Victoria's Story


· Glossary ·


Aldactazide: Aldactazide is a combination of two diuretics, spironolactone and hydrochlorothiazide. It is used to reduce the amount of water in the body by increasing the flow of urine.

Angiogram: The process of visualising blood flow by injecting X-ray reflective dye into the blood stream via a catheter and taking X-ray pictures of the progress of the dye through the blood stream.

Anticoagulation: The reduction of the blood's ability to clot.

Aorta: The large artery that carries blood from the left ventricle and distributes it to the body.

Atrium: The heart's smaller blood collection chamber. A normal heart has two atria.

Bi-directional Glenn Shunt: A surgical procedure where the Superior Vena Cava is removed from the right atrium and attached to the pulmonary arteries, thereby directing oxygen-depleted blood from the upper part of the body directly to the lungs, rather than the heart.

Blalock-Taussig Shunt: A surgical procedure where a connection is made between the aorta and a pulmonary artery to allow shunting of blood.

Bone Density Test: A test to determine the relative thickness and composition of bones. Low-level X-rays are taken of spine, hip, and then the entire body, to give a view of bone mass and density.

Bone Scan: A test to examine the structure of the bones. An injection of X-ray reflective fluid is given. The fluid circulates in the blood stream and is absorbed by the body, eventually settling in the bones. Several hours later, low-level X-rays are taken to scan the bones for weaknesses and any other abnormalities.

Captopril: An anti-hypertensive drug used to lower the blood pressure and to reduce the workload of the heart.

Cardiac Catheterisation:The process of examining the heart and major blood vessels by introducing a thin tube (catheter) into a vein or artery and passing it into the heart or blood vessel to measure oxygen saturation level and pressure. The catheter may also be used to perform angiograms. The entire process is monitored by low-level X-ray camera.

Congenital Heart Defect (CHD): Congenital means "existing at birth." Such a defect exists when something has gone wrong during the embryonic development of the heart. CHD affects 1% of all live births.

Coumadin: An anti-coagulant. Coumadin is absorbed by the liver, causing reduced levels of certain clotting factors in the blood stream. (Generic name is warfarin sodium.)

Ductus Arteriosus: A small blood vessel connecting the aorta to the pulmonary trunk artery. This vessel is normally present and open in a fetus throughout pregnancy. It normally closes at or shortly after birth.

Echocardiogram: An ultrasound scan of the heart.

Electrocardiogram (ECG): A simple test which measures the electrical activity of the heart.

Fenestration: A small hole which is cut into the tunnel constructed during a modified Fontan procedure. This hole acts as a "short-circuit," allowing some oxygen-depleted blood to be shunted into the heart. This helps reduce venous blood pressure.

Fontan Procedure: A surgical procedure where the right atrium is connected to the pulmonary arteries, allowing oxygen-depleted blood to bypass the right ventricle and instead flow directly to the lungs. (Also called Total Atrio-Pulmonary Connection.)

Hæmoglobin: Red blood cells, which carry oxygen to the various body organs and tissues.

Heparin: An anti-coagulant. Heparin reduces the body's ability to generate platelets.

Holter Monitor: A portable electrocardiogram machine which records (on a cassette tape) the heart's electrical activity for a 24-hour period.

Inferior Vena Cava: The major vein that returns oxygen-depleted blood from the lower part of the body to the right atrium.

International Normalised Ratio (INR): A standardized measure of the level of anticoagulation from medications such as Coumadin.

Lasix: A diuretic, used to reduce the amount of water retained by body tissues. (Generic name is furosemide.)

Pleural Effusion: A seepage of body fluid (blood plasma, etc.) into the cavities around the lungs.

Prostaglandin: A vaso-dilating drug which maintains the presence of the ductus arteriosus.

Pulmonary Arteries: The large arteries that carry oxygen-depleted blood from the right ventricle to the lungs.


Single Ventricle: A complex Congenital Heart Defect where the heart has just one pumping chamber (SV in diagram, above) instead of two.

Stent: A small, thin, firm, and expandable metal tube that is inserted into a blood vessel to widen it or give it support.

Superior Vena Cava: The major vein which returns oxygen-depleted blood from the upper half of the body to the right atrium.

Total Cavo-Pulmonary Connection: A modification of the Fontan procedure, where a baffle is placed into the right atrium to separate it from the inferior vena cava.

Trans-esophogeal Echocardiogram: An echocardiogram performed using a small catheter which is inserted down the esophogus.

Ultrasound: The process of sending high-frequency sound waves into the body and measuring their reflection. The result is translated into a picture.

Ventricle: The heart's larger blood pumping chamber. A normal heart has two ventricles.


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