Medical Terminology Daily (MTD) is a blog sponsored by Clinical Anatomy Associates, Inc. as a service to the medical community. We post anatomical, medical or surgical terms, their meaning and usage, as well as biographical notes on anatomists, surgeons, and researchers through the ages. Be warned that some of the images used depict human anatomical specimens.

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A Moment in History

Jean-Louis Petit

Jean Louis Petit
(1674 – 1750)

French surgeon and anatomist, Jean Louis Petit was born in Paris in on March 13, 1674.  His family rented an apartment at his house to Alexis Littre (1658 – 1726), a French anatomist. Petit became an apprentice of Littre at seven years of age, helping him in the dissections for his lectures and at an early age became the assistant in charge of the anatomic amphitheater.

Because of Petit’s dedication to anatomy and medicine, in 1690 at the age of sixteen, became a disciple of a famous Paris surgeon, Castel.

In 1692, Petit entered the French army and performed surgery in two military campaigns. By 1693 he started delivering lectures and was accepted as a great surgeon, being invited to the most difficult operations.  In 1700 he was appointed Chief Surgeon of the Military School in Paris and in the same year he received the degree of Master of Surgery from the Faculty of Paris.

In 1715 he was made a member of the Royal Academy of Sciences and an honorary member of the Royal Society of London. He was appointed by the King as the first Director General of the Royal Academy of Surgery when it was founded in 1731.

Petit’s written works are of historical importance.  “Traite des Maladies des Os” ( A Treatise on Bone Diseases);  “Traite des Maladies Chirurgicales et des Operation” (A Treatise on Surgical Diseases and their Operations” This last book was published posthumously in 1774. He also published a monograph on hemorrhage, another on lachrymal fistula, and others.

He was one of the first to perform choIecystotomy and mastoidotomy. His original tourniquet design for amputations saved many in the battlefield and the design of the same surgical instrument today has not changed much since its invention by him.

His name is remembered in the lumbar triangle, also called the "triangle of Petit", and the abdominal hernia that can ensue through that area of weakness, the lumbar hernia or "Petit's hernia".

1. “Jean Louis Petit – A Sketch of his Life, Character, and Writings” Hayne, AP San Fran Western Lancet 1875 4: 446-454
2. “Oeuvres compl?tes de Jean-Louis Petit” 1837 Imprimerie de F. Chapoulaud
3. Extraits de l'eloge de Jean-Louis Petit Ius dans Ia seance publique de I' Academie royale de chirurgie du 26 mai 1750” Louis A. Chirurgie 2001: 126 : 475- 81

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Combining root terms

Most medical words have only one root term and do not require combination as in the word [colectomy]. The situation arises when there is more than one organ or structure that is influenced by the suffix and the prefix (when present), such as [coloproctectomy]. Following are the basic rules for root terms combination:

  1. - Place an [-o-] between the root terms being combined. The combining vowel  [o] means "and". The word [gastroenterology] means "study of the stomach and the small intestine"
  2. - Organize the root terms using their proximal to distal relationship. For a better explanation, click here
  3. - If the first root term ends in a vowel, the combining vowel [-o-] is not needed. An example are the root terms [-chole-], meaning "bile or gall". and [cyst], meaning "bladder or sac". The word [chole-cyst-ectomy] does not have an [-o-] between the root terms
  4. - If the proximal to distal relationship does not apply, then the words should be ordered in a way that is euphonic
  5. - The only time a hyphen should be used is the rare case when using an [o] is not possible. Based on this rule, the word [salpingooophorectomy] is correct, the word [salpingo-oophorectomy] is not. An example of this is the word [cross-section].

An example of rule #5 is the word co-author. Since adding an [o] as a combining vowel would give us the word cooauthor (which is not correct), a hyphen must be used.

In the case of the word [coloproctectomy] the word can be divided into these components" The first root term [-col-], meaning "colon", the combining vowel [-o-], meaning "and", the second root term [-proct-], meaning "rectum", and the suffix [-ectomy], meaning "removal of". Properly read, the word means "removal of colon and rectum]. The proper term is [coloproctectomy], please do not use the terms [proctocolectomy] or worse, [protocolectomy], because they are incorrect usage of medical terminology.

For information on how to read medical words, click here.

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