Dilation of an artery or a part of the heart due to a weakening of the
Angina pectoris: Chest pain due to the transient imbalance between
oxygen supply to the myocardium and oxygen demand by the myocardium.
Angiocardiography: Visualization of the heart and vessels by
injecting a contrast medium through a catheter.
Anoxia, hypoxia: Presence of an insufficient amount of oxygen
in blood and tissues.
Anticoagulant agents: Drugs which reduce the blood coagulation.
Aorta: The main artery, which receives blood from the left ventricle.
Aortic valve: Valve sited between the left ventricle and aorta,
which enables the blood flow into the aorta and prevents its back flow.
Arrhythmia: Any variation of the normal cardiac rhythm.
Arterial duct: Small duct which gets in communication aorta with
pulmonary artery. During the fetal life, it is open and closes immediately
Arterial hypertension: Rise of blood pressure beyond the normal
Arterial switch: See Jatene
Artery: Blood vessel which carries the oxygenated blood from
the heart to the various body areas.
Atresia: Complete occlusion of a valve or a blood vessel
Atrium: Heart chamber which receives blood from the veins and
sends it to the relevant ventricle. The right atrium receives the venous
blood from the various parts of the body; the left atrium receives oxygenated
blood from the lungs.
Bacterial endocarditis: Inflammation of the innermost layer of
the heart due to bacterial infections.
Bandage of pulmonary artery: Palliative surgery consisting in
creating an artificial obstacle in the pulmonary artery, to limit the
arrival of blood to the lungs
Blalock-Taussig (operation of): Palliative surgery consisting
in connecting a subclavian artery to the pulmonary artery of the same
side, in order to increase the pulmonary blood flow.
Bradycardia: Slow heart rhythm.
Capillaries: The smallest blood vessels, at whose level the oxygen
and nutrients exchange occurs from blood to tissues, which release in
turn carbon dioxide and wastes.
Cardiac block: Delay or blockade of electric impulses running
along the conduction system of the heart.
Cardiac catheterization: Procedure consisting in introducing a catheter,
through a vein or an artery, up to the heart.
Cardiac output: The amount of blood (liters/minute) pumped by
the heart in one minute
Catheter: Thin flexible tube which is introduced and guided into
the vessels and heart chambers.
Chromosomes: Elements of the cells which carry the hereditary
characters. The human species has 46 chromosomes, 23 from the mother
and 23 from the father.
Coronary arteries: Arteries which take oxygenated blood from aorta
to the myocardium.
Cyanosis: Bluish color of the skin caused by the lack of oxygen
Dextrocardia: Position of the heart in the right side of the
Diastole: Phase of the heart cycle characterized by relaxation
of the muscles of the ventricles, which are filled with blood from atria.
Digitalis: Drug which increases the contractile strength of the
Diuretic agents: Drugs which stimulate the diuresis (production
of urine). Dyspnea: Respiratory difficulty.
Echocardiography: Instrumental examination which, by the use
of ultrasounds, enables to view the morphology and function of heart.
Edema: Swelling due to the exceeding amount of fluids in the
Electrocardiogram (ECG): Graphic recording of the electric activity
of the heart. Epicardium: Outer membrane lining the heart muscle (myocardium).
Endocardium: Thin layer lining the inner surface of the heart.
Extracorporeal circulation: Blood circulation developed from
the outside of the body by a mechanical pump. It is useful to perform
Fontan (operation of): Connection of the right atrium (or of
caval veins), performed in babies with a single ventricle and atresia
of tricuspid valve. Foramen ovale: Opening of the interatrial
septum of the fetus, which closes few weeks after birth.
Glenn (operation of): connection between superior caval vein
and right pulmonary artery.
Gore-tex (shunt of): Palliative surgery of positioning of a duct
between a subclavian artery and pulmonary artery of the same side. It
serves to increase the pulmonary blood flow.
Heart decompensation: See heart failure.
Heart failure: Inability of the heart of maintaining a cardiac output
adequate to the body requirement.
Hemodynamics: Complex of mechanisms regulating the blood circulation.
Hemoglobin: Pigment contained in the blood red cells to carry
oxygen Hepatomegaly: Liver enlargement.
Holter monitoring: 24-h recording of ECG on magnetic tape by
a portable equipment.
Hypoplasia: Insufficient development of an organ or tissue.
Hypothermia: Lowering of body temperature below the physiological
values. It is caused on purpose during cardiac surgery to slow down
the metabolic processes
Jatene (operation of): Surgery for anatomic correction of the
complete transposition of the large arteries, which takes again the
aorta in connection with the left ventricle and the pulmonary artery
with the right ventricle.
Myocardium: Muscular wall of the heart sited between endocardium
(inner layer) and epicardium (outer layer).
Myocardiopathy: Myocardial diseases which reduces the contractile
strength. Mitral valve: Valve sited between the left atrium and
the left ventricle. It enables the blood flow into the ventricle and
prevents its back flow in the atrium.
Murmur: Noise produced by blood when it crosses narrowed valves
or anomalous communications and which is heard under heart auscultation.
Mustard (operation of): Surgery of physiological correction of
the complete transposition of the large arteries (the venous back flows
Necrosis: Death of a group of cells or of a part of a tissue.
Norwood (operation of): Palliative surgery in the hypoplastic
Pacemaker: Artificial heart stimulator which replaces the natural
heart stimulator through the release of electric impulses. The pacemaker
is placed in a subcutaneous pouch by a minor surgical intervention.
The stimulus produced by the pacemaker is carried to the heart through
some threads and electrodes reaching the inside of the heart along the
Palliative surgery: A surgery to improve the function of the
heart and blood circulation, but which does not repair the cardiac defect
like a corrective surgery.
Palliative-terminal surgery: A palliative surgery which is the
single possibility of improving the tolerance to a cardiac disease where
no corrective surgery is possible.
Palpitation: Sensation of abnormality of the heart rhythm.
Pericardium: A membrane which covers the heart.
Polycytemia: Increased number of red blood cells.
Pulmonary (artery): Vessel which carries the scarcely oxygenated
venous blood from the heart (right ventricle) to the lungs for its re-oxygenation.
Pulmonary edema: Excess of fluids in the lung.
Pulmonary hypertension: Rise of blood pressure in the pulmonary
Rastelli (operation of): Surgery in children with transposition
of the large arteries, interventricular defect and pulmonary stenosis
Ross (operation of): Surgery performed in aortic valvular diseases
and consisting in the replacement of aortic valve of the patient with
his/her own pulmonary valve. Pulmonary valve is replaced by a prosthesis.
Senning (operation of): See Mustard
Shunt: Anomalous passage of blood between two blood vessels or
between two sections of the heart normally not communicating.
rhythm: The normal heart rhythm regulated by the sinus node
Stenosis: Narrowing of a valve or a vessel which hinders the
blood flow. Systole: Phase of the heart cycle characterized by
the ventricular contraction, which pumps blood into the aorta and pulmonary
Tachycardia: Increased rate of heart beat.
Tachypnea: Increased rate of respiratory motions.
Tricuspid: Valve sited between the right atrium and the right
ventricle, which enables the blood flow into the ventricle and prevents
its back flow.
Thrombus: Blood clot which forms in a vessel or in a heart cavity
because of a delay of the blood circulation and/or due to the presence
Valvular insufficiency: Imperfect closure of a cardiac valve
which causes a blood back flow.
Vasodilator: Any drug which induces a relaxation of the walls
of the small arteries and facilitates the pump action of the heart.
Vein: Vessel which carries the scarcely oxygenated blood from
the various body parts to the heart.
Ventricle: Cardiac chamber which pumps blood. The left ventricle
pumps oxygenated blood through the arteries; the right ventricle pumps
non-oxygenated blood through the pulmonary artery.
Ventricular hypertrophy: Increased thickness of ventricular wall,
which causes an increased strength of contraction.