Here we propose pedagogical advice to better understand the texts on the website. We encourage the reader/patient to consult a medical specialist or doctor to discuss any questions that may arise.



A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z



ABI : Ankle Brachial-Index measurement. A method to test peripheral arterial disease by using a Doppler probe and a blood pressure cuff on both the arms and ankles.

Abdominal Aorta: A portion of the largest artery in the body which is located between the diaphragm and bifurcates into the common iliac arteries (close to the belly button or navel).

Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAA): This occurs when there is a weakened area in the aorta the main blood vessel that carries blood from the heart to the rest of the body. As blood flows through the aorta, the weakened area bulges like a balloon and can burst if the balloon gets too big, resulting in aneurysm.

Ambulatory venous pressure: While walking, the blood pressure inside the veins in the leg is normally very low (0-20mmHg); Blood flow upwards towards the heart, is reliant on calf muscle pump action. The pressure rises when valves in the veins are damaged and blood flows backward toward the foot – a condition known as venous insufficiency. 

Amputation: Surgical removal of a limb or portion of a limb. Above knee, below knee, or partial foot are potential examples.

Aneurysm: A ballooning or bulging of the wall of a vein or artery, usually due to a weakening in the wall or congenital abnormalities.

Angio-MRI: Medical exam using magnetic resonance which includes injection of a contrast agent in order to visualize blood vessels.

Arterial hypertension: Blood pressure that is too high for a patient considering his age and his risk factors.

Arterial lesions: Arteriosclerosis and vascularites.

Atrial fibrillation: Atrial fibrillation is a form of arrhythmia which is characterised by an irregular heart beat. Atrial fibrillation can promote the formation of blood clots inside the heart, which can migrate to the brain, causing a stroke. This is why most patients suffering from atrial fibrillation need to take oral anticoagulant medication (blood thinners).

Angioplasty (balloon): A procedure to widen arteries narrowed by arterial disease. A catheter with a deflated balloon is threaded through the narrowed artery and then inflated to break the plaque and expand the artery. This opens the blocked arteries and restores the blood flow.

Angioplasty (laser): A procedure to open arteries blocked or narrowed by arterial disease. A thin tube with a laser tip attached is inserted into the artery. The laser vaporizes the plaque to clear the artery. This opens the blocked arteries and restores the blood flow. (More studies are needed on this method.)

Anticoagulant: Product or substance that slows down or prevents the coagulation of the blood.

Anticoagulation: Medication that prevents blood clot formation in the veins and arteries. The medication reduces the amount of natural clotting factors made by the liver. Heparin is given intravenously or by subcutaneous injection; warfarin is given by mouth.

Antiphospholipid: The antiphospholipid protein has an important role in blood coagulation. Patients suffering from the antiphospholipid syndrome make blood clots easily.

Antiplatelet: Medication such as aspirin and newer agents used to prevent aggregation of platelets, one of the first things that occurs in arterial thrombosis.

Antiplatelet aggregation action: A medication’s action that prevents aggregation of platelets and the formation of blood clots.

Aorta: The largest artery in the body, originating at the left ventricle of the heart and serving as the primary trunk from which the entire arterial system proceeds.

Aortic aneurysm: The localized dilatation of the aorta. The major risk of aneurysm is a break which entails the death of the patient. When diagnosed early, the main treatment is the management of arterial high blood pressure. In other cases, a surgical operation is required to handle the aneurysm as quickly as possible.

Arterial insufficiency: An inadequate blood supply in the arterial system most often caused by a narrowing in the vessel proximal to an inadequately supplied area.

Arteriogram: An x-ray used to determine specific arterial blockages in the body. The procedure involves inserting a small catheter into the artery that injects dye (contrast material).

Arteritis: Inflammation of the arteries.

Atherosclerosis: From the Greek words athero (gruel or paste) and sclerosis (hardness). The process within the arteries where deposits of fatty substances, cholesterol, calcium or fibrin are built up in the inner lining (called plaques).

Arteriosclerosis: A normal consequence of aging where the arterial walls gradually thicken and arterial fibers decline. The arteries become stiff (see Atherosclerosis).

Artery: A blood vessel carrying oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the rest of the body. When diseased, the organ supplied may become damaged due to lack of oxygen and nutrients (see Ischemia).




Blood clot: Blood clotting or coagulation is a complex process by which the blood forms clots. This mass is made up of substances such as platelets and red blood cells.

Blood pressure: The force of blood pushing against blood vessel walls.

Body mass index (BMI): A measure of a person’s height/weight ratio, calculated by dividing the weight in kilograms by the square of the height in meters. BMI is used to evaluate the relationship between a person’s weight and health.




Calcified vessels: When an artery becomes hardened from calcium deposits in the wall. Often seen in diabetes. Calcified vessels reduce the ability to make accurate pressure measurements in the legs.

Cardiovascular disease: Disease affecting the heart or blood vessels, such as heart attack, heart failure, high blood pressure, angina and stroke.

Catheter: A catheter is a small flexible tube inserted into a blood vessel to inject dye, assist with the removal of a blood clot, or inject medication.

Catheter-based technology: When a catheter is used in minimally invasive procedure, guided through the blood vessels and tracked through the use of a fluoroscope and then displayed on a screen.

Cellulitis: Infection of the skin, usually caused by normal skin bacteria that get under the top layer of skin. Signs of infection include red, warm, tender skin, swelling, fever, and/or chills.

Cholesterol: This soft, waxy substance is found in the lipids (fats) present in the blood. Its accumulation in the arteries reduces their diameter. High cholesterol levels are a major risk factor for vascular disease such as heart disease.

Chronic venous insufficiency: This condition occurs when the valves in the leg veins are damaged, making difficult for blood to return to the heart and causing blood to pool in the legs. Over time, swelling and thinning of skin with discoloration and possible ulcer formation occur due to constant high pressure against the skin.

Collateral circulation: The slow development of smaller peripheral arteries to allow some blood flow around the narrowed/blocked area of an artery. This occurs as an adaptation when an artery is slowly blocked with plaque over time.

Collateral veins: Small veins that grow around an area of blockage or blood clot. 

Compression support stocking: Elastic or latex stockings that support the tissue of the leg by putting counter-pressure against the skin, reducing the effects of venous blood pooling. Stockings are usually knee or thigh length and available in varying pressures and colors.

Coronary disease: When an artery which vascularizes the heart (i.e., coronary arteries) suffers from myocardial ischemia such that there is a partial or complete blockage, resulting in reduced blood flow, preventing the heart from receiving enough oxygen.

Critical Leg Ischemia (CLI): A severe obstruction of the arteries which seriously decreases blood flow to the extremities (hands, feet and legs) and has progressed to the point of severe pain and even skin ulcers or sores. Critical Limb Ischemia (CLI) is often present in individuals with severe peripheral arterial disease (PAD).




Deep vein thrombosis: The formation of a blood clot in a deep vein of an extremity.

Dermatitis (stasis dermatitis): Dry, flaky, itchy skin related to changes caused by venous insufficiency; severe cases may weep clear fluid and result in infection.

Diabetes: Disease of the pancreas causing a high blood sugar level, which has many negative effects on the body.

Diabetes mellitus: A metabolic disorder in which the body does not produce insulin (type 1) or when the body does not make enough or cannot properly use insulin (type 2).

Diastolic blood pressure: A measure of blood pressure between heart beats. This measurement represents the second number in blood pressure readings.

Dyslipidemia: Abnormal levels of fat (including cholesterol) in the blood.

Doppler: A diagnostic tool that uses low intensity ultrasound to detect blood flow velocity in arteries or veins.

Duplex: A diagnostic tool that combines Doppler and ultrasound.




Embolus/embolism: A blood clot or clot that moved from one location to another, such as from the leg to the lung.

Endarterectomy : Procedure that removes a layer of lipid in a vessel.  For example, this intervention is done in the carotid arteries, which bring blood from the heart to the brain. 

Endocrinology: Medical specialty taking care of problems of the glands, such as diabetes or thyroid diseases.

Endoprosthesis: An endoprosthesis is a metallic stent used to keep a vessel open. A vessel can be occluded, for example, by cholesterol plaques or by a tear in the wall (dissection).

Endovascular Grafting: A fairly new procedure for repairing abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) by directing the flow of blood around an aneurysm through the use of a graft. The procedure allows the graft to be delivered through a catheter using x-ray guidance.

Exercise Therapy: Exercise therapy for intermittent claudication is an individualized exercise prescription (or plan) designed to restore health and prevent further disease. The prescription, which is written by a doctor or rehabilitation specialist such as a clinical exercise physiologist, physical therapist, or nurse. It takes into account your current medical condition and provides advice on the type of exercise to perform,  the intensity (how hard), the duration (how long), and the frequency (how many times per week).




Femoral artery: The large artery in the leg which extends from hip to knee. Often the bypass grafts start at this point.

Femoral vein: The large, deep vein extending from the groin to the knee.




Gangrene: Tissue death caused by poor blood flow. It is usually black with color, often with a foul odor.

Grafts: A surgical technique using man-made material or vein to re-route blood flow.




Heparin: Heparin is an anticoagulant that prevents blood coagulation and platelet aggregation in order to prevent blood clots. It is used to prevent thrombophlebitis and pulmonary embolisms.

High density lipoprotein (HDL): These lipoproteins, also known as “good” cholesterol, transport cholesterol from the arteries to the liver where it is eliminated from the body. A high HDL level appears to protect against heart attack and stroke.

High Blood Pressure: Higher than normal blood pressure – the force of blood pushing against blood vessel walls. One of the contributing factors to abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA).

Homocysteine: An amino acid in the blood. Elevated plasma levels may lead to increased risks of peripheral arterial disease (PAD).

Hyperglycemia: Abnormally high levels of blood glucose.

Hyperlipidemia: A pathological disorder corresponding to the abnormal increase of fats in blood, also called lipids. It includes the rate of cholesterol and the rate of triglycerides.

Hyperpigmentation: Excess skin pigment or color caused by high venous pressure forcing blood cells to leak from small veins under the skin.

Hypertension: When the pressure in the arteries is consistently above the normal range. Also known as high blood pressure.

Hypoglycemia: Abnormally low levels of blood glucose, which can lead to a state of shock.




Iliac vein: Large deep vein branching into each leg from the umbilicus (belly button) to the groin.

INR (International Normalized Ratio): Blood test used to monitor the effects of warfarin therapy; ideal range while on warfarin is 2.0 – 3.0.  Some patients may require higher or lower ranges depending on other medical conditions.

Intermittent Claudication: Symptoms that occur when the leg muscles do not receive the oxygen required during exercise, thus causing cramping in the hips, thighs or calves.

Interventional radiology: A medical specialty where doctors use imaging technologies to diagnose blockages in arteries and also treat them with balloons, stents, and catheter delivered medications.

Ischemia: An organ (heart, brain, kidneys, or foot, for example) that is not getting adequate blood flow and lacks vital oxygen and nutrients.

Insulin: This hormone is secreted by the pancreas and helps convert glucose into energy vital for life.



J, K

Klippel-Trenaunay Syndrome: Condition characterized by multiple vein malformations in the superficial venous system; abnormally small or absent deep veins, and port-wine stains.




Laser therapy: Use of a high intensity light beam to eliminate small varicose veins just under the skin surface.

Lipids: Another term for fats that can be broken down into fatty acids.

Lipid lowering medication: Drugs used to lower blood levels of cholesterol. 

Lipodermatosclerosis: Thickening/hardening of normal fatty tissue under the skin due to prolonged effects of high venous pressure.

Lipoproteins: Proteins that transport cholesterol and other fats to and from cells. LDL is the subtype most dangerous for peripheral arterial disease. HDL is beneficial in prevention.

Low density lipoprotein (LDL): These lipoproteins, also known as “bad” cholesterol, are the primary carrier of cholesterol in the blood. Excessive accumulation of LDL in the blood can lead to the formation of plaque and block the arteries, which can lead to heart attack or stroke.

Low molecular weight heparin: Plays a role similar to unfractionated heparin, but is a longer-action alternative. Administered in one or two subcutaneous doses, it requires fewer blood tests and less blood monitoring.




Metabolic syndrome: It is not a disease in itself. Metabolic syndrome is the presence of a set of conditions (i.e., increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, large waist circumference, high triglyceride levels and low HDL-cholesterol levels) which increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiac diseases and stroke.




Non-Invasive: Medical procedures or exams which do not involve needles, dye or x-ray to diagnose arterial diseases.




Obesity: Excess body weight, which is defined as a body mass index (BMI) over 30kg/m2.

Oral diabetes medication: Oral medication that lowers blood sugar for patients suffering from diabetes.



P, Q

Perforator veins: Small veins that connect the deep veins to the superficial veins, allowing blood to drain from the skin into the deep veins and then pumped toward the heart.

Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD): A common disorder that occurs in the artery segments of the circulatory system (legs, pelvis, neck brain). The artery wall linings slowly become narrowed and rough clots are formed due to a build up of fatty deposits (plaque). This disease has major implications on a patient’s life such as potential heart attack and stroke.

Phlebitis: Inflammation of a vein or a segment of vein often associated with a blood clot.

Phlebectomy: Surgical removal of a blood clot from a vein.

Plaque: A deposit of fatty substances and cholesterol on the artery walls that reduce blood flow.

Platelets: Components of the blood that allow the blood to clot normally. They play an important role in normal blood coagulation.

Popliteal vein: Large deep vein behind the knee.

Post-phlebitic syndrome: Collection of symptoms that occurs after a blood clot has damaged the veins in the leg: chronic swelling, skin discoloration, pain/achiness, and possible ulcer.

Primary prevention: Disease prevention measures used to reduce the incidence of disease.

Pulmonary embolism: Blood clot in the lung.




Reflux: Backward flow of blood in a vein; also known as regurgitation.

Rest Pain: Constant pain (particularly at night) found in the toes or foot that is caused by poor blood flow.

Revascularization: Procedures to restore blood flow in an artery.




Saphenous (great saphenous) vein: Large superficial vein in the leg, from the groin to the ankle.

Saphenofemoral junction: Joining of the large deep vein of the thigh (femoral) with the saphenous vein at the groin.

Saturated fat: Fats or lipids which are usually solid at room temperature and which increase the level of cholesterol in the blood. They are mainly found in animal sources of food.

Sclerotherapy: Injecting small varicose veins with concentrated salt solution (hypertonic saline; performed in the office.).

Secondary prevention: Disease prevention measures used after someone had an event, to keep further events from happening, or to reduce the extent of damage caused by it. 

Sedentary lifestyle: A lifestyle characterized by a low to zero frequency of movements and a lack of physical exercise.

Spider veins: A form of varicose veins consisting of small bluish-purple veins often shaped like spider webs clustered on the legs.

Stab phlebectomy: Surgical removal of segments of varicose veins through multiple small incisions on the leg; performed in the operating room.

Stents: Wire mesh tubes that are surgically placed within the artery (recently cleared through angioplasty) via a catheter threaded through the artery. It is opened to form a rigid support to hold the clogged artery open to potentially prevent recurrent narrowing.

Stripping of varicose veins: Surgical removal of varicose veins.

Stroke: Arterial occlusion leading to decay of cerebral cells. Complications can vary based on affected area but may include paralysis and loss of speech.

Superficial: Under the skin.

Systolic blood pressure: A measure of the maximum pressure exerted by the heart during contraction. This measurement represents the first number in blood pressure readings.




Telangiectasia: A type of varicose veins also known as spider veins; small bluish-purple veins, usually found in clusters on the leg.

Thrombolysis: Thrombolysis is a coronary reperfusion technique that attempts to disrupt a blood clot to reestablish the permeability of a blood vessel more quickly and completely.

Thrombosis: Blood clot.

Thrombophlebitis: Blood clot in a vein that causes local inflammation, pain, and swelling.

Tibial veins: Deep veins in the calf.

Toe Systolic Pressure Index: A diagnostic measurement taken to determine peripheral arterial disease. Normally used when the Doppler method is ineffective (due to artery calcium buildup), usually in patients with diabetes. This technique uses a special pneumatic cuff placed on the big toe.

Transient ischemic attack (TIA): TIA is a short-term interruption of blood supply to the brain. It is a small stroke that impedes blood flow and causes a short and abrupt decrease in brain function that generally lasts only for a few minutes or hours.

Trendelenburg test:  A test to determine the backward flow of blood in veins.

Triglycerides: The chemical form in which most fats exist in foods.




Ulcer: An open wound or sore. A venous ulcer is usually located around the ankle or lower leg and is caused by persistent high pressure in the veins that leads to thinning and destruction of normal skin and subcutaneous tissue.

Ultrasonic Duplex Scanning: The diagnostic test for peripheral arterial disease (PAD) that produces images of arteries or veins on a screen by using ultrasound equipment. This test is used to locate blocked arteries or to measure their size.

Ultrasound: A diagnostic test that uses sound waves to produce images of various tissues. This test is used to locate aneurysms or blocked arteries and can measure their size.

Unna boot: A roll bandage (gauze with zinc oxide) is used to treat venous ulcer by applying counter-pressure.

Unsaturated fat: Fats or lipids which are usually liquid at room temperature. There are two types of unsaturated fat, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. Polyunsaturated fat tends to help your body eliminate newly formed cholesterol, which can prevent cholesterol accumulation in the blood.



V, W, X, Y, Z

Valve: Small, delicate flaps of tissue spaced along a vein that open and close to allow blood to flow up the leg and return to the heart.

Valvular insufficiency: Damaged valves that no longer close properly, thereby allowing blood to flow backward down the leg and cause pooling at the ankle and lower leg. (See also “reflux”).

Valvuloplasty: Surgical repair of damaged valves in veins.

Varicose vein: Enlarged (dilated), elongated, and twisted veins, usually found in the thighs and legs, ranging in size from small spider veins to very large bulging rope-like veins.

Vascular disease: Blood vessel issues such as hypertension, cerebral ischemia, heart attack, angina and  arthritis of inferior members.

Vascular dissection: Tear in a vessel wall.  Since the vessels have more than one layer, dissection doesn’t always lead to rupture.  Dissection can obstruct blood flow and have dangerous consequences (stroke, heart attack, death). 

Vascular graft: A vascular graft is sometimes necessary when an artery is occluded.  Another passage is created to bypass the diseased area by connecting a conduit starting before ending after the occlusion. 

Vascular Medicine: A branch of medicine that deals primarily with medical treatment of vascular diseases. A rapidly expanding area of modern medicine.

Vascular Surgeon: A physician with a specialty in performing surgery to either remove the plaque from an artery or more commonly to bypass the area of obstruction with a graft. Also, the vascular surgeon can be involved in the medical treatment of vascular disease.

Vasculitis: Group of diseases involving the inflammation of blood vessels walls. They are mainly due to a migration and an abnormal attack of leukocytes and to the damage which result from it.

Veins: Blood vessels that carry the blood from the body back to the heart.

Venography: X-Ray study of veins using “dye” or contrast solution to outline veins and identify problems.

Venous hypertension: High pressure in veins due to damage to venous system (see also valvular insufficiency) leading to symptoms of chronic venous disease.

Vessels: The tube likes structures in the circulatory system that are responsible for circulating blood within the body. The three major types of vessels are arteries, veins and lymphatics. Capillaries are the microscopic structures that connect arteries and veins to the tissues.

VNUS: A procedure that uses a radiofrequency catheter inserted into the vein to close varicose veins. The heat produced by the radiofrequency energy causes the vein to collapse and seal shut. This procedure can be performed in an operating room and 1 or 2 days are needed before returning to normal activities.

Note to the user: Certain definitions listed in the Vocabulary section are from these web sites: Vascular Cures, from the Quebec Society of Vascular Sciences and Wikipedia (the Medicine portal).

Some of these definitions were adapted for themes discussed on the CFVH website.