Glossary of Heart Terminology

Low red blood cell count.

A medication that reduces pain by dulling sensation.

A drug that aids in protecting the digestive system and relieves heartburn and digestive discomfort.

A protein produced by the body to eliminate foreign substances, such as bacteria.

A foreign molecule or substance, such as a transplant, that triggers an immune response. This response may be the production of antibodies, which, in turn, try to inactivate or destroy the antigen (transplanted organ).

Arteriogram (angiogram)
An x-ray of the arteries taken with the aid of a dye.

A buildup of fats in the lining of the arteries that may interfere with the flow of blood.

B Cell
A specialized white blood cell responsible for the body's immunity. B cells play a central role in antibody production.

Small organisms (germs) that can cause disease.

A measure of how much of an administered drug is absorbed into the bloodstream, actually reaching the intended site of action in the body.

Brain Death
When the brain has permanently stopped working, as determined by a neurological surgeon, artificial support systems may maintain functions such as heartbeat and respiration for a few days.

Cadaveric Donor
An individual who has recently died of causes that do not affect the function of an organ to be transplanted. Either the person or the person's family has generously offered organs and/or tissues for transplantation.

An immunosuppressive drug used with other immunosuppressants to prevent the rejection of the transplanted organ. Also known by its chemical name, myophenolate mofetil.

A form of fat that performs necessary functions in the body but can also cause heart disease; cholesterol is found in animal foods such as meat, fish, poultry, eggs, and dairy products.

Blood clotting.

A test in which donor and recipient blood samples are mixed together. A "positive" crossmatch shows the donor and recipient are incompatible. A "negative" crossmatch shows there is no reaction between the donor and the recipient. This means that the donor and recipient are compatible and the transplant may proceed.

CMV (Cytomegalovirus)
A virus infection that is very common in transplant recipients; it can affect the lungs and other organs as well; a member of the family of herpes viruses.

To change a harmful substance into a safer form.

A condition in which an insufficient amount of insulin is produced by the pancreas, resulting in high levels of glucose in the blood.

The bottom of two blood pressure numbers, which measures blood pressure when the heart is at rest.

Excess fluid in body tissues; swelling of the ankles, for example, is a sign of edema.

A recording of the electrical activity of the heart.

Generally refers to the dissolved form of a mineral such as sodium, potassium, magnesium, chlorine, etc.

A protein made in the body and capable of changing a substance from one form to another.

A type of sugar found in the blood.

An organ or tissue that is transplanted.

Graft Survival
When a transplanted tissue or organ is accepted by the body and functions properly. The potential for graft survival is increased when the recipient and donor are closely matched, and when immunosuppressive therapy is used.

The heart is a myogenic muscular organ that is responsible for pumping blood throughout the blood vessels by repeated, rhythmic contractions.

Helper T Cell
The specialized white blood cell that tells other parts of the immune system to combat infection or foreign material.

A measure of the red-blood-cell content of blood.

An excessive increase in hair growth - especially male-pattern hair growth in a female. Hirsutism is a common side effect of corticosteroids and can also occur with cyclosporine therapy, but is easily treated with depilatory creams or other methods of hair removal.

High blood pressure.

Immune Response
Any defensive reaction to foreign material by the immune system.

Immune System
The system that protects the body from invasion by foreign substances, such as bacteria and viruses, and from cancer cells.

A condition of being able to resist a particular infectious disease.

Prevention or suppression of immune response. Transplant patients receive immunosuppressive drugs in order to prevent rejection.

Immunosuppressive Agents
Medications given to prevent rejection of a transplanted organ.

An immunosuppressive drug used with other immunosuppressive drugs to help prevent the rejection of a transplanted organ. Also known by its chemical name, azathioprine.

No likeness or similarity between donor or recipient blood type or organs.

Indiana Organ Procurement Organization (IOPO)
IOPO serves as the integral link between the potential donor and recipient and is accountable for the retrieval, preservation and transportation of organs for transplantation. IOPO is an UNOS members as are all Organ Procurement Organizations.

IV or Intravenous
Refers to giving medicines or fluids directly through a vein.

IV Catheter
A small needle with a hollow tube inserted into a vein and used to give medicines or fluids.

The compatibility between recipient and donor. In general, the more closely the donor and recipient "match", the greater the potential for a successful transplant.

A type of white blood cell.

Failure to follow the instructions of one's health care providers, such as not taking medicine as prescribed or not showing up for clinic visits.

By mouth.

Organ Preservation
Between organ procurement and transplant, organs require special methods of preservation to keep them viable. The length of time that organs and tissues can be kept outside the body varies, depending on the organ, the preservation fluid and the temperature.

Organ Rejection
An attempt by the immune system to reject or destroy what it recognizes to be a "foreign" presence.

Panel Reactive Antibody (PRA)
A way of measuring immune system activity within the body. PRA is higher when more antibodies are being made.

Pneumocystis Carinii Pneumonia (PCP)
A type of pneumonia seen primarily in patients whose immune systems are suppressed.

A small blood cell needed for normal blood clotting.

A mineral essential for body function.

A manufactured steroid hormone taken by most transplant recipients to help prevent rejections medication that helps prevent disease.

An immune response against grafted tissue, which, if not successfully treated, results in failure of the graft to survive.

Refers to the kidney.

Due to organ rejection or transplant failure, some patients need another transplant and return to the waiting list. Reducing the number of retransplants is critical when examining ways to maximize a limited supply of donor organs.

Sandimmune® (cyclosporin)
An earlier formulation of cyclosporine. An immunosuppressive drug used with other immunosuppressive drugs, that acts specifically to inhibit helper T cells, thereby helping prevent the rejection of a transplanted organ. Sandimmune and Neoral are not bioequivalent and cannot be used interchangeably without physician supervision.

Being immunized, or able to mount an immune response, against an antigen by previous exposure to that antigen.

A component of table salt (sodium chloride); an electrolyte that is the main salt in blood.

Indicates the degree of medical urgency for patients awaiting transplants.

Stricture or Stenosis
A narrowing of passage in the body.

Survival Rates
Survival rates indicate how many patients or grafts (transplanted organs) are alive/functioning at a set time post-transplant. Survival rates are often given at one, three and five years. Policy modifications are never made without examining their impact on transplant survival rates. Survival rates improve with technological and scientific advances. Developing policies that reflect and respond to these advances in transplantation will also improve survival rates.

The top of the two blood pressure numbers, which measures the maximum blood pressure reached as blood is pumped out of the heart chambers.

A form of fat that the body makes from sugar, alcohol, and excess calories.

T Cells
A white blood cell responsible for the body's immunity. T cells can destroy cells infected by viruses, graft cells, and other altered cells.

Tissue Typing
A blood test (performed prior to transplantation) to evaluate the closeness of tissue match between donor's organ and recipient's HLA antigens.

Ventricular Assist Device (VAD)
A mechanical pump used for blood circulation support. It decreases the workload of the heart while maintaining adequate flow and blood pressure. 

A very small agent (germ) that causes infection.

Waiting List
After evaluation by the transplant physician, a patient is added to the national waiting list by the transplant center. Lists are specific to both geographic area and organ type: heart, lung, kidney, liver, pancreas, intestine, heart-lung, kidney-pancreas. Each time a donor organ becomes available, the UNOS computer generates a list of potential recipients based on factors that include genetic similarity, organ size, medical urgency and time on the waiting list. Through this process, a "new" list is generated each time an organ becomes available.

White Blood Cells
Cells in the blood that fight infection; part of the immune system.