06.04 Cardiac Terminology

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Included In This Lesson



  1. Divisions
  1. Common Cardiovascular Concepts
  2. Heart
  3. Arteries & Vessels

Nursing Points


  1. Common Cardiovascular Concepts
    1. Relate to perfusion or blood transport
      1. blue – cyan/o
      2. oxygen – ox/o
    2. Relate to tools 
      1. pulse – sphygm/o
      2. chest – steth/o
  2. Heart
    1. Anatomy
      1. Chambers
        1. atrium (upper chambers) – atri/o
        2. ventricles (lower chambers) -ventricul/o
      2. Valves
        1. valvul/o
        2. valv/o
      3. Other terms
        1. pericardium – pericardi/o
        2. plaques – ather/o
        3. heart – cardi/o or coron/o
  3. Vessels
    1. artery – arter/o
    2. vein – phleb/o or ven/o or ven/i
    3. vessel – vas/o or vascul/o
    4. cholesterol – cholesterol/o
  4. Other Cardiovascular Terms
    1. vessel (blood) – angi/o
    2. aorta – aort/o
    3. arm – brachi/o
    4. mucus – myx/o
    5. pericardium – pericardi/o
    6. clot – thromb/o
    7. vessel – vas/o or vascul/o
    8. vein – ven/o



To get started we’re going to look at some common concepts of cardiovascular medical terminology.
When we first start looking at the cardiovascular system, we have to pay attention to things like perfusion or transport. This is where words like cyanosis or oxygenation come in. Blue is represented by the word cyano and oxygen is represented by the combining form oxo.
Similarly we also use different tools to check out the cardiovascular system. We use things like a sphygmomanometers, and stethoscopes. Sphygmo literally means pulse so the blood pressure cuff, or sphygmomanometer, is a way for us to check the pressure within the vessels as they pulsate. The stethoscope is a tool used to listen to the chest. We commonly think about the stethoscope as a tool to listen to the heart, but we also use it to listen to the lungs. Typically the word scope means to visually inspect something, but it can also be used as a tool for an examination. So in this example, a stethoscope is a tool used to listen to the heart or lungs. 
When we talk about medical terms that deal with the heart, we really want to focus on the anatomy. The heart is broken up into chambers and it has valves. There’s also a covering on the outside of the heart that we’ll talk about in just a second.
The heart is divided up into four chambers, The upper chambers which are called atria and the lower chambers which are called ventricles. When we use medical terms that talk about the upper chambers, we use the word atrio, and the ventricles are referenced by the word ventriculo.
Sometimes we’ll talk about valves, this isn’t isolated only to the heart. Some of our blood vessels have valves, so you need to know the medical terms that represent valves. This is either represented by the term valvulo or valvo.
Now when we’re talking about the outer covering of the heart it comes to the word pericardium. The pericardium Is a membrane on the outside of the heart. One way to remember this is that peri-  means “around”  and cardium talks about the heart. So this is a membrane that goes around the heart. A couple of other terms that you may see that talk about the heart specifically are plaques,  which is represented by the word athero. These are words like atherosclerosis, which is a hardening of the plaques inside blood vessels commonly associated with the heart. Now the actual medical term related to the word heart is cardio and it can also be the word of corono, so a word like coronary.
There’s some in medical terms that we use to reference blood vessels and these are things like arter/o, phleb/o, ven/o or ven/i.
Arter/o references the arteries, and phlebo, vino or veni reference veins. You’ll probably notice there’s an “i” right here, and that’s probably something you haven’t seen before in any of our lessons. Most of the combining forms have the o, but sometimes there’s an i there. What you need to know is that you’ll need that “i” to add the suffix. So look at the word “venipuncture.” It’s not “venopuncture” – but venipuncture. 
Sometimes when talking about vessels we use the terms of Vaso or vasculo to reference the vessels themselves. And like when we talked about the heart, athero, or plaques, can reference blood vessels. Along  with that, you have to look at the term cholesterol.  When you’re talking about cholesterol, you need to use the medical term cholesterolo.  One example of this would be hypercholesterolemia, which is excessive levels of cholesterol in the blood.
Finally these are other terms that we need to look at when were talking about the cardiovascular system.
Angio actually references a blood vessels, so a procedure called angiography would be a the process of recording blood flow through vessels. It’s a common procedure to detect blockages in the heart. Then there are other terms like aorta and brachial which talk about specific areas or blood vessels in the body.  Another one that you want to pay attention to is thrombo, and that is the medical term for clot. So thrombocytes are small cells that create blood clots. We refer to them as platelets. 
So let’s recap. When we talk about medical terms that reference the cardiovascular system we’re talking about the cardiovascular system specifically. Very few of these terms are referenced in any other context specifically. Medical terms focus on the heart focus on the chambers and the valves, whereas medical terms focus on the vessels focus on the veins and arteries. I know a lot of these are very difficult or sound similar or are really lengthy and complicated, so it’s really important that you practice these really common terms. 
And that’s it for our lesson on cardiac medical terminology. Make sure you check out all the resources attached to this lesson. Now, go out and be your best self today, and is always happy nursing!