Video: Anatomical terminology for healthcare professionals | Episode 5 | Cardiovascular system
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Like the sands in the hourglass so are the terms of our lives… "What do you mean? We're finished. It's over! It's all this complicated terminology you keep using. Your words make no sense to me.... Read more
Like the sands in the hourglass so are the terms of our lives…
"What do you mean? We're finished. It's over! It's all this complicated terminology you keep using. Your words make no sense to me. Jenny…please! No, no…it's for the better. Take it! My heart can't take this anymore! I'm sorry. We're terminologically incompatible."
In anatomy, there are many terms used to describe the condition of the heart. Broken, however, is not one of them. Fortunately, for you, learning about the terminology of our heart and blood vessels need not to be as painful as breaking up with the love of your life.
Welcome to episode five of the Kenhub series, Anatomical Terminology for Healthcare Professionals – avoiding heartache with cardiovascular terminology.
If you've watched the previous episodes in this series, you'll know by now our philosophy to learning anatomical terminology. It's all about breaking down long-winded, complicated terms into small, easy-to-understand word parts. These, of course, are roots, suffixes, and prefixes of anatomical terminology. And once you've mastered these, your heart will be fluttering with love rather than flatlining when trying to tackle with new terms in the clinic.
So, let's first address the elephant in the room. Where did the term cardiovascular come from? Well, 'cardio-' originates from the Greek 'kardion' which, of course, means heart, and although the heart pumps blood around our whole body, it couldn't do its job without the vascular part, right? This comes from the Latin term 'vasculum' meaning small vessel.
Now, we're ready to delve deeper into our study today focusing first on the terminology of the heart.
So we know that the heart is a complex and fascinating organ. I mean, it has its own nervous system and pacemaker, for goodness' sake, so it should be as no surprise that there are many, many, many terms containing the root word 'cardi-' or 'cardio-'. For example, let's look at the layers in and around the heart wall which all contained 'cardi-' or 'cardio-' in the name.
The endocardium is the innermost lining of the heart wall, the myocardium is the muscle of the heart wall, the epicardium is the lining which lies directly upon the outer surface of the heart, and we have the pericardium which is the envelope of fibrous tissue which surrounds and encloses the heart.
So we know that the heart is divided into four chambers – two atria and two ventricles. The term 'atrium' comes from the Latin word from hall or entrance which makes sense as this is where blood is received or enters your heart. The root form of atrium in clinical terms is, of course, 'atrio-' as in atriomegaly, an abnormal enlargement of the atrium. The term ventricle, on the other hand, comes from the Latin 'ventriculus' which means a small belly or chamber. Ventricular dysrhythmia is a disturbance of normal heart rhythm arising in the ventricles. It can also be known as arrhythmia.
Within the heart, there are four openings or orifices which are flanked by sets of valves of the same name. Between the atria and ventricles, we have the right and left atrioventricular valves, also known as the tricuspid and mitral valves, respectively. And as blood leaves the heart, it passes either via the pulmonary or aortic valves. In terms of valve terminology, we only really have the roots 'valv-' or 'valvul/o-' with the O at the end, which are relevant to this section that can be found in terms like valvuloplasty which is a surgical repair of a valve, or valvulitis, the inflammation of a valve.
But there are several clinical terms which are often tagged onto the names of the cardiac valves and orifices to describe conditions affecting them. For example, mitral atresia which refers to a condition which describes the congenital absence, narrowing, or closure of the mitral orifice. A tricuspid murmur is a low noise caused by damage of the tricuspid valve. Pulmonary stenosis is a narrowing of the pulmonary orifice. Or you also have aortic insufficiency which is an incomplete closure of the aortic valve permitting regurgitation or backflow of blood. There are lots of other valve-related conditions, but we've made a start with some of the most common.
The next term which I would like to introduce you to is coronary which is used with a long list of conditions and disorders pertaining to blood vessels supplying the heart itself. It comes from the Latin 'corona' which refers to a crown or garland which you could say describe the arrangement of the major coronary vessels around the heart. For example, coronary artery disease or CAD is a condition where there is reduced blood flow to heart muscle due to narrowing of the coronary arteries. And, finally, let's speak for a moment about your blood pressure where there are two essential terms which are definitely worth knowing.
The filling and pumping of blood happens in a rhythmic manner. The resting period when the heart chambers relax and fill with blood is called diastole whereas the contraction period is called systole. You might see some strange terms coupled with diastole and systole in clinical practice such as a diastolic thrill, a vibration felt over the heart during diastole; or a systolic honk which is a music-like murmur heard during systole, not unlike that made by a goose. Both of these conditions often indicate some kind of valve insufficiency.
Let's move on from the heart now to look at the other star of the cardiovascular system which are, of course, our blood vessels.
So many general terms related to the vascular system often unsurprisingly begin with the root 'vasculo-'. For example, vasculogenesis, which is a process for the development of blood vessels. We also use the roots 'vas-' or 'vas/o-' with the O at the end and 'angi-' or 'angi/o-' when talking about blood vessels such as vasodilation or angiitis. 'Arteri-' or 'arteri/o-' unsurprisingly is the root associated with arteries such as arteriorrhexis which is the rupture of an artery, and the same idea applies to veins where we use the root 'veno-'; for instance, venoconstriction.
Something not as obvious though is the root 'phleb-' or 'phleb/o-', which also refers to veins, like in phlebocarcinoma, which is a malignant growth on the wall of a vein.
Unfortunately, we don't have time today to look at the naming of specific arteries and veins in the body. If you are curious though, you can head over to kenhub.com and check them all out to your heart's content. Get it? Hearts and content – I think you got it. But there you can find a beautiful complete atlas of human anatomy and lots of articles for you to get the information in detail.
Of course, the main function of the cardiovascular system is to move around blood and we know that blood is composed of three main types of blood cells which provide us with three important root words to remember. The first is 'erythro-', which refers to red blood cells or erythrocytes. You’ll see this root used in words like erythrocyturia. The second is 'leuko-', which comes from leukocytes or white blood cells. For example, the term leukemia is an umbrella term for cancers involving malignant proliferation of white blood cells. And, finally, our third term is 'thrombo-', which refers to blood platelets which are responsible for clotting our blood. Platelets are also known as thrombocytes, and an example of this root word in action would be thromboasthenia, which is the condition of poor blood clotting.
Some other useful blood-related roots are 'hem-' or 'hem/o-' or 'haem-' or 'haem/o-' with an A, 'hemat-' or 'hemat/o-' – they all originate from the Greek 'haima' and all mean blood. One of the examples is hemophilia – a genetic, sex-dependent disorder which also affects blood clotting. It literally means to have an affinity for blood or bleeding. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, it was known as the royal disease because Queen Victoria passed it to three generations of her descendants all across Europe. And as we saw with leukemia, the suffix '-emia' refer to a condition of the blood. Another common example is anemia – a reduced number of red blood cells.
Now we all know that, unfortunately, there is a multitude of things that can go wrong with our cardiovascular system, so let's hit the final stretch of our tutorial looking at some of the most important vascular disorders.
Let’s begin with the root 'scler-' or 'scler/o-', which refers to quite a common condition – the loss of elasticity or hardening of a blood vessel wall. For example, arteriosclerosis is the loss of elasticity in arteries. The most common type of it is atherosclerosis which is a buildup of fatty deposits in the inner layer of an artery which can reduce blood flow.
An aneurysm is a dilation or swelling of an artery or heart chamber due to weakening of the walls, often a result of atherosclerosis. An embolus or embolism is a type of clot which has moved from where it was formed and travels within the bloodstream until it causes an obstruction by entering a vessel that is too small for it to pass often in the lungs. Situation in which there is a reduced blood flow to an organ or tissue perhaps caused by a clot is known as ischemia.
Another reason for interrupted blood flow to an organ would be due to hemorrhage, which is a bleed from a ruptured blood vessel. Damage to tissue as a result of reduced blood flow is known as infarction such as myocardial infarction – damage to heart muscle after ischemia. On the topic of myocardial infarction, angina or angina pectoris is a general term which you will often hear in clinical practice. It describes a choking or strange-like pain in the chest resulting from insufficient oxygen supply to the muscle of the heart.
Some of these conditions are diagnosed using tools that are all too easy to get mixed up. We all know all these terms are related to heart because of their common root 'cardio-', but suffixes are the deciding factor here. The ending '-graph' refers to the instrument or machine which records heart activity; '-graphy' is the suffix meaning the process, so cardiography is the process of recording heart activity which results in obtaining a cardiogram with '-gram' referring to the image or result that is produced.
After diagnosing the problem, the next step is, of course, treatment. An angioplasty is a surgical procedure to reopen a narrowed vessel normally due to build-up of plaque. CABG – I know what you're thinking – but this procedure has nothing to do with cabbage. The abbreviation actually stands for coronary artery bypass graft – that means reconnecting the coronary artery to the aorta past the point of blockage using a piece of another vessel. Some other abbreviations that you'll hear in clinical practice are CPR – the famous cardiopulmonary resuscitation. BPM stands for beats per minute – so your heart rate.
Well, I'd say, this is quite enough for one day. I hope your brain – or heart – doesn't hurt too much because we still have a few topics to learn in our video series. On the plus side, we are one step closer to mastering medical and anatomical terminology.
I'll leave you with a little task to challenge yourself. Can you figure out what these terms mean using the information you learned in today's video?