Vascular Encyclopedia



Abdominal Aorta:  The portion of the aorta in the abdomen.

Aneurysm:  A sac-like protrusion from an artery or vein, caused by a weakening of the vessel wall.

Angiogram:  An x-ray technique where a contrast dye is injected into an artery. The test lets your doctor see if the arteries are blocked.

Angioplasty:  In this procedure, a catheter with a balloon at its tip is directed to a site where a coronary artery is narrowed by plaque. The balloon is inflated to decrease the size of the plaque and stretch the artery. Also called percutaneous translumnial coronary angioplasty (PTCA).

Anticoagulant:  Any medicine that keeps blood from clotting; a blood thinner.

Aorta:  The largest artery in the body and the initial blood-supply vessel from the heart.

Arteriography:  An x-ray technique where a contrast dye is injected into an artery. The test lets doctors see if the arteries are blocked.

Arteritis:  Inflammation of the arteries.

Arteriosclerosis:  A disease process, commonly called "hardening of the arteries", which includes a variety of conditions that cause artery walls to thicken and lose elasticity.

Ascending Aorta:  The first portion of the aorta, emerging from the heart's left ventricle.

Artery:  A muscular blood vessel that carries blood away from the heart.

Atherectomy:  A nonsurgical technique for treating diseased arteries with a rotating device that cuts or shaves away material that is blocking or narrowing an artery.

Atherosclerosis:  A disease process that leads to the buildup of a waxy substance, called plaque, inside blood vessels.



Balloon Catheter:  A long tube-like device with a small balloon on the end that can be threaded through an artery. Used in angioplasty or valvuloplasty.

Blood Clot:  A jelly-like mass of blood tissue formed by clotting factors in the blood. Clots stop the flow of blood from an injury. Clots can also form inside an artery when the artery's walls are damaged by atherosclerotic buildup, possibly causing a heart attack or stroke.

Bypass:  Surgery that can improve blood flow to the heart (or other organs and tissues) by providing a new route, or "bypass," around a section of clogged or diseased artery.



Carotid Artery:  A major artery (right and left) in the neck supplying blood to the brain.

Cerebral Thrombosis:  Formation of a blood clot in an artery that supplies part of the brain.

Cerebrovascular:  Pertaining to the blood vessels of the brain.

Cerebrovascular Accident (CVA):  Also called cerebral vascular accident, apoplexy, or stroke. Blood supply to some part of the brain is slowed or stopped, resulting in injury to brain tissue.

Cerebrovascular Occlusion:  The blocking or closing of a blood vessel in the brain.

Cholesterol:  An oily substance that occurs naturally in the body, in animal fats and in dairy products, and that is transported in the blood. Limited quantities are essential to the normal development of cell membranes.

Circulatory System:  The system that contains the heart and the blood vessels and moves blood throughout the body. This system helps tissues get enough oxygen and nutrients, and it helps them get rid of waste products. The lymph system, which connects with the blood system, is often considered part of the circulatory system.

Claudication:  A tiredness or pain in the arms and legs caused by an inadequate supply of oxygen to the muscles, usually due to narrowed arteries.

Collateral Circulation:  Blood flow through small, nearby vessels in response to blockage of a main blood vessel.

Cyanosis:  Blueness of skin caused by insufficient oxygen in the blood.



DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis):  A blood clot in the deep vein in the calf.

Diabetes:  A disease in which the body doesn't produce or properly use insulin. Insulin is needed to convert sugar and starch into the energy needed in daily life.

Dissecting (Ruptured) Aneurysm:  A condition in which the layers of an artery separate or are torn, causing blood to flow between the layers. Dissecting aneurysms usually happen in the aorta, which is the large vessel that carries blood from the heart to other parts of the body. This is an extremely serious, often fatal, condition.

Doppler Ultrasound:  A technology that uses sound waves to assess blood flow within the heart and blood vessels and to identify leaking valves.



Edema:  Swelling caused by fluid accumulation in body tissues.

Embolus:  Also called embolism; a blood clot that forms in the blood vessel in one part of the body and travels to another part.

Endarterectomy:  Surgical removal of plaque deposits or blood clots in an artery.



Guidewire:  A small, bendable wire that is threaded through an artery; it helps doctors position a catheter so they can perform angioplasty or stent procedures. The guidewire is small enough that it can be inserted into the vessel through a needle, but it is also stiff enough to be threaded "up" the artery.



Impedance Plethysmography:  A noninvasive diagnostic test used to evaluate blood flow through the leg.

Introducer Sheath:  A catheter-like tube that is placed inside a patient's vessel during an interventional procedure to help the doctor with insertion and proper placement of the actual catheter. Also called a sheath.

Ischemia:  Decreased blood flow to an organ, usually due to constriction or obstruction of an artery.

Ischemic Stroke:  A type of stroke that is caused by blockage in a blood vessel.

IVC (Inferior Vena Cava):  The large vein returning blood from the legs and abdomen to the heart.



Jugular Veins:  The veins that carry blood back from the head to the heart.



Lumen:  The hollow area within a tube, such as a blood vessel.



MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging):  A technique that produces images of the heart and other body structures by measuring the response of certain elements (such as hydrogen) in the body to a magnetic field. When stimulated by radio waves, the elements emit distinctive signals in a magnetic field. MRI can produce detailed pictures of the heart and its various structures without the need to inject a dye.

Mesenteric Ischemia:  A condition where the intestines are not receiving enough blood flow to sustain their metabolic needs.  This usually resolves in abdominal pain especially after eating.



Necrosis:  Death of tissue within a certain area.



Occluded Artery:  An artery in which the blood flow has been impaired by a blockage.



PTCA (Percutaneous Transluminal Coronary Angioplasty):  See angioplasty.

Plaque:  A deposit of fatty (and other) substances in the inner lining of the artery wall; it is characteristic of atherosclerosis.

Platelets:  One of the three types of cells found in blood; they aid in the clotting of the blood.

PE (Pulmonary Embolism):  A condition in which a blood clot that has formed elsewhere in the body travels to the lungs. This as extremely serious, and often fatal, condition. Prevention of PE is accomplished by the insertion of a filter.



Renal:  Pertaining to the kidneys.

Renal Artery:  Artery that connects kidney to the aorta.

Restenosis:  The re-closing or re-narrowing of an artery after an interventional procedure such as angioplasty or stent placement.

Revascularization:  A procedure to restore blood flow to the tissues. Coronary artery bypass surgery is an example of a revascularization procedure.

Risk Factor:  An element or condition involving a certain hazard or danger. When referring to heart and blood vessels, a risk factor is associated with an increased chance of developing cardiovascular disease, including stroke. Risk factors include smoking, diabetes, age, sex, etc.



Sheath:  A catheter-like tube that is placed inside a patient's vessel during an interventional procedure to help the doctor with insertion and proper placement of the actual catheter. Also called an introducer sheath.

Shunt:  A connector that allows blood to flow between two locations.

Stenosis:  The narrowing or constriction of an opening, such as a blood vessel or heart valve.

Stent:  A device made of expandable, metal mesh that is placed (by using a balloon catheter) at the site of a narrowing artery. The stent is then expanded and left in place to keep the artery open.

Stent Graft:  A piece of graft material within which have been placed metal stents -- a framework -- to support and secure the device to the wall of the aorta.

Stroke:  A sudden disruption of blood flow to the brain, either by a clot or a leak in a blood vessel.

SVC (Superior Vena Cava):  The large vein that returns blood from the head and arms to the heart.



Thrombolysis:  The breaking up of a blood clot.

Thrombosis:  A blood clot that forms inside the blood vessel or cavity of the heart.

Thrombolytic Therapy:  Intravenous or intra-arterial drugs used to dissolve blood clots in an artery.

Thrombus:  A blood clot.

TIA (Transient Ischemic Attack):  A temporary, stroke-like event that lasts for only a short time and is caused by a temporarily blocked blood vessel.



Ultrasound:  High-frequency sound vibrations, which cannot be heard by the human ear, used in medical diagnosis.



Varicose Vein:  Any vein that is abnormally dilated.

Vascular:  Pertaining to the blood vessels.

Vasodilators:  Any medication that dilates (widens) the arteries.

Vein:  One of the blood vessels that carries blood to the heart.

Copyright 2010 Vascular Institute of Kentucky, PSC.