*Click a section below to start learning about the numerous terms relating to Congenital Heart Defects


An electric current or radio- frequency energy can be used via a catheter to destroy the extra pathways in the heart which cause tachycardia.

Absent Pulmonary Valve Syndrome

The pulmonary valve is not formed properly, there is a hole between the ventricles and the pulmonary arteries are much wider than they should be.


Medicine given to stop pain.


An x-ray of the heart assisted by a liquid introduced through a catheter.

Anomalous Pulmonary Venous Drainage

The pulmonary veins carry red blood from the lungs to the right side of the heart instead of the left side.


A medicine such as Warfarin given to stop blood clots forming.


Main artery which carries blood from the heart to the body.

Aortic Stenosis

A narrowing which restricts red blood from moving from the left ventricle into the aorta.

Aortic Valve

The valve between the left ventricle and the aorta.


Out of rhythm – the heart is beating too fast, too slowly, or irregularly.

Arterial Switch

Reattaching the aorta and the pulmonary artery the right way around when a baby is born with transposition of the great arteries (TGA).


Blocked or missing.


Plural of atrium. Blood is returned from the lungs, to the left atrium, from where it is pumped into the left ventricle and then round the body, or from the body, to the left atrium be pumped into the right ventricle and then to the lungs.

Atrial Septal Defect (ASD)

A hole in the wall between the atria.

Atrial Septostomy

Making a hole between the two atrial chambers.

Atrioventricular Septal Defect (AVSD)

A hole between the atria (atrial septal defect, or ASD), a hole between the ventricles (ventricular septal defect or VSD) and a single valve instead of a tricuspid valve and a mitral valve.


An upper chamber of the heart where blood collects before passing to the ventricle.

Balloon Dilation

Using a tube (catheter) to reach the narrow part of the heart and making it bigger by inflating a balloon on the end of the catheter.

Balloon Septostomy

A tube (catheter) is put into the heart and a balloon inflated on the end of it to make a hole, or increase the size of a hole, in the wall (septum) of the heart.


Making the pulmonary artery narrower with a band to reduce blood flow to the lungs.


(of a valve) Having 2 cusps or leaflets.


Removal of a small piece of tissue for examination.

Blue Blood

Blood which is returning from the body to the heart and so pumped to the lungs, where it will pick up oxygen and become red blood.


Slow heart beat.

BT shunt

Taking blood from an arm artery to the lungs.


Using a machine to bypass the heart and lungs during surgery.


A fungal infection.


Relating to the heart.

Cardiac catheter

A tube which is put into the heart via a vein. It is used to help diagnosis, by measuring pressures, or can treat a problem such as widening an artery, or closing a hole.


Doctor specializing in the heart.


Weakness of the heart muscle.

Cardiopulmonary bypass

Bypass of the heart and lungs as, for example, in open heart surgery. Blood returning to the heart is diverted through a heart-lung machine (a pump-oxygenator) before returning it to the arterial circulation. The machine does the work both of the heart (pump blood) and the lungs (supply oxygen to red blood cells).

Chest splinted open

When there is strong reason to suppose that further surgery is needed, the opening in the chest is not closed.

Chest drains

Tubes often left in after heart surgery to drain away fluid.

CT Scan

Scan of the brain.

Coarctation of the Aorta

Narrowing in the aorta – the artery taking blood from the heart to the body.


Describes a condition which is present at birth.

Constant Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP)

Keeping small airways open, especially before completely off ventilation.


There is not enough oxygen in the blood, causing the skin to look blue in some children.

Dextra Cardia

The heart is on the right, rather than the left side of the chest.


Like dextro cardia but instead of the heart being on the wrong side it is turned sideways not quite making the complete twist to the other side.


A medicine given to increase the strength, or slow down the rate, of the contraction of the heart.

Dilated cardiomyopathy

A condition in which the heart becomes enlarged and weak, sometimes because of a virus.

Diuretic medicines

These medicines help the kidneys pass more water, so reducing excess fluid in the organs, especially the lungs.

Double Inlet Ventricle

In this group of conditions there is a large ventricle into which both atria empty their blood through either one or two valves. There is usually a second smaller ventricle at the side of the main ventricle.


A food supplement to help children gain weight faster.

ECG (Electrocardiogram)

For measuring the electrical activity of the heart.

Echo (Echocardiogram)

An image of the heart created by using high frequency sound waves.

ECMO (Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation)

A by-pass machine which can be used to support the heart so that it can be rested after surgery, or during a viral illness for example.

EEG (Electroencephalography)

A print-out of the electrical activity in the brain.


An infection of the lining of the heart.

Glenn Shunt

The superior vena cava, bringing blood back to the right side of the heart, is connected to the pulmonary artery, so taking blood directly to the lungs, and bypassing the right ventricle.

Heart murmur

A murmur is a sound made by blood moving round the heart: sometimes but not always this could be caused by a heart defect.

Heart-lung machine

A machine that does the work both of the heart (pump blood) and the lungs (oxygenate the blood). Used, for example, in open heart surgery. Blood returning to the heart is diverted through the machine before returning it to the arterial circulation. John H. Gibson invented the heart-lung machine which was first successfully used in open-heart surgery in 1953. Also called a pump-oxygenator.


Drug given directly into a vein which thins the blood when there is a danger of clotting (an anticoagulant).

HDU (High Dependency Unit)

Unit where a child receives a lot of care. Children are sometimes transferred from Intensive Care Units once they are off the ventilator, but they need more care then can be given on the ward.


Putting in human tissue – such as a valve or artery.

Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy

The heart muscle becomes so thick that it can interfere with its proper function Hypoplastic Left Ventricle: the left ventricle has not developed properly so it is small.

Hypoplastic Right Ventricle

The right ventricle has not developed properly so it is small.

INR Test

A blood test to measure how fast the blood clots, used to adjust the amount of anticoagulant prescribed.

IV antibiotics

Antibiotics directly into the blood stream.

IV drugs

Drugs given directly into the blood stream.

Kidney dialysis

Used to take impurities from the blood when the kidneys are not working properly.


A food supplement to help a baby gain weight faster.


An infection of the lining of the brain.

Mitral Valve Stenosis

The Mitral Valve in the heart opens to let oxygenated blood to pass into the left ventricle, and then closes as it is pumped into the aorta and so around the body. Stenosis means that it is narrow, and therefore not allowing enough blood through and causing a backflow to the lungs.

Mustard Procedure

(not commonly used these days) This redirects the flow of blood to the atria and leaves the left ventricle pumping to the lungs, and the right to the body, for children who have transposition of the great arteries (TGA).

N Cap

A cap with attached nasal prongs to deliver oxygen.

NG tube

A naso-gastric tube – for feeding the child through the nose directly into the stomach.


A small battery placed under the skin and joined to the heart by pacing wires, which measure the pulse and corrects too fast or too slow rhythms.

Pacing box

When the pulse rate is very irregular or slow an external pacemaker can be used to regulate the heart by attaching it to temporary pacing wires often put in place after heart surgery in case they should be needed.

Pacing wire

There is often a problem with heart rhythm after heart surgery, so a pacing wire is left in place just in case it is needed.

PDA (Patent or Persistent Ductus Arteriosu)

A passage used for circulation before the baby is born remains open, instead of closing shortly after birth. This causes red blood to return from the aorta back to the lungs.


Paediatric Intensive Care Unit.

Pericardial effusion

Fluid collects in the pericardial sac – the outer covering of the heart – which can be drawn off using a needle, or drained using diuretics.


A service operated by some local authorities whereby advice and support is given to mothers to improve the progress of children with disabilities.


Describes a medicine or procedure intended to prevent illness.


Used to open up the arterial ductus that closes after birth.


To do with the lungs.

Pulmonary artery

The blood vessel which takes blood from the heart to the lungs.

Pulmonary atresia

Blood cannot be pumped to the lungs from the right ventricle through the pulmonary artery, which is blocked or missing.

Pulmonary hypertension

High pressure of blood moving into the lungs.

Pulmonary stenosis

A narrowing between the right ventricle and the lung artery.


A machine that does the work both of the heart (pump blood) and the lungs (oxygenate the blood). Used, for example, in open heart surgery. Blood returning to the heart is diverted through the machine before returning it to the arterial circulation. John H. Gibson invented the heart-lung machine which was first successfully used in open-heart surgery in 1953. Also called a Heart-Lung Machine.

Ross procedure

Replacing the child’s aortic valve with his or her own pulmonary valve.


A virus which causes bronchialitis.

Red blood

Blood which has picked up oxygen from the lungs and travel through the left side of the heart to be pumped around the body.


Short for saturation levels (of oxygen in the blood).


Making a hole in the septum, the wall, between the left and right chambers of the heart.


A natural or artificially created passageway between two parts of the heart.

Single Ventricle Defect

Complex heart defects that result in one of the heart’s pumping chambers (ventricles) being underdeveloped.

Situs inversus

A mirror image arrangement of the organs, so that the heart and stomach are on the right and the liver and spleen on the left.


(Particularly with Tetralogy of Fallot) The child becomes bluer, breathless and limp for a period of time.

Stenosis: narrowing Stent

A short, metal mesh tube. Using balloon dilation this is expanded into a narrow artery to hold it open.


The breastbone.


Fast heart beat.

Tetralogy of Fallot

A Ventricular Septal Defect (hole between the two ventricles) and Pulmonary Stenosis – a narrowing between the right ventricle and the artery carrying blood to the lungs.

TCPC (Total Cavo Pulmonary Connection)

A surgical procedure which bypasses the right atrium and pulmonary valve.




A hole cut into the windpipe to help breathing.

Transposition of the great Arteries

The big arteries, which should be taking blue blood from the lungs, and the red blood from the heart to the body, are round the wrong way. This means that deoxygenated blood goes back to the body, and oxygenated blood from the lungs is directed back into the lungs.

Tricuspid atresia

The tricuspid valve is absent.

Tricuspid valve

The valve between the right atrium and right ventricle which has three cusps.

Truncus Arteriosis

There is one single artery arising from the heart which then divides into the lung artery and the body. There is in addition, a large hole between the two pumping chambers.

Tube feed

The baby’s feed is given through a tube in the nose directly into the stomach – this is so that breathless babies can get enough food.


Pumping chambers of the heart – left ventricle pumps blood round the body and the right ventricle pumps blood to the lungs.

Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD)

A hole between the two ventricle – the pumping chambers of the heart.

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