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".

Sources:
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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Susan Potter: The known patient / donor

This article is part of the series "A Moment in History" where we honor those who have contributed to the growth of medical knowledge in the areas of anatomy, medicine, surgery, and medical research.

Susan C. Potter
Susan C. Potter
Image capture from a video

The title of this article is a reference to another article in this blog: “The unknown patient / donor” which honors all those who have anonymously donated their bodies to further the anatomical training of many in the medical field. They trusted that those who would use their bodies would do so ethically and with respect, but they did not know exactly how they were to be used or what was going to be done with their bodies.

Susan Potter was the exact opposite. She knew that her body was going to be coated with polyvinyl alcohol, frozen, cut into four pieces with a huge handsaw, and then it would be ground or milled into 27,000 slices of 63 microns each, which were to be photographed in exquisite detail.

She offered her body to science and spoke with Dr. Vic Spitzer, who had directed the Visible Human Project, the first digital cadaver in 1994. She agreed to the donation, but only after she had toured the facilities and only after she clearly understood what was going to her body and why.

The why is the most interesting part of her story. Susan had a very interesting medical history, including spinal surgery , double mastectomy, and a hip replacement. Normally her body would have been rejected, but doctors see this type of patients in their practices. Patients who are old, frail, with prior surgeries and a multitude of problems. This is why she was chosen

If images are needed, usually cadavers are scanned and imaged postmortem, but in her case, Susan underwent many imaging studies while she was alive. She was interviewed and filmed countless times so that her videos would be added to the digital cadaver that was going to be made of her, becoming de facto, a digital patient.

Susan donated her body in the year 2000 died of pneumonia in 2015. During those 15 years she became a friend of Dr. Spitzer, gave talks to medical students, and collaborated with this project.

National Geographic followed Susan for these 15 years and documented her life and death. You can read her story here or watch the video in this article. The  development of the software continues. I am sure we will hear more from Susan Potter's contributions long after her death.

NOTE: My thanks to our contributor Pascalle Pollier for bringing Susan Potter to my attention. Dr. Miranda

“Clinical Anatomy Associates, Inc., and the contributors of "Medical Terminology Daily" wish to thank all individuals who donate their bodies and tissues for the advancement of education and research”.