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The page below is a sample from the LabCE course Cardiac Biomarkers. Access the complete course and earn ASCLS P.A.C.E.-approved continuing education credits by subscribing online.

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Terminology Describing Ischemic Heart Disease and Heart Failure

Descriptions of cardiac biomarkers and their use require the knowledge of several terms. These terms and their definitions are below:

Acute Coronary Syndrome (ACS):
This syndrome is a broader term that includes all ischemic events that can occur in the heart. Ischemia is defined simply as inadequate blood supply to an organ (in this case, the heart). These ischemic events range from angina (where there is no cell death, or reversible cell injury) to an AMI with large areas of cell necrosis (dead cardiac myocytes). A continuum of events that are involved in ACS is illustrated on the page that follows this glossary of terms.
Angina refers to chest pain caused by an inadequate supply of oxygen to heart myocardium. It is synonymous with angina pectoris (pectoris refers to the chest).

Acute Myocardial Infarction (AMI):
Commonly referred to as a heart attack, an AMI is a sudden loss of blood flow, and thus oxygen to the muscle tissue of the heart (the myocardium). This causes necrosis of myocardial tissue. It is most often caused by the narrowing of coronary arteries due to atherosclerosis, a thrombus, or dislodged plaque material.
Congestive Heart Failure (CHF):
CHF is usually a left ventricular dysfunction resulting from aging, hypertension, atherosclerosis or muscle damage from an AMI or repeated AMIs. In CHF, the heart is not able to effectively pump blood through its chambers and to the rest of the body. Fluid accumulates in the lungs and tissues causing edema because less blood leaves through the arteries than entered the heart from the veins.
Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG):
These terms refer to the tracings of electrical currents that passes through the myocardium. Heart contractions are stimulated by this current. In areas of myocyte necrosis, the current does not pass through normally and the tracings will reflect this with abnormal patterns.
Infarction: An area of tissue death that occurs due to lack of oxygen. Clogging of an artery will cause dead muscle tissue or infarction. Infarctions are localized areas of necrosis.