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Glossary of Cardiology Terms and Tests

24-hour blood pressure monitoring
A home automated blood pressure monitor is sometimes used to identify if patients have true high blood pressure or just anxiety in response to seeing their doctor (so-called "white coat syndrome"). It also a useful tool to monitor blood pressure response to drug treatment. The patient wears the monitor on their arm which takes approximately 30-50 measurements over a 24-hour period.

Acute coronary syndrome
Acute coronary syndrome is the term used to describe a patient who experiences severe chest pain (angina), which often occurs at rest, lasts for more than 15 or 20 minutes and does not respond to nitrolingual (GTN) spray. This often heralds the onset of a heart attack or unstable angina. Accompanying symptoms sometimes include shortness of breath, sweating, nausea or occasionally vomiting.

A procedure using x-ray to look at the blood vessels. A dye is injected using a fine catheter (tube) passed through a blood vessel usually in the groin. X-rays are then taken to identify if there is any narrowing or blockage of the blood vessels. Also known as cardiac catheterisation.

Angioplasty & Stenting

A procedure where a narrowed artery is stretched with a balloon to make it wider to improve the blood flow through the artery. Normally this is followed by the insertion of a cylindrical metal mesh called a stent which remains permanently and acts to scaffold the artery open. This procedure is also called percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI)

Chest pain caused by a reduced blood supply to the heart muscle.

Cardiac rehabilitation

A programme to help people who have had heart attacks or cardiac surgery. It aims to help the patient make lifestyle changes and exercise to prevent a recurrence or worsening of heart problems.

Cardiac arrhythmia
The term used for someone presenting with an abnormal heart beat. If fast this may result in palpitations; if slow it can cause dizzy spells or, on rare occasions, blackouts.

ECG (electrocardiograph)

A test to record the speed and rhythm of the heart beat.


A non-invasive diagnostic procedure that uses ultrasound to study the structure and motions of the heart.


A test using an ultrasound (sound waves) probe to look at the heart and see how it is working.


A specialised cardiologist doctor specialising in the detection and treatment of cardiac arrhythmia.

Exercise ECG or ETT (exercise tolerance test)

A recording of the heart beat speed and rhythm while someone is exercising on a treadmill.


Where there are high or abnormal levels of lipids (cholesterol or blood fats) in the blood.


A reduced oxygen supply to an area of the body caused by clogging or narrowing of the arteries resulting in a reduced blood supply.

Myocardial Infarction (MI)

A heart attack - where a blockage in a coronary artery impedes the flow of blood to the heart muscle.

A device which stimulates the heart to beat. It is about the size of a small matchbox and is usually placed under the skin of the chest.

Percutaneous Coronary Intervention (PCI)

Similar to an angiogram, PCI uses x-ray to look at the blood supply to the heart. Dye is injected using a fine catheter (tube) passed through a blood vessel in the groin. X-rays are then taken to identify if there is any narrowing or blockages of the blood vessels around the heart. If blockages are found these will sometimes be treated (using a stent to keep the vessel open) to improve the blood flow.

A communication from one doctor or department to another doctor or department.


A small metal mesh coil which is used to hold the artery open following balloon angioplasty. There are currently two types of stents in use: 'bare metal or 'uncoated' stents, and 'drug-eluting' or 'coated' stents (coated in a drug to reduce the risk of the artery narrowing following angioplasty).

Stress echo

A test which uses either a drug (dobutamine) or exercise (exercise tolerance test) to induce the heart to work harder (as during exercise) an ultrasound scan is then used to assess how the heart is working under the stress of exercise.

Transoesophageal echo

An ultrasound scan to look at the heart. A probe is passed via the food pipe. This allows for much clearer pictures to be taken of the heart than a regular echocardiograp.

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