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Definitions of Common Medical Terms

Aneurysm: An aneurysm of a blood vessel in the brain, usually due to a defect in the vessel at birth but tends to develop overtime. Rupture of the aneurysm causes a sudden severe headache, often with nausea, vomiting, decreased consciousness, and can be life threatening.

Angiogram or Digital Subtraction Angiography (DSA): X-ray pictures of blood vessels taken with a special material called contrast dye. Angiograms are used to see narrowing, blockage or abnormalities of arteries and veins.

Angiographic suite: A combination x-ray and operating room where endovascular procedures are performed.

Angioplasty: A procedure in which a balloon is passed through the blocked area of an artery and inflated to push the plaque against the vessel wall and reopen the vessel for blood flow.

Anticoagulant: Medications (i.e. Warfarin/Coumadin) that slow down the clotting of blood. It makes the blood “thinner.”

Antiplatelet: Medications (i.e. Clopidogrel/Plavix and aspirin) that also slow down the clotting of blood. It makes the blood “more slippery.” These drugs make platelets non-functioning.

Arteriovenous Malformation (AVM): An AVM is a congenital disorder (one present at birth) of blood vessels in the brain or spinal cord that is characterized by a complex, tangled web of abnormal arteries and veins connected by one or more fistulas (abnormal communications).

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

Atherosclerosis: Build up of fatty material (i.e. cholesterol) that causes narrowing and hardening of the blood vessels.

Balloon catheter: A thin tube with a balloon attached to the tip that can be inflated to open blocked arteries.

Blood vessel: Any of the veins and arteries that carry blood to and from the heart.

Catheterization Lab (Cath Lab): An x-ray room in which endovascular procedures are performed.

Carotid arteries: Arteries in your neck that supply blood to your brain.

Carotid artery disease: A condition that reduces the blood flow through the carotid arteries to the brain.

Carotid Endarterectomy (CEA): A surgical procedure in which the fatty plaque causing the blockage of the carotid artery is removed.

Catheter: A tube through which fluids or devices can be introduced or removed from the body.

Cerebrovascular: Relating to blood vessels of the brain.

Coils/Coiling procedure: Coils are tiny metal slinky-like devices (often made of platinum) that are inserted to embolize an aneurysm, fistula or AVM. The goal of coiling is to isolate an abnormal section of a blood vessel from the normal circulation without blocking off any small arteries nearby or narrowing the main vessel.

Computerized Axial Tomography Scan (CT or CAT scan): A diagnostic test that uses x-rays to make three-dimensional images.

Contrast: X-ray dye used in diagnostic tests.

Doppler ultrasound: A non-invasive test that uses sound waves to produce images, such as images of a narrowed blood vessel or a blood clot.

Embolus: A piece of blood clot, air bubble or fatty plaque that breaks away within the vessel and travels to another part of the body. The embolus may be trapped in a blood vessel and cause blockage of the vessel.

Embolization: A treatment that clogs small blood vessels and blocks the flow of blood.

Endovascular treatment (procedure): A procedure that is done from inside the blood vessels.

Femoral artery: The femoral arteries (in the upper groin region of the leg) supply oxygenated blood from the heart to the lower extremities. This is typically the artery that the endovascular surgeon will access (placement of the catheter) to perform a procedure.

Fistula: An abnormal connection between an artery and vein.

General anesthesia: Medication given to put a patient into a deep sleep during an endovascular or surgical procedure.

Hemorrhage: Bleeding.

Hypertension: High blood pressure.

Ischemic: Lack of blood flow.

Local anesthesia: A medication used to numb the area to which it is applied or injected.

Magnetic Resonance Angiogram (MRA): An MRI that is done with contrast dye (different dye than a CT scan) to see blood vessels more clearly.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): A non-invasive test that uses a very strong magnet to make three-dimensional images.

Non-invasive procedure: A procedure that is done without putting anything inside the body.

Onyx: A type of liquid embolic used to embolize an AVM.

Plaque: An accumulation or build up of fatty deposits, calcium and/or cell debris in an artery that leads to narrowing of the artery.

Restenosis: Re-narrowing of the artery after treatment.

Stenosis: Narrowing in your artery.

Stent: A small-latticed metal tube that is permanently placed inside a blood vessel. A stent may be used for the treatment of stenosis to provide structural support and to keep the vessel open. A stent may also be used to treat an aneurysm to re-construct the parent vessel wall in which an aneurysm has formed.  Stenting refers to the placement of a stent.

Stroke: Tissue damage in the brain caused by lack of oxygen. Damage depends on the location and extent of brain tissue affected. Strokes can be caused by an ischemic or hemorrhagic event.

Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA): Temporary symptoms of a stroke. A patient who has a TIA may be at higher risk of a stroke.

Vascular closure device: A small device that is used to close a small hole in a blood vessel, using a small plug.