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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Inion

External view of the occipital bone. Public domain
External view of the occipital bone


The term [inion] is Greek [ινιον] and originally referred to the posterior aspect of the neck or occiput and its musculature and strength, as mentioned in the Iliad.

The term fell in disuse for hundreds of years, until it was resurrected by Peter Paul Broca (1824-1880) as a craniometric point. The inion is the midline protuberance in the posteroinferior aspect of the external surface of the occipital bone. Today, in most anatomy texts the inion is referred to as the "external occipital protuberance"

The inion is found at the intersection of three bony lines that are easily palpable, the bilaterally situated superior nuchal line, and the median nuchal line. It is labeled "Ext. occip. protuberance" (see accompanying image). There is a corresponding internal occipital protuberance in the internal aspect of the occipital bone.

Sources:
1. "The Origin of Medical Terms" Skinner, HA 1970 Hafner Publishing Co.
2. "Medical Meanings - A Glossary of Word Origins" Haubrich, WD. ACP Philadelphia
3 "Tratado de Anatomia Humana" Testut et Latarjet 8 Ed. 1931 Salvat Editores, Spain
4. "Anatomy of the Human Body" Henry Gray 1918. Philadelphia: Lea & Febiger
Image modified by CAA, Inc. Original image by Henry Vandyke Carter, MD., courtesy of bartleby.com


Sesamoid

The word [sesamoid] means "similar to a sesame". First used by Galen c.180AD, he describes small ovoid bones that are "similar to a sesame seed", referencing the seed of the plant sesamum indicum, the oil of which was used as a laxative at that time. 

Sesamoid bones are found in the tendons of some muscles and are mostly inconstant. Largey and Bonnet proposed a classification for these bones as: accessory, capsuloligamentous, intratendineous, and mixed.

Of special interest to this article are the sesamoid bones found within the two tendons of the flexor hallucis brevis muscle in the base of the foot (see accompanying X-ray image). These bones, especially the medial sesamoid bone, was attributed religious, mystical, and magical powers since ancient times. This is due to the fact that this small bone is highly resistant to natural decomposition. A Hebrew medical text dated 210 BC, attributed to Ushaia presented a small bone he called "luz" as the "depository of the soul". Many other authors, including Vesalius (who called it Albadaran), believed that upon resurrection, the whole body could reform from this "seed" bone.

This belief was later reinforced by religious texts into the early Renaissance which stated that this bone was indestructible and its presence was enough to guarantee resurrection for believers. 

Sources:
1. "Les os se?samo?¨des de l’hallux : du mythe a` la fonction" Largely,A; Bonnel, BE Med Chir Pied 2008 24: 28–38
2. "Tratado de Anatomia Humana" Testut et Latarjet 8 Ed. 1931 Salvat Editores, Spain
3. "De Humani Corporis Fabrica" Vesalius, Andrea. 1543 Oporinus
Thanks to the first year medical students at the University of Cincinnati who inspired this article. Dr. Miranda
 

Foot X-ray

Original image courtesy of
Wesley Norman, Ph.D.

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Ignaz Semmelweis


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.To search all the articles in this series, click here.

Ignaz Semmelweis, MD (1818- 1865). Born in Budapest as Ign?c F?l?p Semmelweis, he started his university studies as a lawyer, but changed to Medicine and in 1844, at the age of 26, attained his MD degree. in 1847 he was appointed as an assistant in Obstetrics, almost at the same time of the death of a friend (Kolletschka, a pathologist) who died of what appeared to be "puerperal fever", also known as "childbed fever" after being accidentally stabbed by a knife during the autopsy of a female who had died of that disease. Semmelweis reasoned that the disease somehow was transmitted via the wound and started a crusade to have surgeons and students clean their hands with a carbolized solution before examining a healthy pregnant woman.

Although the obstetric wards under his care reduced the rate of this disease to almost nothing, Semmelweis endured criticism from his teachers, colleagues, and peers, and he did not make any friends by calling "murderers" those who did not follow his ideas.  murderers".  An excerpt of a letter to one of this detractors reads: "I denounce you before God and the world as a murderer and the history of puerperal fever will not do you an injustice when for the service of having been the first to oppose my life-saving technique it perpetuates your name as a medical Nero". He did not publish his findings until later in life, and then received even more criticism.

In 1865 was committed to an mental asylum only to die a few days later. He was only 47 years old. The same year he died Joseph Lister performed the first operations using antiseptic technique.


Original image courtesy of
Images from the History of Medicine.

Sources:
1. NEWSOM S." PIONEERS IN INFECTION CONTROL - SEMMELWEIS,IGNAZ,PHILIPP". The Journal of hospital infection. 1993-03-01;23:175-187.
2. Ellis, H. (2008). Ignaz Semmelweis: tragic pioneer in the prevention of puerperal sepsis. British Journal Of Hospital Medicine (London, England: 2005), 69(6), 358 
3
. " A Corner of History: Ignaz Philipp Semmelweis" Wynder, EL  Prev Med 3" (4) Dec 1974, 574-580
4. "Ignaz Semmeweis; a hand-washing pioneer" P. Rangapa JAPI May 2010 58:328
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Muscle

The term [muscle] arises from the Latin word [musculus] which derives from the Latin term [mus] meaning "mouse". We can only guess that, just as today, Roman fathers would show their biceps and forearm muscles to their children and tried to make them believe a mouse had gotten under their skin!. The root term for muscle is [-my-]. The corresponding combining form is [-myo-]. 

There are three types of muscle in the human body:

• Skeletal muscle: it is typical of muscles related to bones (skeletal) and they are voluntary.
Smooth muscle: found in organs that act without volition (involuntary), such as the digestive system and glands.
Cardiac muscle: found exclusively in the heart.

Skeletal (striated) muscle structure
Skeletal and cardiac muscles have distinct striations visible under a microscope. 

Muscles are formed by subunits, each one surrounded by a named membrane. One of the suffixes that means layer or membrane is [-sium]:

Epimysium: Epi=outer; my=muscle; sium=membrane. The outer or external membrane (layer) of a muscle
 Perimysium: Peri=around; my=muscle; sium=membrane. A membrane around a muscle
 Endomysium: Endo= inner or internal; my=muscle; sium=membrane. The inner or internal membrane of a muscle

Original image courtesy of Wikipedia. Click on the image for a larger version. 

 
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Trabeculae carnae

The trabeculae carnae is a meshwork of fleshy cords found in the inner aspect of the right and left ventricles of the heart.

The Latin term [trab] means "beam", and [trabeculum] refers to the group of beams that supports a roof, like an intertwined network.  The plural for of [trabeculum] is [trabeculae].

The second term [carnae] is Latin for "meaty". The meaning of [trabeculae carnae] is the "meaty meshwork".

The trabeculae carnae are more evident and larger in the left ventricle than in the right ventricle, and larger and more complex towards the cardiac apex.  The accompanying image shows the dissection of a human heart exposing the trabeculae carnaes in the right ventricle.

Click on the image for a larger version

Image property of: CAA.Inc.

Interior of the right ventricle - Human heart
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-nym-

Although not a medical root term, the root [-nym-] arises from the Greek [onoma] meaning "name". There are many terms that incorporate this root:

Eponym: Use of a proper name to denote a structure
Eunym: [Eu-] is a prefix that means "good", so it imeans a "good name". Also written as "euonym"
Homonym: Same name
Synomym: "A name with the same sense, or same meaning"
Antomym: From the Greek [ant- and anti] meaning opposite. An opposite name
Anonym: From the Greek [an- and ano-] meaning "without". Without a name (anonymous)
Pseudonym: From the Greek [Pseudo-] meaning "false". A false name
Toponym: From [topos], meaning place. The name of a place or location

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