Annulus: If a heart valve is too wide or the tissue is not firm enough to hold its shape, a ring-shaped annulus is sewn to the neck of the valve to tighten the opening support so the valve can open and close efficiently.
Aortic insufficiency: This is when the aortic valve no longer works efficiently to keep blood from leaking back into the heart. Leaking blood can cause the heart to swell, pump poorly and lead to heart failure.
Aortic stenosis: Here, the aortic valve tightens or narrows, preventing blood from flowing through easily.
Cardiopulmonary bypass (CPB): CPB is part of a full, open-heart procedure in which a patient is connected to the heart-lung machine that will breathe and pump blood for the heart during surgery. Blood is diverted through the machine, where it is cleansed and supplied with fresh oxygen before being pumped back to circulate in the patient's blood vessels.
Commissurotomy: This is one of the minimally invasive cardiac surgery procedures used to repair a mitral valve. The cardiac surgeon frees the fused edges of the valve so they can open and shut efficiently as blood flows through.
Congestive heart failure: This occurs when the heart cannot pump blood through a narrowed opening, which causes fluid backup in the heart and the lungs, and shortness of breath. Though the heart may enlarge to increase the pumping action, eventually it becomes weaker.
Endoscopic surgery: An endoscope is a thin, tiny camera that aids your surgeon in seeing inside your body. The camera is threaded into the surgical site through a 5-10mm incision, often on the side of your ribcage. It can rotate 360 degrees for a full view, and transmit a magnified picture of internal organs to a video monitor in the OR. Endoscopic surgery is also referred to as keyhole surgery, port access or video-assisted surgery.
Echocardiography: This is an ultrasound examination of the heart that uses sound waves to track blood flow through the internal structures.
Leaflet: In the aortic valve, three tightly-fitting, triangular-shaped pieces of tissue (called leaflets) come together, opening to allow blood to pass through and closing to keep it flowing in one direction. Men, more often than women, have a bicuspid aortic valve, with two leaflets, versus three leaflets. This operates in the same manner as a trifold valve, but is more susceptible to malfunctions that need surgical correction. A mitral valve has two leaflets, anterior and posterior.
Sternotomy: In this procedure, surgeons cut through the skin, breastbone and cartilage to open the ribcage, to provide access to the heart for open-chest surgery. The breastbone is also called the sternum. The ribcage is closed at the end of surgery with permanent stainless steel wires and the incision is closed with sutures.
Regurgitation: When blood flows backward into the heart, instead of away from the heart, it is called regurgitation. A leaky valve or one that is not closing tightly most often causes this condition. Blood will back up, pooling in the heart and forcing the heart to pump harder to clear the blood out. This can lead to congestive heart failure, irregular heartbeats or blood clots, among other conditions.