Glossary of Medical Terms

  Angioplasty  The repair of a blood vessel, usually an artery. This term is often used to describe a commonly performed procedure on the heart. The main blood vessels that supply blood to the heart are called coronary arteries. The coronary arteries that become partially clogged with atherosclerotic plaque can be repaired or their narrowed lumen can be opened wider with an angioplasty. The common method to open the artery is a balloon angioplasty with a stent. A small balloon is inflated to compress the plaque and the artery lumen is made larger. The ballooned portion is made to stay open longer when a stent is inserted into the dilated portion of the artery.

Artery  Blood vessel that carries oxygenated blood away from the heart to an organ or tissue.

Atherosclerosis  The condition of "hardening of the arteries". This condition is actually a disruption of the lining of the blood vessels such that the opening or lumen of the vessels or tubes becomes narrowed. The disruption is associated with an accumulation of plaque, which is a mixture of materials including cholesterol, calcium, blood and tissue cells and fibrous material.  When the lumen is narrowed, the blood flow to the organs is impaired. Contributing factors that enhance progression of atherosclerosis are: age, hypertension, high cholesterol, smoking, diabetes, and a family history of vascular disease. Atherosclerotic disease can clog up the lumen of the arteries completely and lead to heart attack, gangrene of the limb and amputation or stroke. When the blood flow is impaired but not completely stopped by this clogging process then pain or angina occurs when the heart gets insufficient blood flow or pain in the legs occurs when walking which is called claudication.

Claudication  The term is derived from Emperor Claudius who walked with a limp. It is a condition of peripheral vascular disease where atherosclerosis produces plaques that clog up the arteries to the legs. When the arteries can't supply the demands of the muscles that require oxygenation, then the muscle cramps or pains. This symptom is called claudication. This is not the same condition as the leg cramps that occur at night in bed.  Claudication occurs with exercise first and when severe occurs all the time.

Coronary artery  The blood vessel that supplies the heart with blood.

Dilated  When a structure that is narrowed, such as a tube or artery it is dilated when the narrowed area is made not to be narrowed anymore by dilation.

Gangrene  When the tissue, organ or limb loses total blood supply and the dead portion turns black, usually becomes infected and has to be surgically removed to keep the infected dead tissue from infecting healthy tissue or the whole body.

Hypertension  High Blood Pressure. When the diastolic or the systolic or both pressure readings are elevated. Hypertension is a risk factor for heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, blindness, heart failure, angina, claudication and atherosclerosis. For a normal adult, hypertension is considered as a diagnosis when two or three blood pressure readings exceed 149 systolic or 90 diastolic. The blood pressure reading is designated as follows: systolic/diastolic. The higher number is on top of the "/" and the lower number is on the bottom.

Lumen  The center of the tube, the hollow part as in the channel part of an artery or vein that conveys the flow of blood.

Plaque  The material that is a mixture of cholesterol, calcium, blood cells, fibrous and elastic proteins that clogs up the arteries.

Stent  A manmade device usually made of metal that is tubular in shape that is used to maintain the lumen size so the tube doesn't narrow again or clog up again. It is inserted over a catheter and expanded to keep the angioplastied artery open. It can look like a spring or like a "Chinese finger pull".

Stroke  A stroke is a "brain attack" like a heart attack is to the heart. When a portion of the brain has a completely blocked artery, then the portion of the brain that has had its blood flow cut off dies. The portion of the brain that dies permanently loses its neurologic function.  For example speech is lost or impaired, muscle strength is impaired, etc. A T.I.A. is the same thing as a stroke except the blood flow is temporarily diminished and then restored so the neurologic deficit is also temporary. By definition (of a TIA) the restoration of lost function should occur in less than 24 hours.

Vascular Disease  Another way of describing the deleterious effects of atherosclerosis. When an organ or a limb or structure gets insufficient blood flow and signs or symptoms of poor blood flow is evident, then the condition is called vascular disease.

Vein  The blood vessel that carries "used blood" or deoxygenated blood from the organ, tissue or limb back to the lungs for disposal of carbon dioxide and replenishment of oxygen. 

 Mark S. Erlebacher, M.D.
102 West Seneca Street
Manlius, NY 13104
Telephone: 315.682.6600