Glossary

Antegrade:  Forward.

Aorta:  The large elastic artery which receives blood from the heart and distributes it to the rest of the body.

Arteriovenous graft: A connection via an artificial vessel, between an artery and a vein.  Artificial grafts are typically made of Dacron.

Atherogenesis:  The development of an atherosclerotic plaque.

Cardiac cycle:  The combination of systole, in which the heart contracts and blood is ejected from the heart, and diastole, when the heart refills with blood.

Carotid artery:  The major artery of the neck which supplies blood to the brain.

Coronary artery:  The arteries which supply blood to the heart.

Cytopathic:  The property of being toxic to a cell.

Deep venous thrombosis:  A thrombus which forms in the deep veins of the legs.  If these dislodge, they can go to your lungs and cause sudden death.

Diastole:  The portion of the cardiac cycle when the heart refills with blood.

Diffuse intimal thickening:  A natural thickening of the arterial intima with aging.  Oxidized LDL and cholesterol accumulate within the thickened intima without causing harm.

Endothelium:  The inner lining of a blood vessel, composed of cells which produce antithrombotic molecules such as nitric oxide and prostacyclin when exposed to flowing blood.

Epoetin:  The drug derived from erythropoietin, the hormone which controls production of erythrocytes.

Erythrocyte:  The red blood cell, which carries oxygen in the blood.

Erythropoietin:  The natural hormone produced by the kidney which controls production of erythrocytes.

Fibrinolytic:  The property of breaking down fibrin, one of the constituents of a thrombus or blood clot.

Fistula (pl. fistulae):  An abnormal connection between two spaces.  For our purposes, the fistula is between an artery and vein.

HDL:  High-density lipoprotein, or the good cholesterol.

Hematocrit:  The portion of blood consisting of erythrocytes.

Hs:  Horseshit

Intima:  The inner lining of a blood vessel, composed of endothelial cells.

LDL:  Low-density lipoprotein, or bad cholesterol.  According to mainstream atherogenesis theory, when oxidized, this particle is cytotoxic.

Non-Newtonian fluid:  A fluid whose viscosity changes with shear or flow.  Think of ketchup.  It’s thick but gets thinner and easier to pour when you shake it.

Organization:  The process in which new blood vessels grow into a thrombus or dead tissue, which allows influx of fibroblasts which produce collagen, the main constituent of a scar.

Ostium:  The opening to a blood vessel.

Oxidized:  A chemical modification similar to changing iron into rust.  According to mainstream thought, this change causes LDL to be harmful or cytotoxic.

Paradigm:   A network of beliefs and theories. 

Platelet:  The particles in the blood which help form a thrombus.  When activated, as by high shear, platelets become sticky, and adhere to a vessel wall and each other, beginning thrombus formation.

Retrograde:  Backwards

Reynolds number:  The number which describes the propensity of a flowing fluid to deviate from orderly or laminar flow to form eddies when encountering an obstruction.  The higher Reynolds number, the more likely is eddy formation.  At a high enough Reynolds number, flow is turbulent.

Schadenfreude:  To take pleasure in someone else’s misfortune.  A very bad habit.

Schrodinger’s cat:  One interpretation of quantum mechanics is that “nothing is real and that we cannot say anything about what things are doing when we are not looking at them” (In Search of Schrodinger’s Cat, J. Gribbin, Bantam Books, 1984, p. 2.).  Erwin Schrodinger thought this interpretation was a bunch of bs, and came up with a thought experiment.  A cat was hidden in a box.  The cat would live or die depending on the chance decay of a radioactive particle.  By that interpretation, the cat is neither dead nor alive until the box is opened.  Schrodinger’s aim was to point out how absurd the interpretation was.  Instead, the paradox was accepted, and bad science, uncertainty, and uncritical thinking became acceptable.  This was the prevailing notion when I was growing up.  I imagine that many people of my generation accepted uncertainty, and consequently don’t question notions like “only some fatty streaks become atherosclerotic plaques and not others.”

Shear:  The fancy name to describe flow of a liquid.

Shunt:  A vessel which bypasses the normal path of blood.

Smooth muscle actin:  A protein in the smooth muscle cell which allows it to contract. 

Sphygmomanometer:  A blood pressure cuff.

Stenosis:  A narrowing of an artery.

Stroke volume:  The amount of blood expelled during systole.

Systole:  The portion of the cardiac cycle when the heart contracts, expelling blood.

Thrombosis:  The formation of a blood clot within a vessel.

Thrombus:  A blood clot within a vessel.

Tunica media:  The layer of an artery composed of smooth muscle cells.   

Virchow:  A famous German pathologist of the 19th century.  He postulated Virchow’s triad, three elements which allow formation of a thrombus:  stasis of blood, abnormalities of the vessel wall, and hypercoagulability, or increased propensity of blood to clot.  Small pockets of blood stasis outside of the main flow occur if Reynolds number is sufficient.  Decreased blood flow decreases endothelial production of protective molecules, constituting a vessel wall abnormality.  Hypercholesterolemia makes blood hypercoagulable by increasing the formation of erythrocyte aggregates and viscosity at low shear.