an electrical device used to cause heart contractions and control heartbeats.

Palliative – a treatment that gives temporary relief of symptoms but does not provide a permanent solution.

Palpitations – a single or multiple irregular beat usually felt as a skip or momentary pause of the heartbeat.

Patent Ductus – a blood vessel present prior to birth that bypasses the lungs of the fetus, which closes shortly after birth.

PCO2 – a measure of the carbon dioxide in the blood.

Pericarditus – inflammation of the membrane sac, the pericardium, which surrounds the heart.

Pericardium – a membrane sac surrounding the heart and vessels close to the heart. The space inside the sac, the pericardial cavity, normally contains a fluid that provides for smooth movements of the heart as it beats.

Periventricular Hemorrhage – hemorrhage adjacent to, but not into, the ventricles.

Pleural Effusions – fluid collections in the space surrounding the lungs.

Pneumothorax – air leaked outside the lung but inside the thoracic cavity.

Postpericardiotomy Syndrome – inflammation of the sac that the heart is in and the lining surrounding the lung.

Potassium – one of the body’s electrolytes, and one that is important to healthy heart function.

PO2 – a measure of oxygen in the blood.

Premature Atrial Contraction – premature or extra beats originating in the atria (upper chambers) of the heart.

Premature Ventricular Contraction – premature or extra beats originating in the ventricles (lower chambers) of the heart.

Prolapse – the edges of a valve that should touch (to keep the valve closed) begin to slip past each other due to weakening or lengthening of the valve leaflets. This lets blood regurgitate (backflow) through the valve.

Prone – lying on one’s back.

Physical Therapy (PT) – therapy designed to help improve or restore gross motor skills to normal.

Prostaglandins – horomone-like substances made from fatty acids which are found throughout the body tissues. They are thought to have important roles in tissue metabolism and blood flow.

Pulmonary – pertaining to the lungs.

Pulmonary Artery – the artery that carries blood to the lungs from the heart. It is the only artery in the body which normally carries unoxygenated blood – all others carry oxygenated blood to the body.

Pulmonary Edema – Congestion of lung tissues often resulting in critical, congenital or acquired heart or lung disease.

Pulmonary Hypertension – high blood pressure in the blood vessels of the lungs. The most common causes are congenital heart defects.

Pulmonary Valve – the valve between the pulmonary artery and the right ventricle. It has three cusps that open and close with the heartbeat.

Pulmonary Valve Stenosis – narrowing of the pulmonary valve, which is situated between the right ventricle and the pulmonary artery.

Sepsis – an infection in the blood and body tissues.

Septa – the muscular walls dividing the two chambers on the left side of the heart from the two chambers on the right. The atrial septum separates the top chambers and the ventricular septum separates the bottom chambers.

Shunt – a passage between two blood vessels or between the two sides of the heart. In surgery, a shunt is the operation of forming a passage between blood vessels to divert blood from one part of the body to another.

Sphygmomanometer – an instrument for measuring blood pressure in the arteries.

Stenosis – a blockage or narrowing of an opening or valve.

Stridor – difficulty breathing or loud wheezing

Stroke – a sudden decrease or stopping of blood flow in an artery of the brain.

Subaortic – below the aorta.

Subvalve – below the valve.

Supine – lying on one’s stomach.

Supravalve – above the valve.

Supraventricular Tachycardia (SVT) – the most common abnormal tachycardia in children, involving both the upper and lower chambers of the heart.

Symptomatic – when a patient exhibits functional evidence of a disease or condition.

Systolic Blood Pressure – the pressure measured inside the arteries when the ventricle contracts. This is the highest of numbers when blood pressure is taken.

Tachycardia – abnormally fast heart rate.

Tachypnea – fast breathing rate.

Thoracotomy – an incision on the side that enters through the lungs.

Thrombosis – the formation or presence of a blood clot inside a blood vessel or cavity of the heart.

Thrombus – a blood clot inside a blood vessel of cavity in the heart.

Total Parenteral Nutrition (TPN) – nutritional fluid given through the veins.

Tracheotomy – opening and inserting a tube into the trachea to facilitate breathing.

Tricuspid Valve – the heart valve with three cusps located between the right atrium and right ventricle.

Unifocalization – a procedure where small pulmonary arteries are joined in order to create one artery that is a reasonable size.

Valve – an opening covered by membranous flaps between two chambers of the heart or between a chamber and a blood vessel. When it is closed, blood normally cannot pass through.

Valve Conduit – an artificial tubing with an artificial valve used in come congenital heart surgeries.

Valve Commisurotomy – the surgical opening of the heart valve leaflets.

Valvotomy – opening or removing of a valve.

Valvular Insufficiency – valves that close improperly and permit a backflow of blood.

Vascular – pertaining to the blood vessels.

Vectorcardiography – a special type of EKG.

Vein – the blood vessels in the body that carry used blood from the body back to the heart and lungs.

Ventriculotomy – an incision into a ventricle.

Venous Blood – refers to the blood returning to the heart.

Ventricle – one of the lower pumping chambers of the heart. The left ventricle pumps oxygenated blood through the arteries to the body. The right ventricle pumps unoxygenated blood through the pulmonary artery to the lungs.

Resources include Wikipedia, It’s My Heart and Cardiac Kids.

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