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Glossary
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Ablation

A procedure where the cardiac tissue responsible for an irregular rhythm is disabled to try to restore a regular heartbeat. Techniques include radio frequency, freezing and surgery.

Angina

A heart condition that occurs when the blood supply to the muscles of the heart is restricted.

Antiarrhythmics

A group of medications used to suppress the irregular rhythms of the heart.

Anticoagulants

A group of medications used to slow down the speed at which blood clots to prevent blood clots. Anticoagulants are also known as ‘blood thinners’ although their mechanism does not actually thin the blood.

Arrhythmia

An irregularity of the rhythm of the heart, resulting in the heart beating too slowly, too quickly or irregularly.

Arteries

Blood vessels that carry blood away from the heart.

Atria/atrium

Atria is the plural of atrium. The atria are the two upper chambers of the heart that pump blood into the two lower chambers of the heart, the ventricles. The human heart includes a right and left atrium.

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Beta blockers

Medicine used to slow the heart rate that can be prescribed in AF patients.

Blood clot

A thickened mass in the blood formed by tiny substances called platelets.

Blood pressure

The pressure exerted by the blood against the walls of blood vessels.

Borg RPE Scale

See RPE.

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Cardiac Resynchronisation Therapy (CRT)

A pacemaker device implanted under the skin to help improve the function of the heart and symptoms of heart failure. It can also be used as a conventional pacemaker CRT-P, or be have an ICD function CRT-D.

Cardiologist

A doctor who specialises in diagnosis and treatment of heart disorders and diseases.

Cardioversion

Converting an abnormal heart rhythm to normal. Cardioversion may be achieved with medications and by administering an electrical shock to the heart through a defibrillator (D.C. cardioversion).

Catheter ablation

A procedure in which a physician uses catheters – thin, flexible tubes with electrodes – to locate the origin of an arrhythmia and ablate or destroy abnormal tissue in the heart.

Congenital heart disease

Abnormality of the heart present since birth.

CHA2DS2-VASc scoring System

This is a scoring system which your doctor may use to assess your risk of stroke if you have AF.

Circulatory system

A system consisting of the heart, blood vessels, and blood that circulates blood throughout the body, delivers nutrients and other essential materials to cells, and removes waste products. Also called cardiovascular system.

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Defibrillator

An instrument used to deliver a high-voltage electrical current to the heart, to restore a normal rhythm.

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Electrocardiogram (ECG)

A diagnostic test that examines the electrical activity of the heart. Electrical activity is recorded by placing electrodes on the patient’s chest and arms, after which a machine makes a record of the data.

Electrophysiologist

A type of cardiologist who specialises in the diagnosis and treatment of disorders of the electrical system of the heart.

Electrophysiology (EP) study

A study performed by an electrophysiologist that examines the electrical activity of the heart.

Electrical system (heart)

The system of electrical impulses and nodes that work together to cause the heart to beat. The sinus node is part of the electrical system.

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Haemorrhagic stroke

A stroke that happens due to bleeding in the brain.

Heart failure

A term used when the heart does not contract or squeeze as well as it should. This can happen for various reasons.

Heart rhythm

Refers to the regularity with which the heart beats.

Heart rate

Refers to the speed at which the heart beats - see Pulse.

Hypertension

A condition in which blood pressure is consistently above the normal range. Individuals with hypertension have a great risk of developing AF.

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Inplantable Cardioverter Device (ICD)

A small device implanted under the skin which can deliver an electric shock to the heart if a dangerous rhythm is detected.

INR value

The International Normalised Ratio (INR) value shows how fast blood clots compared to what is considered ‘normal’.

Implantable cardioverter defibrillator

A device that monitors heart rhythms, and delivers shocks if dangerous rhythms are detected.

Ischaemic stroke

A stroke that happens due to a blockage in an artery.

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Left atrial appendage (LAA)

A small pocket found inside the left atrium where most blood clots are known to form with AF.

Left atrial appendage occlusion (LAAO)

A term given to the removal or closure of the left atrial appendage. This can be achieved with surgery or an implantable device.

Long standing persistent AF

see permanent AF.

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Maze procedure

An ablation technique similar principle to catheter ablation where scar tissue is created to inhibit erratic electrical activity in the left atrium.

Mitral valve disease

Caused by rheumatic heart disease, valve problems at birth or infection.

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Novel Oral AntiCoagulants (novel OACs)

Also known as non-Vitamin K antagonists to show a distinction from warfarin. Apixaban, dabigatran and rivaroxaban are novel oral anticoagulants that may be used as an alternative.

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Pacemaker

An electronic device surgically implanted in the chest designed to prevent the heart from beating too slowly.

Paroxysmal AF

A type of AF that often comes on suddenly and ends spontaneously. The irregular heart rhythm may last for a few seconds, minutes, hours or longer before the heart returns to a normal rhythm on its own.

Persistent AF

A type of AF that lasts longer than 2 days and does not revert to a normal rhythm spontaneously.

Permanent AF

A type of AF characterised by the inability to restore sinus rhythm. Also called chronic or long standing persistent AF.

Pill in the pocket

A pill that is taken at the time a person gets AF in order to restore the normal rhythm, rather than a therapy that aims to prevent AF.

Pulmonary isolation

A technique of isolating erratic electrical activity to prevent it having an effect on heart rhythm – see Ablation and Maze procedure.

Pulse

The rate at which the heart beats.

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Rate control drugs

Medications designed to regulate the speed at which a heart beats.

Rhythm (heart)

The term for the pattern and frequency of the way the heart beats.

Rhythm control drugs

Medications designed to regulate the rhythm of the heart beat.

RPE (Rating Perceived Exertion)

A technique for guiding safe exercise levels for the most fitness benefit. Also known as the Borg Scale.

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Sinus rhythm

The normal rhythm of the heart.

Stroke

The sudden death of brain cells in a localised area due to inadequate blood flow.

Surgical ablation

see Maze procedure.

Sustained AF

A type of AF that persists until treated – see Permanent AF.

Symptoms

A physical or mental feature caused by AF eg. shortness of breath, fatigue, depression.

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Tachycardia

An arrhythmia that causes the heart to beat too rapidly. Tachycardias can produce palpitations, chest pain, dizziness, lightheadedness, fainting or near fainting. Rapid heartbeats may be either regular or irregular in rhythm to be classified as tachycardia, the heart rate must be at least 100 beats per minute.

Thyroid Disease

A condition in which thyroid hormones are elevated due to an overactive thyroid gland. Thyroid disease can increase the risk of AF.

Transient Ischaemic Attack (TIA)

Sometimes called a mini stroke, is similar to a stroke, but the symptoms are temporary.

Transoesophageal Echocardiogram (TOE)

An ultrasound scan of the heart achieved by swallowing a probe while under sedation.

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Ventricles

The two lower chambers of the heart responsible for pumping blood. The ventricles consist of the right and left ventricle; the left ventricle pumps blood to the body and the right ventricle pumps blood to the lungs.

Ventricular fibrillation

Very rapid, uncoordinated, ineffective series of contractions throughout the lower chambers of the heart.

Ventricular tachycardia

Rapid heartbeat that originates in one of the lower chambers of the heart.

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Warfarin

An anticoagulant which slows down the speed at which blood clots.