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Explanation of medical words and terms


A group of 'blood-thinning' drugs that make your blood less sticky and less likely to form blood clots.

Aspirin, clopidogrel and the glycoprotein IIb/IIIa inhibitors eptifibatide, tirofiban and abciximab

Types of antiplatelet drugs. Aspirin and clopidogrel are tablets. The glycoprotein IIb/IIIa inhibitors are given by drip.


Another group of 'blood-thinning' drugs that make your blood less likely to form blood clots.

Cardiac rehabilitation

A programme of education and activity (including psychological support) to help you recover.

Coronary angiography

Also known as cardiac catheterisation, it allows the cardiac team to look inside your coronary arteries for narrowing or blockage. Special dye is passed into the coronary arteries through a thin flexible tube (catheter) and shows up narrowed areas on an X-ray.

Coronary artery bypass grafting

A type of heart surgery that helps to improve the blood supply to the heart. The surgeon bypasses the narrow part of the coronary artery using a blood vessel from the chest, legs or arms.

Coronary heart disease

Is caused by a build up of fatty materials in the walls of the coronary arteries. This causes the coronary arteries to narrow and makes it harder for them to supply enough blood and oxygen to the heart.

Electrocardiogram (ECG)

A quick, painless test that measures the rhythm and electrical activity of the heart. Small patches called electrodes are attached to your arms, legs and chest. These pick up electrical signals from the heart and can show whether you have a complete or partial blockage of a coronary artery.

Fondaparinux, heparin and bivalirudin

Types of antithrombin drugs that are given by injection.

Ischaemia testing

Ischaemia testing, for example exercise ECG, allows the cardiac team to look at how well your heart is coping when you are active (exercising on a treadmill or exercise bike).

NSTEMI (non-ST-segment-elevation myocardial infarction)

A type of heart attack caused by a blood clot partly blocking one of the coronary arteries. The name comes from the pattern seen on an electrocardiogram.

Percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI or angioplasty)

A procedure to stretch and hold open the narrowed part of the coronary artery. It's usual to have coronary angiography first but sometimes PCI is done at the same time. A balloon attached to a thin flexible tube (catheter) is inflated to squeeze open the narrowed artery. The catheter contains a small tube (called a stent) which holds the artery open and allows the blood to flow more easily.

Unstable angina

A pain or a feeling of tightness in the chest that occurs even if the person is resting or is doing something that doesn't take much effort. The angina may have been stable before, but has recently worsened or changed.

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