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Glossary of Terms

Aorta: The main artery in the body from which all of the other arteries arise. It begins at the heart and extends down through the chest and abdomen and finally branches in the lower abdomen into the arteries that go to the legs.

Aneurysm: A balloon-like dilation of a portion of an artery that is a weak point along the course of the vessel, which may lead to rupture or clotting.

Arteriogram (angiogram): A diagnostic test requiring the insertion of a catheter into an artery through, which dye is injected and x-rays are taken to view the arterial circulation.

Anticoagulation: Any substance that prevents or slows the clotting of blood.  Also known as “blood thinner.”

Artery: A blood vessel that carry oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the rest of the body.

Atherosclerosis (Artheriosclerosis): The thickening and hardening of the arterial wall caused by the build up of cholesterol and fatty deposits inside the artery.

Atherectomy: A procedure used to remove plaque usually from an artery using a catheter and a rotating blade that destroys the plaque and removes the debris from the vessel.

Balloon angioplasty: Enlarging a narrowed artery by inflating a balloon inside the narrowed vessel thereby increasing blood flow through the vessel.

Bypass: An operation in which blood is re-routed around a blocked portion of an artery using a graft.

Carotid artery: An artery in the neck that carries blood to the brain.

Cholesterol: A fatty substance found in animal tissue.  If a diet is high in cholesterol, it may contribute to the development of atherosclerosis.

Circulation: The movement of blood through the body.

Claudication: Leg pain that is caused by inadequate blood flow to the exercising leg muscles.

Collateral: The enlargement of a branch vessel that maintains blood flow beyond a blocked artery or vein.

Compression stockings: Stockings worn to decrease leg swelling and relieve pain associated with conditions such as chronic venous insufficiency and varicose veins.

CT scan: An x-ray technique allowing visualization of the internal organs.

C.V.A.: Cerebral Vascular Accident.  This is also known as a stroke.

Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT): A blood clot, which forms in a major vein producing extremity swelling and pain.

Diabetes Mellitus: A condition associated with abnormal glucose metabolism and complications such as arterial insufficiency, kidney failure and visual loss.

Doppler: An ultrasound device used to detect blood flow in an artery or vein.

Duplex Scan: A scan using ultrasound waves that allow visualization of blood vessels and organs.

Embolectomy/Thrombectomy: The removal of a blood clot from a blood vessel.

Embolus: A piece of a blood clot or plaque that breaks off and travels to a smaller vessel where it lodges and causes a blockage of blood flow.

Endarterectomy: The surgical removal of an atherosclerotic build-up from the inner wall of an artery.

Endovascular surgery: Correction of conditions affecting arteries and veins by approaching the lesion from within the blood vessel using catheters, balloons and stents rather than by making an incision into the blood vessel. A less invasive form of surgery.

Endograft: A fabric covered metallic stent that is placed inside an aneurysm to prevent rupture. It is not sutured into the artery but rather relies on the metallic stent to keep the prosthetic artery in place within the aneurysm.

Endoleak: Leakage of blood into an aortic aneurysm that has been treated with an aortic stent graft.

Femoral artery: The main artery that supplies blood to the lower extremity.

Femoral vein: The blood vessel that carries blood out of the leg and back to the heart and lungs.

Femoropopliteal or tibial bypass: A surgical bypass created in the leg to carry blood around a blockage in the leg arteries.

Gangrene: Tissue death caused by inadequate blood flow.

Heparin: An injectable form of anticoagulant (blood thinner).

Hypertension: High blood pressure.

Illiac arteries: The two arteries that branch off from the end of the aorta, providing the legs with their arterial blood supply.

Intestinal angina: Pain in the abdomen that occurs after eating. It is caused by inadequate circulation to the small intestine.

Invasive: Diagnostic tests or procedures involving the insertion of instruments through the skin; as in surgery or the insertion of catheters for the injection of dye, or placement of balloons or other therapeutic devices.

Ischemia: Inadequate arterial blood flow to a portion of the body. For example: leg ischemia, brain ischemia, and cardiac ischemia.

Laser Therapy: Use of an intense beam of light to open or close a blood vessel.

Lower extremity arterial disease: The term for disease of the arteries in the legs.

Lumen: The hollow inside of a blood vessel.

Lymphedema: Swelling of an extremity (arm or leg) due to blockage of the normal flow of lymph from an extremity.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): a diagnostic test that uses radio waves and a strong magnet to image soft tissues in the body.  MRA images the arteries. MRV images the veins.

MRA: Magnetic Resonance Angiography is a technique used to visualize blood vessels in a non-invasive manner.

MRI: Magnetic Resonance Imaging is an imaging technique using magnetic technology to visualize internal organs.

Non-invasive: A term used to describe diagnostic tests that do not require needles, dyes or the breakage of skin.

Occlusion: A term used to describe a complete blockage of a vessel.

Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD): Atherosclerotic disease of the arteries (also known as hardening of the arteries) which supply blood to the extremities.

Plaque: Cholesterol or fatty material that collects and builds up on the inside lining of an artery.

Platelets: Specialized oval shaped discs that play an important role in the ability of the body to clot especially at the site of an injury either internal or external.

Polyunsaturated fat: A dietary fat that can help reduce blood cholesterol levels.  Polyunsaturated fat is found in canola, sunflower, corn, olive and soybean oils.

Prosthetic Graft: An artificial artery that can be manufactured using synthetic fabric-like material.

Pseudoaneurysm: An opening in an artery, which may lead to rupture. It is caused by an injury to the blood vessel.

Pulmonary Embolus: A blood clot in the artery to the lung. The clot frequently develops in the lower extremity and moves (“embolizes”) to the lung.

Renal arteries: Blood vessels that provide oxygenated blood to the kidneys.

Rest pain: Pain located in the foot near the toes. It is a symptom of poor arterial blood flow.  The pain is usually worse at night and oftentimes is relieved by walking or lowering the leg off the side of the bed.  Rest pain is a precursor to gangrene.

Retroperitoneal: The anatomic space between the peritoneum and back muscles.  The aorta and kidneys are located there.

RVT – Registered Vascular Technologist: A vascular technologist who has successfully completed a rigorous examination in the specialty of vascular diagnostic testing.

Saturated fat: A dietary fat that raises blood cholesterol levels.  It is found in meat, cheese, butter, coconut oil and palm oil.

Sclerotherapy: A technique of injecting a solution into varicose veins or spider veins, which causes the vein to close and shrink.

Stenosis: A narrowing of a blood vessel.

Stent: A cylindrical metallic device that is placed into an artery after plaque has been opened using a balloon angioplasty catheter. The stent is designed to prevent the plaque from recoiling and blocking the artery again.

Stroke: Death of a portion of brain tissue due to inadequate blood flow.

Thrombolytic therapy: The use of medication that has the ability to dissolve blood clots in a vein or artery.

Thrombophlebitis: A condition in which a blood clot forms in the vein.

Thrombus (Embolus): A blood clot that can occur in either a vein or an artery.

Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA): A decrease of blood flow to part of the brain, resulting in signs and symptoms of a stroke that last less than 24 hours.  TIA’s should not be ignored, they are often considered to be the first warning sign of a stroke.

Ulcer: A sore of breakdown of the skin surface, which may be due to poor blood supply.

Ultrasound: A painless, diagnostic test that uses sound waves to image tissues and organs.

Varicose veins: Dilated, tortuous veins of the lower extremities that are caused by incompetence of the valves within the vein.

Veins: A vein is a blood vessel that carries blood back to the heart to be re-supplied with oxygen.

Vena Caval Filter: A cone-shaped metallic device that is placed within the inferior vena cava (in the abdominal cavity). It is designed to prevent any blood clots in the leg veins from traveling to the heart and lungs.