Have you ever wondered about the meaning of acronyms such as DES and STEMI that cardiovascular (CV) clinicians commonly use? Some designate a disease and others a treatment or device. In honor of American Heart Month, here are definitions for the most common CV acronyms to keep for future reference:

CVD Cardiovascular disease Diseases of the heart and blood vessels.
AMI Acute myocardial infarction Heart attack
STEMI ST elevated myocardial infarction “ST” is a segment of the EKG that becomes elevated in severe heart attacks.
NSTEMI Non-ST elevated myocardial infarction Non-ST elevated heart attacks are still critically important, although potentially less emergent.
ACS Acute coronary syndromes Describes a group of conditions due to decreased blood flow in the coronary arteries, such that heart muscle may die.
CVA Cerebrovascular accident Stroke
TIA Transient ischemic attack Small stroke with transient symptoms; usually is the precursor to a full stroke.
PVD Peripheral vascular disease Diseases of blood vessels outside of the heart.
CRM Cardiac rhythm management Treatment of diseases for irregular heart beats.
AF Atrial fibrillation Common irregular heart rhythm originating in the upper chambers of the heart.
VT Ventricular tachycardia A life-threatening irregular, fast heart rhythm originating in the lower chambers of the heart.
VF Ventricular fibrillation The next level of life-threatening irregular heart rhythm originating in the lower chambers of the heart that typically follows untreated VT.
HF Heart failure Declining ability of the heart’s pumping action.
DM Diabetes mellitus A group of metabolic diseases in which there are high levels of blood sugar over a prolonged period of time. Patients may have diabetes requiring treatment with insulin, oral therapies, and/or diet and activity modifications.
IDDM Insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus
NIDDM Non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus
BPHTN Blood pessureHypertension Pressure in the blood vesselsHigh blood pressure
EKG Electrocardiogram Tracing of the heart rhythm, often performed in physician offices.
PCI Percutaneous coronary intervention Treatment of blockages in coronary blood vessels, performed in a cardiac cath lab via a blood vessel in the wrist or groin.
DES Drug-eluting stent A metal scaffolding that releases drug into blockages in a coronary blood vessel and holds the vessel open.
BMS Bare metal stent A metal scaffolding that holds the vessel open, without releasing drug.
PPM Permanent pacemaker An implantable device to treat low heart rates.
ICD Implantable cardioverter defibrillator An implantable device to treat fast heart rates.
CRT Cardiac resynchronization therapy An implantable device to treat patients with heart failure who may also have a fast or slow heart rate.
CABG Coronary artery bypass graft surgery Blockages in heart arteries are “bypassed” using arteries or veins from the chest or leg.
TAVR Transcatheter aortic valve replacement Percutaneous treatment of aortic valve disease using a catheter with a premounted valve that is passed through the groin. The valve is placed by inflating a balloon.
AVRMVR Aortic valve repair or replacementMitral valve repair or replacement During an open chest surgery, the aortic or mitral valve is replaced using a tissue or mechanical valve. The valve may be repaired if there is not too much damage.
IABP Intra-aortic balloon pump A percutaneous temporary device that is inserted through the patient’s groin to the aorta to assist an acutely weakened heart.
LVAD Left ventricular assist device A permanent or temporary device that is implanted in a patient’s chest to assist the extremely weakened heart.
AAA Abdominal aortic aneurysm An abnormal weakening of the aorta (the largest artery in the body) that creates a balloon-like structure that can be life-threatening.
EVH Endoscopic vein harvest Removing a vein from the leg or arm for use in CABG using a device that allows visualization of the vein.
DCB Drug-coated balloon A balloon to treat blockages in the legs that is coated with a drug to minimize the blockage coming back.
EP Electrophysiology The study of electrical activity of the heart.
RF Radiofrequency (ablation) Radiofrequency energy is used in EP procedures to treat irregular heart rhythms by “burning” the abnormal pathway.
VCD Vascular closure device After a percutaneous cardiac procedure is performed, these devices are used to “close the hole” in the groin vessel through which the procedure was performed.


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Lynn Tarkington

Lynn Tarkington, RN, BS, is assistant vice president of Physician and Clinical Services at HealthTrust. She previously served as AVP of the clinical team for SourceTrust. Her background includes 30 years in the healthcare industry, with the focus of her clinical work in cardiovascular diseases. Tarkington previously worked with HCA in the corporate quality department, leading a team of professionals in improving cardiovascular quality across the organization. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in public health and is a member of the American College of Cardiology, American Heart Association and the American College of Healthcare Executives. More Articles by This Author »