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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Synchondrosis / synchondroses

Sagittal section through the clivus of the skull demonstrating the location of the spheno-occipital synchondrosis in an infant.. Image modified from the original by Henry VanDyke Carter, MD. Public domain
Sagittal section through the clivus of the skull
demonstrating the location of the sphenooccipital
synchondrosis in an infant.

A synchondrosis (plural: synchondroses) is a type of cartilaginous joint characterized by a plate of hyaline cartilage that joins two bones. It is also known as a “primary cartilaginous joint”.

Since a synchondrosis practically has no movement, it is classified as a synarthrosis (plural: synarthroses) an immovable joint. All synchondroses are synarthrotic.

Because of the way bones mature, there are many skeletal synchondroses present while the individual matures, an important group of synchondroses are those of growth plates in long bones at the junction of the epiphysis and the body or shaft of the bone. These disappear when the individual reaches full skeletal maturity.

In the older individual there are a few synchondroses, one of them is found at the joint between the first rib and the sternum, others are found at the costochondral joint, the joint between the ribs and the costal cartilage.

There may be some synchondroses found in areas of skeletal anomalies, like the os acromiale, and tarsal coalitions.

Etymology: The word “synchondrosis” derives from the following medical terminology components: The Greek prefix [σύν] (sýn) meaning “along, with, or plus”, the Greek root term [χόνδρος] from [χόνδρος αρθρώσεων] (chóndros arthróseon), and the suffix [-osis], also Greek, meaning “condition”, “state of” or “many”. The term “synchondrosis” can be loosely interpreted as a “condition with cartilage”.

Sources:
1. “Gray’s Anatomy” Henry Gray, 1918
2. "Tratado de Anatomia Humana" Testut et Latarjet 8th Ed. 1931 Salvat Editores, Spain
3. "Gray's Anatomy" 38th British Ed. Churchill Livingstone 1995
4. "The Origin of Medical Terms" Skinner, HA 1970 Hafner Publishing Co.

Image modified from the original by Henry VanDyke Carter, MD. in the book "Grays's Anatomy" by Henry Gray FRS. Public domain