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Glossary of terms

Ace inhibitors

These are vasodilator, which means it opens blood vessels more fully and can help reduce blood pressure and slow heart failure.

Aneursym

An Aneurysm is a weakening of the artery wall which creates a bulge. Most aneurysm do not show symptoms and are not dangerous. However some can rupture, leading to life-threatening internal bleeding.

Anti-arrhythmic medications

These help to restore, or maintain, a normal rhythm to the heart beat.

Antibiotics

These help to prevent the onset of infections post-treatment.

Anticoagulants

These are ‘blood thinners’. They reduces the risk of developing blood clots from poorly circulating blood around faulty heart valves. Blood clots are dangerous because they could lead to a stroke. They are often prescribed to patients who have had a mechanical valve fitted.

Aortic Valve

One of the heart valves that controls blood flow from the lower heart chambers to the arteries. It is located at the outlet of the heart between the left ventricle (major pumping chamber of heart) and the aorta (major blood vessel which supplies blood around the body).

Arrhythmia

This occurs when there any change to a normal sequence of electrical impulses to your heart. The electrical impulses may get faster, slower, or just erratic causing the heart to not behave properly.

Beta-Blockers

These can reduce the heart's workload as the help the heart beat slower. Some patients find them helpful for reducing palpitations, and controlling heart rate.

Bicuspid Aortic Valve

Bicuspid aortic valve is a type of abnormality in the aortic valve which is one of four valves in the heart. In a bicuspid aortic valve, the valve has only two small leaflets, instead of the normal three. This condition can be present from birth, often referred to as ‘congenital’. Click here for more information.

Diuretics

These are also known as ‘water pills’. They reduce the amount of fluid in the tissues and bloodstream which can lessen the workload on the heart.

Endocarditis

Bacteria and fungal Endocarditis is an infection of the inner lining of the heart (endocardium). The endocardium becomes inflamed and can cause valve damage. Endocarditis is a very serious infection and needs to be treated immediately as they can cause heart failure and/or strokes. Click here for more information.

Mechanical Valve

An artificial valve, made from a mixture of metals, very smooth carbon and a cloth sewing ring which enables it to be sewn in the heart. Once a mechanical valve is inserted lifelong blood thinning treatments are required.

Minimally Invasive Surgery (MIS)

Unlike traditional open heart surgery which is very invasive, MIS allows a heart valve to be inserted through a small incision in the groin or chest which is far less invasive. This technique provides a better cosmetic result, offers quicker recovery times and potentially avoids some of the complications associated with conventional open heart surgery. However, at this stage MIS is not suitable for every patient and should be discussed with a healthcare professional.

Mitral Valve

One of the heart valves that controls blood flow from the upper heart chambers to the lower chambers. It sits between the left atrium and the left ventricle (major pumping chamber of heart), very close to the lungs.

Mitral Valve Prolapse

This is a commonly diagnosed form of valve regurgitation. Mitral valve prolapse is estimated to affect as many as 1 in 20 people. In serious cases, the mitral valve can become weakened or stretched, ballooning out and sometimes causing a back flow of blood. Despite its frequency, it usually causes no symptoms, as the amount of blood that leaks back is often slight.

Mitral Valve Repair

The mitral valve is a dual-flap valve. If the two flaps – or leaflets – do not meet properly when the valve closes this can result in leakage which can be repaired by restoring the meeting points of the valves. If a mitral valve repair is carried out, the presence of the patient’s normal tissues is maintained and the best outcome is usually achieved.

Transcatheter aortic valve implantation (TAVI)

TAVI stands for Transcatheter Aortic Valve Implantation and is a minimally invasive alternative to conventional surgical replacement of the aortic valves. It involves inserting a crimped replacement valve attached to a catheter usually via a small incision in the groin. Once in position in it is either balloon-inflated or self-expanded in the diseased valve in order to return blood flow to normal. TAVI is thought to offer effective treatment for patients who are considered too high risk for conventional surgical aortic valve replacement.

Tissue Valve

An artificial valve, made from animal tissues (pig or cow) and mounted on a frame with cloth surround, enabling it to be sewn into the heart. There is no requirement for blood thinning treatment once a tissue valve is inserted, unless there is another reason for these tablets to be given.

Tricuspid Valve Disease

The tricuspid valve allows for the forward flow of blood from the right atrium to the ventricle but when it is diseased this flow of blood becomes either restricted or flows back though valve in the wrong direction. When the flow of blood is restricted, this is referred to as tricuspid valve stenosis and means that the leaflets of the valve are not opening properly due to stiffening or calcification. When the valve no longer closes properly allowing for the flow of blood back through into the heart’s right atrium, this is referred to as tricuspid valve regurgitation. Click here for more information

Valve Replacement

Valve replacement involves removing a faulty or damaged valve and replacing it with a new one made from synthetic materials or animal tissue. This surgery is carried out under general anaesthetic. The valve may need to be replaced as it has become narrowed (stenosis) or the valve is leaky (regurgitation).

Valve Regurgitation or insufficiency

When a valve fails to close completely, the valve itself can become “leaky,” allowing blood to backwash down through the valve (called “regurgitation”). In addition, the valve may not ever completely move the volume of blood to the next appropriate chamber. This condition includes mitral regurgitation and aortic regurgitation.

Valve Stenosis or obstruction

This is primarily due to age-related hardening (calcification) of the aortic valve leading to progressive narrowing. The valve can either be exceptionally narrow (therefore having a “stenosis”) or have a blockage which limits the blood flow through the valve. This may result in a “back-up” of blood behind the valve as if behind a dam, causing the heart to pump inefficiently or building up blood pressure in the lungs. This is most commonly associated with aortic stenosis or mitral stenosis.

Vasodilators

As for the ace inhibitors, these can lower the heart's workload by opening and relaxing the blood vessels; reduced pressure may encourage blood to flow in a forward direction, rather than being forced backward through a leaky valve.