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Commonly Used Cardiac Terms - A Glossary

The following is a glossary of terms a user is likely to run across in articles in the Cardiac Awareness Center:


Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS): The treatment provided by paramedics to patients in cardiopulmonary arrest, including providing basic life support, patient monitoring, arrhythmia interpretation, defibrillation, intubation, and administration of intravenous drugs. ACLS is the fourth link in the Cardiac Chain of Survival.

Arrhythmia:Abnormal electrical activity of the heart. Ventricular Fibrillation (VF) is a type of arrhythmia most commonly associated with the onset of Sudden Cardiac Arrest.

Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS):The treatment provided by paramedics to patients in cardiopulmonary arrest, including providing basic life support, patient monitoring, arrhythmia interpretation, defibrillation, intubation, and administration of intravenous drugs. ACLS is the fourth link in the Cardiac Chain of Survival.

Arrhythmia: Abnormal electrical activity of the heart. Ventricular Fibrillation (VF) is a type of arrhythmia most commonly associated with the onset of Sudden Cardiac Arrest.

Automated External Defibrillator (AED): See defibrillator.

Biphasic Waveform:Pattern of electrical flow where the current reverses direction in the middle of the waveform, flowing first from one electrode pad through the heart to the second electrode pad, and then from the second pad through the heart back to the first. A biphasic waveform requires less energy than the monophasic waveform to achieve superior defibrillation efficacy. AEDs using biphasic defibrillation, such as the MomsTeam-approved defibtech Lifeline AED are extremely effective at defibrillating patients in Ventricular Fibrillation and are now considered the standard of care and treatment of choice for Sudden Cardiac Arrest.

Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR): The second link in the Cardiac Chain of Survival used to keep oxygenated blood flowing to vital organs until definitive intervention can be instituted. Steps include airway management, mouth-to-mouth or mask ventilation, and external chest compressions.The American Heart Association's CPR Guidelines were recently updated

Chain of Survival:The chain of action that the American Heart Association-recommends be followed in treating a person who suffers sudden cardiac arrest to increase the chances of survival. The system includes four steps or links: early access to an emergency medical system (calling 911), early CPR, early defibrillation with an AED, and early advanced cardiac life support. Any break in this chain can compromise survival. For a more complete description of the Cardiac Chain of Survival, click here.

Community Access Defibrillation Program (CAD): A comprehensive community-based defibrillator program managed by community leaders. CAD programs entail broad, strategic defibrillator placement throughout a city or county to ensure that defibrillation therapy is readily available in the event of a cardiac emergency. A vital component of a successful CAD program includes broad-based training.

Defibrillation: The delivery of an electrical shock to the heart to treat the arrhythmias most commonly associated with Sudden Cardiac Arrest by attempting to restore normal heart rhythm.

Defibrillator: A device that can deliver electrical current to the heart to treat arrhythmias. Many are portable and have electrocardiographic (ECG) monitoring capacity.

Manual defibrillators require the operator to read and interpret the ECG tracing, and may require specific steps to program and administer the electric shock.

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