Medical Terminology for Cardiovascular and Lymphatic Conditions and Treatments - dummies

Medical Terminology for Cardiovascular and Lymphatic Conditions and Treatments

By Beverley Henderson, Jennifer Lee Dorsey

There are a slew of medical terms for issues related to the cardiovascular and lymphatic systems. Our blood travels through the superhighway of our arterial and venous systems, and it carries a lot of passengers.

Common cardiovascular and lymphatic conditions

Because it is so multifaceted, the blood and its cells can harbor all sorts of conditions. Here is a sampling:

  • Anemia: Lack of red blood cells

  • Dyscrasia: Abnormal or pathological condition of the blood

  • Embolism: The blockage of an artery by foreign material in the bloodstream, most often a blood clot but could be fat, an air bubble, or a clot of bacteria. The foreign material is called an embolus (plural emboli).

  • Hemorrhage: Rapid flow of blood

  • Hyperbilirubinemia: Excessive amounts of bilirubin in the blood

  • Hypercholesterolemia: Excessive amounts of cholesterol in the blood

  • Hyperlipidemia: Excessive amounts of fat in the blood

  • Hyperchromia: Excessive pigmented red blood cells

  • Hypertension: Blood pressure that is above normal range of 120/70

  • Hypotension: Blood pressure that is below normal

  • Intermittent claudication: Pain or discomfort in a body part caused by any activity which exerts the affected body part; often occurs in the calves while walking; a result of occlusive arterial disease

  • Leukocytosis: Marked increased in the number of white blood cells

  • Thrombolysis: Breakdown of a clot that has formed in the blood

Lymphadenitis is an inflammation of lymph nodes. Lymphedema is an accumulation of fluid due to obstruction of lymphatic structures. And splenomegaly is an enlargement of the spleen.

Cardiovascular and lymphatic radiology and diagnostic tests

Lab tests for issues affecting the heart include serum enzyme test or studies, more commonly known as cardiac enzymes. During a myocardial infarction, enzymes are released into the bloodstream from the dying heart muscle. These enzymes can be measured. Lipid tests measure the amount of these substances in a blood sample. High levels of triglycerides and cholesterol can be associated with a greater risk of coronary atherosclerosis.

The blood test is the most common of all diagnostic tests. Blood work can help reveal a plethora of problems that not only affect blood but also major systems and organs. Another gold standard test is the cardiac catheterization, which involves inserting a long, thin tube, or catheter, into a blood vessel in the arm, neck, or groin that is then threaded to the heart to monitor and record pressure and patterns and locate clots.

Lipoprotein electrophoresis is a process in which lipoproteins are physically separated from a blood sample. High levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) are associated with cholesterol and triglyceride deposits in arteries. Having high levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), containing less lipids, is a positive factor in keeping the heart healthy.

Other laboratory blood tests include the following:

  • Antiglobulin test (Coombs’ test) determines whether erythrocytes are coated with antibody and useful in determining the presence of antibodies in infants of Rh-negative mothers.

  • Bleeding time is measurement of the time it takes for a small puncture wound to stop bleeding; normal time is 8 minutes or less.

  • Coagulation time is the time required for blood to clot in a test tube; normal time is less than 15 minutes.

  • ESR (erythrocyte sedimentation rate) measures the speed at which erythrocytes settle out of plasma. The rate is altered in disease conditions such as infection, joint inflammation, and tumor.

  • Hemoglobin test is the measurement of the amount of hemoglobin in a blood sample.

  • Platelet count is the number of platelets per cubic millimeter of blood. Platelets normally average between 200,000–500,000 per cubic millimeter.

  • Prothrombin time (PT) measures the ability of the blood to clot, used to follow patients taking blood thinners or anticoagulant drugs such as Coumadin.

  • White blood cell differential count determines the number of different types of leukocytes, mature and immature, that are present in a blood sample.

Cardiovascular and lymphatic surgeries and procedures

Thankfully, there are almost as many possible surgeries and procedures as there are conditions and diseases.

Electrocardiography is a record of the electricity flowing through the heart. Speaking of electricity, cardioversion or defibrillation is a treatment procedure whereby short discharges of electricity are applied across the chest to stop cardiac arrhythmia.

Angiocardiography is a procedure involving injection of contrast dye into the bloodstream followed by chest x-ray to determine the dimensions of the heart and large vessels. This is often used to diagnose an enlarged heart. Similarly, digital subtraction angiography can be used to get a closer look at the vessels.

Other procedures focus on finding out more about how efficiently the heart is working. In cardiac catheterization, a catheter is introduced into a vein or artery and guided into the heart for purposes of detecting pressure and patterns of blood flow. The cardiac scan is when a radioactive substance is injected intravenously and its accumulation in the heart muscle is measured with a scanner.

Everyone’s favorite, the stress test, determines the body’s response to physical exertion or stress. An echocardiogram and other measurements of blood pressure and breathing rate are taken while the patient is exercising.

Other fun and exciting procedures include the following:

  • Doppler flow study uses ultrasound waves to determine the velocity of flow of blood within vessels.

  • Laser angioplasty uses light amplification to stimulate emission of radiation or a laser beam to blocked arteries, especially in the legs.

  • Percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty (PTCA) is when a balloon catheter is passed through a blood vessel to the area where plaque has formed. Inflation of the balloon flattens the plaque against the vessel wall and allows blood to circulate more freely.

  • Stent Insertion: Percutaneous coronary intervention often follows PTCA. In this procedure, a coronary stent is inserted in the diseased arteries that supply the heart that keeps the artery open to allow adequate blood flow.

  • Venogram: X-ray film of the veins taken after the injection of dye.