We understand that entering the hospital system can be overwhelming, confusing, and frightening. We have defined key terms that your care team may use to describe your loved one’s condition and medical care.
Acute Stress Disorder (ASD): when someone is experiencing posttraumatic stress symptoms within a month of experiencing a traumatic event.
Advanced Directive: written instructions about what you want to happen during life-threatening situations where you are unable to make decisions for yourself.
Agonal Breathing: gasping for air that can occur during a cardiac arrest due to the brain not getting enough oxygen.
Anoxia: a complete loss of oxygen to the brain.
Arrhythmia: an abnormal heart rhythm from any part of the heart (atria, ventricles).
Atherosclerosis: a common condition in which a sticky substance called plaque builds up in the blood vessels, preventing blood from carrying oxygen to your body.
Automated External Defibrillator (AED): an easy-to-use device available in the community that can read heart rhythm and, only if appropriate, deliver a shock to restore normal heart rhythm.
Bradycardia: a heart rate that is slower than 60 beats per minute.
Brain Death: when a person on an artificial life support machine no longer has any brain functions. A person who is brain dead is legally confirmed as dead in most US states.
Brain Injury: an injury to the brain that may heal or may be permanent.
Bystander: a person who is present and witnesses a cardiac arrest event but may not be taking part.
Cardiac Arrest (CA): a life-threatening condition where the heart, a natural pump, suddenly stops beating and sending blood to vital organs due to an electrical malfunction.
Cardiac Catherization: a procedure where a tiny, flexible tube (catheter) is pushed into a large blood vessel leading to the heart to diagnose and treat blocked arteries.
Cardiac Rehabilitation: a medically supervised program at a facility or home to improve heart health through exercising, heart-healthy foods, and stress reduction.
Cardiac Resynchronization Therapy (CRT): a procedure where a device is implanted in the chest to help the lower chambers of the heart beat together.
Cardiologist: a type of doctor specialized in caring for the heart.
Cardiomyopathy: a disease of the heart muscle, sometimes inherited, that stops it from pumping properly.
Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR): an emergency lifesaving procedure performed by anyone who happens to see somebody suddenly collapse and stop breathing due to the heart not beating.
Child Life Specialist: a healthcare professional who is trained to help children cope with their fear and anxiety about being hospitalized.
Co-Survivor: a close family member whose loved one experienced a cardiac arrest and survived to hospital discharge.
Code: a term used by first responders and the medical team to describe a situation when someone is experiencing cardiac arrest.
Coma: a deep state of unconsciousness where the person cannot wake up or respond to things around them.
Commotio Cordis: a rare cause of cardiac arrest when blunt trauma to the chest, such as a baseball or football hitting the chest, causes the heart to suddenly stop.
Coronary Artery Bypass Graft (CABG): a surgery to remove the blockage in the arteries that feed blood to the heart.
Coronary Artery Disease (CAD): a common cause of heart disease when the arteries that feed blood to the heart narrow or become entirely blocked off.
Costochondritis: chest pain from inflammation of the cartilage (flexible tissue) that holds your ribs to your breastbone typically caused by injuries, such as CPR.
Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT): a blood clot that forms in a deep vein, often in the leg, and can be dangerous if it breaks and moves to the lungs.
Defibrillator: a device that sends electrical shocks to the heart to fix abnormal heart rhythms that can cause heart to completely stop beating.
Dialysis: a treatment that uses a machine to clean extra fluid and harmful waste from the blood when the kidneys are not working well enough.
Delirium: a temporary and fluctuating mental state of confusion and difficulty focusing with emotional outbursts, common among hospitalized patients.
Discharge Planning: the process the medical team follows to figure out what resources the patient needs to safely leave the hospital.
Echocardiogram: an ultrasound of the heart.
Ejection Fraction (EF): the amount of blood the heart pumps with each heartbeat.
Electrocardiogram (ECG/EKG): a test that records the heart’s rate and rhythm using plastic stickers placed on the chest.
Electroencephalogram (EEG): a test that records the brain’s electrical activity including seizures using metal stickers placed on the scalp.
Electrophysiologist (EP): a type of heart doctor who focuses on the electrical system of the heart.
Emergency Medical Services (EMS): a system consisting of paramedics that responds to emergencies by providing initial care and transport to the hospital.
End-of-Life Care: specialized supportive services to make end-of-life care dignified for people who are in the last months of their life.
Endotracheal Tube: a tube inserted through the mouth or occasionally through the nose into the airway to help with the breathing.
Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO): a type of life support when the heart and lungs are not working well enough to provide oxygen for the body on their own.
First Responder: a person trained to respond to an emergency. It includes paramedics, emergency medical technicians, firefighters, and law enforcement officers.
Grief: the emotions felt from a loss, such as the death of a loved one.
Heart Attack: a heart condition where due to plaque buildup, blood cannot flow to the heart, causing parts of the heart muscle to die.
Heart Failure: a long-term condition in which the heart is not able to pump blood well.
Hypoxia: low levels of oxygen in body tissues such as the brain.
Idiopathic: when the cause of a disease or condition is unknown.
Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD): a battery-powered device placed under the skin of the chest to track certain life-threatening heart rhythms and send an electrical shock to restore a normal heartbeat.
In Hospital Cardiac Arrest (IHCA): when the heart suddenly stops beating while the person is admitted in the hospital for a different reason.
Intensive Care Unit (ICU): a special hospital unit that provides close monitoring and treats critically ill patients.
Lay Rescuer: a person without any professional medical training who helps a person in cardiac arrest (for example, calling 911, giving CPR, or using an AED).
Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD): a surgically implanted pump placed inside the heart while the battery and control system are outside the body (usually worn on a strap or belt).
LUCAS: an automated CPR device that provides continuous compressions to a cardiac arrest patient.
Life Support: treatments and procedures that help keep a person alive after one or more vital organs stop working.
Long Term Acute Care (LTAC): this facility gives specialized care when someone is too sick to go to a skilled nursing or rehab facility.
Myocardial Infarction (MI): a medical emergency where part of the heart starts to die because it isn’t receiving enough blood flow.
Neurological Prognostication: the medical team’s prediction of how well the brain will recover in comatose cardiac arrest patients based on recommended tests and bedside neurological examinations.
Neurologist: a type of doctor specialized in caring for the brain.
Occupational Therapy (OT): the use of everyday life activities to to help people recover or develop their ability to live independently with the best quality of life possible.
Out of Hospital Cardiac Arrest (OHCA): when the heart suddenly stops beating while the person is in the not in the hospital.
Pacemaker: an implanted device that treats slow heart rates.
Palliative Care: specialized care and support for people with serious illnesses at any stage of their condition, and not just the last months of their lives.
Percutaneous Coronary Intervention (PCI): a procedure that unclogs blocked arteries feeding the heart using a thin, flexible tube (catheter) inserted through a cut in the wrist or leg.
Percutaneous Endoscopic Gastrostomy (PEG): a procedure in which a flexible feeding tube is placed through abdominal wall and into the stomach for nutrition, fluids and/or medications.
Persistent Vegetative State (PVS): when a person comes out of a coma with their eyes open occasionally but still cannot respond, react, or be aware of what is happening around them.
Physical Therapy (PT): a type of therapy to improve a patient’s motions of their arms and legs.
Post-Intensive Care Syndrome (PICS): physical, cognitive, and emotional symptoms that remain after discharge from the hospital in critically ill patients.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): a mental health problem diagnosed after one month of symptoms of nightmares, flashbacks, and avoidance of the reminders after experiencing a traumatic event.
Pulmonary Embolism (PE): a dangerous condition in which a clot blocks the blood vessels feeding the lungs, causing breathing troubles, chest pain, and cardiac arrest in severe cases.
Rehabilitation: can be categorized as cardiac or neuro, a process either at a specialized facility or home to improve physical and mental abilities and overcome dependency for activities of daily living.
Sedation: when the medical care team gives medications to make the patient feel comfortable during procedures, adjust to the breathing machine, and/or fall asleep.
Seizure: uncontrolled body movements and/or unusual behavior caused by abnormal electrical activity in the brain.
Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF): a rehabilitation center where patients go to continue recovering in a medical setting after leaving the hospital.
Speech and Language Therapy: a type of evaluation and therapy to help patients with talking, eating, and swallowing.
Stroke: a condition in which parts of the brain don’t get enough blood due to blockage in the arteries supplying the brain and get injured.
Subcutaneous Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (S-ICD): an implanted device that is under the skin and does not touch the heart that can deliver a shock to restore heart rhythm.
Sudden Cardiac Death (SCD): when the heart suddenly stops beating and death occurs.
Survivorship: the lived experiences of people who survive a life-threatening condition.
Targeted Temperature Management (TTM): as part of a treatment to prevent additional brain injury after cardiac arrest, the body temperature is maintained lower than normal.
Tracheostomy: an opening in the neck where a tube is placed to help with breathing when needed for longer periods.
Ventilator: a machine that helps with breathing by pushing air in and out of the lungs.
Ventricular Fibrillation (VF): a dangerous arrhythmia where the lower chambers of the heart (ventricles) twitch so fast that they cannot pump blood.
Ventricular Tachycardia (VT): a dangerous arrhythmia where the lower chambers of the heart (ventricles) beat so fast that the heart cannot refill with blood properly, depriving other organs.
Wearable Cardioverter Defibrillator (WCD): a wearable, removable cardioverter defibrillator worn on the body and not implanted in the chest.