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

 "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”.

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The unknown 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.

Jane Todd Crawford - Daguerrotype
Jane Todd Crawford - Daguerrotype

When writing the article “The Ephraim McDowell House and Museum” I realized that there are so many patients that by volunteering to a novel or sometimes experimental procedure or donating their bodies have been the catalyst of the advancement of medical science, surgery, and anatomy. Benigno says it so clearly in his paper explaining the physician/patient relation of McDowell and his patient: “Because of his innovative genius and finally honed surgical skills, Ephraim McDowell gave Jane Todd Crawford her life, and she, in return, gave him immortality”.

Few patients have influenced local history more than Jane Todd Crawford. In Kentucky there is a road named after her, a hospital bears her name in Greenville, KY, and there is even a formal "Jane Todd Crawford Day" on December 13!

By contrast, there are so many unknown patients whose names history has forgotten, and yet the fame of the physician continues through time in eponymic hospitals, educational institutions, named surgical procedures or maneuvers, surgical instruments, etc.

Some of the names and stories have survived, but many have not. In some cases, we know the name, but little else.

Dr. Henry Heimlich used his “Heimlich maneuver” for the first time to save his neighbor Patty Ris, in 2016, forty-two years after publishing it in 1974. The maneuver itself was used that same year (1974) to save the first person, Irene Bogachus, who was choking at a restaurant. Hundreds of thousands of people have been saved from death from choking by the proper use of this maneuver.

Dr. Christiaan Barnard, performed the first successful heart transplant on December 3, 1967. We know the name of the donor, 25 year-old Denise Darvall, and the recipient Lewis Washkansky.

Dr. Antoine Dubois and Dr. Dominique-Jean Larrey in France performed the first mastectomy on September 30, 1811. This was decades before the advent of anesthesia or aseptic technique. The patients was Fanny Burney, a famous novelist.

Dr. Edward Jenner developed the smallpox vaccine after working with a milkmaid, Sarah Nelmes. Jenner’s work saved the Americas from the smallpox epidemic through the work of Don Antonio de Gimbernat y Arbós and Don Francisco Javier de Balmis i Berenguer and his “Balmis Expedition

The examples can continue, but who was the patient on the first Billroth procedure, who was the patient in the first Scopinaro procedure? Who was the patient on whom Dr. Eric Muhe performed the first laparoscopic cholecystectomy? Many are unknown yet they helped pave the way of the future.

The same can be said for the world of human anatomy. Today we honor the donors who will their bodies so that future physicians can study the intricacy of the human body, but we never know their names or their stories. Many a time I have stood at the side of a body while medical students dissect and study and wondered about their identities, the life they had, and what led them to give us their bodies as a wonderful gift to science and medicine.

There was a time (long ago) when the dissection of a human body was punished by the Church, or the times when the scarcity of bodies was such that some started to rob graves, or when the punishment for a crime was “death and a public anatomy”.

Some of these people we know, most of them we do not. Some have given their body willingly, others have not.

Joseph Paul Jernigan, a murderer, who after given the death penalty, donated his body to a now world-renown endeavor, the Visible Human Project.

The oldest known anatomical preparation is a skeleton mounted in Basel (Belgium) by Andreas Vesalius in 1543. The skeleton belongs to Jacob Karrer von Geweiler, a bigamist and attempted murderer who was beheaded for his crimes.

It is sad that we know the names of these criminals, and in some cases not that of their victims.

We do not know the names of many who, during the Nazi regime in WWII, were taken from concentration camps for medical experiments and as we understand, possibly murdered and dissected to illustrate now infamous anatomical atlases. Research is being done to discover their identities.

Times have changed and body donation has become accepted and praised by society. I am always touched by the words of Morgagni above the entrance to the dissection rooms at the University of Cincinnati: “hic locus est ubi mors gaudet succurrere vitae” meaning “in this place death rejoices helping the living”.

I cannot but end this article with the words that are found in the left side column of this blog and will always be there:

“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”.

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”.

Azygos venous system

The azygos venous system drains the posterior aspect of the thorax via the posterior intercostal veins It also connects the vascular territories of the superior vena cava and the  inferior vena cava, and is the superior continuation of the lumbar veins. The azygos system was first described by Bartolomeo Eustachius (c1500 - 1574).

The name azygos comes from the Greek [ζεύγος] and means “unyoked” or better “asymmetrical”. This system is different on each side of the body, also having important anatomical variations.

The azygos vein (Lat: vena azygos major) is the larger vein of the azygos system and is found on the right side of the body. It begins at the level of the first or second lumbar vertebra as a continuation of the right ascending lumbar vein; sometimes by a branch from the right renal vein or from the inferior vena cava. It enters the thoracic cavity through the aortic hiatus of the respiratory diaphragm, and ascends along the right side of the vertebral column to level of the fourth thoracic vertebra, where it arches forward over the root of the right lung, at this point the vein is called the azygos arch, which terminates in the posterior aspect of the superior vena cava (SVC) just superior to the point where the SVC enters the pericardium.

In the thorax, the azygos vein is found to the right of the thoracic duct on the right side of the descending aorta; it lies upon the intercostal arteries and is partly covered by the parietal pleura.

The azygos vein receives the right subcostal vein, nine or ten right posterior intercostal veins, the hemiazygos vein, the accessory hemiazygos vein, the right superior intercostal vein, and several minor esophageal, mediastinal, and pericardial veins.

The left side of this system is more complex and presents with more anatomical variations. Its main component is the hemiazygos vein (Lat: vena azygos minor), also known as the left lower azygos vein. It is a continuation of the left ascending lumbar vein, and it sometimes may arise from the left renal vein and passes into the thorax usually through the left aortic crus of the respiratory diaphragm. It ascends to the level of the 7th or 8th thoracic vertebra where it crosses the midline posterior to the esophagus, descending aorta and thoracic duct to empty into the right-sided azygos vein.  It receives the left subcostal vein and three to four lower posterior intercostal veins, and some esophageal and mediastinal veins.

1. Right brachiocephalic vein 2. Right supreme intercostal vein 3. Superior vena cava 4. Right superior intercostal vein 5. Hemiazygos vein 6. Right subcostal vein 7. Right ascending lumbar vein 8. Left brachiocephalic vein 9. Left internal jugular vein 10. Left supreme intercostal vein 11. Left superior intercostal vein 12. Left posterior intercostal veins 13. Accessory hemiazygos vein 14. Left subcostal vein 15. Left ascending lumbar vein 16. Inferior vena cava
  1. Right brachiocephalic vein
  2. Right supreme intercostal vein
  3. Superior vena cava
  4. Right superior intercostal vein
  5. Hemiazygos vein
  6. Right subcostal vein
  7. Right ascending lumbar vein
  8. Left brachiocephalic vein
  9. Left internal jugular vein
  10. Left supreme intercostal vein
  11. Left superior intercostal vein
  12. Left posterior intercostal veins
  13. Accessory hemiazygos vein
  14. Left subcostal vein
  15. Left ascending lumbar vein
  16. Inferior vena cava
The second component of the left azygos system is the accessory hemiazygos vein, also known as the left upper hemiazygos. This component varies in size depending on the third venous drainage component of the left posterior thoracic wall. This is the left superior intercostal vein (see attached diagram).

The accessory hemiazygos, similar to the hemiazygos vein will cross the midline posterior to the esophagus, descending aorta and thoracic duct to empty into the right-sided azygos vein. It may do so by a common vein or by a separate vein as shown in the attached diagram. If there is a common vein the hemiazygos is considered to be the inferior component and the hemiazygos is considered to be the superior component.

The left superior intercostal vein receives three or four posterior intercostal veins, and empties into the left brachiocephalic vein. In rare cases of absence of the hemiazygos vein, this left superior intercostal vein will extend as low as the fifth or sixth intercostal space.

Although not considered to be part of the azygos system, the drainage of the posterior thoracic wall is completed by the right and left supreme intercostal veins which empty the posterior aspect of the first intercostal space into the left and right brachiocephalic veins respectively.

The azygos system of veins constitute an important collateral venous circulation pathway which can be seen in action in cases of blockage of the superior or inferior vena cavae.
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. "Reconstructive Anatomy: A Method for the Study of Human Structure: Arnold, M WB Saunders1968
Image modified from the original from Arnold (4)

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Marcia Crocker Noyes (1869 - 1946)

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.

Further to my comment on old books and research that started with an interesting bookplate (Ex-Libris). I continued my research and found that the person in charge of the Osler library bookplate was a fascinating individual that today maybe a ghost in the MedChi library and building in Baltimore... This is certainly an article that can be called "A Moment in History"

Marcia Crocker Noyes
Marcia Crocker Noyes

Marcia Crocker Noyes was the librarian at The Maryland State Medical Society from 1896 to 1946 and was a founding member of the Medical Library Association.[1][2][3]

Sir William Osler, MD. a famous Johns Hopkins surgeon was a noted bibliophile and had a large personal collection of books on various topics. When he became the President of MedChi in 1896, he was dismayed at the condition of the library and knew that with the right person and some stewardship, it could become a significant collection. Sir William asked his friend, Dr. Bernard Steiner, a physician and President of the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore for suggestions of a librarian, and Dr. Steiner recommended Marcia Crocker Noyes. A native of New York, and a graduate of Hunter College, Marcia had moved to Baltimore for a lengthy visit with her sister, and took a “temporary” position at the Pratt Library, which turned into three years. Although she had no medical experience or background, she was enthusiastic, and most importantly, she was willing to move into the apartment provided for the librarian, who needed to be available 24 hours a day.

The image in this article is Ms. Noyes on her first year on the job. Marcia developed a book classification system for medical books, based on the Index Medicus, and called it the Classification for Medical Literature. The system uses the alphabet with capital letters for the major divisions of medicine and lower-case ones for the sub-sections. The system was used for many years, but it's now dated and the Faculty's original shelving scheme was never changed. The card catalogs still reflect her classification and many of the cards are written in Marcia's back-slanting handwriting.

Marcia knew enough to ask the Faculty's members about medical questions, terminology and literature. She gradually won over the predominantly male membership and they became her greatest allies; Sir William at the start, and then for nearly 40 years, Dr. John Ruhräh, a wealthy pediatrician with no immediate family of his own. She made a point of attending almost every Faculty function, and in 1904, under guidelines from the American Medical Association, Marcia was made the Faculty Secretary. For much of her first 10 years, she was the Faculty's only full-time employee, only being assisted by Mr. Caution, the Faculty's janitor. Later in life Marcia would say that she hired him because of his name!

Within ten years, the library had outgrown its space, and plans, spearheaded by Marcia and Sir William before his move to Oxford, were made to build a headquarters building, mainly to house the library's growing collection of medical books and journals.

Marcia was instrumental in the design and building of the new headquarters. She travelled to Philadelphia, New York and Boston to look at their medical society buildings, and eventually, the Philadelphia architectural firm, Ellicott & Emmart was selected to design and build the new Faculty building. Every detail of the building held her imprimatur, from the graceful staircase, to the light-filled reading room, and all of the myriad details of the millwork, marble tesserae, and most of all, the four-story cast iron stacks. She was on-site, climbing up unfinished staircases, checking out the progress of the building, which was built in less than one year at a cost of $90,000.

Among the features of the new building was a fourth-floor apartment for her. She referred to it as the "first penthouse in Baltimore" and it had a garden and rooftop terrace. The library collection eventually grew to more than 65,000 volumes from medical and specialty societies around the world. Journals were traded back and forth, and physicians eagerly anticipated the arrival of each new issue. At the same time, Marcia was involved in the Medical Library Association as one of eight founding members. The MLA promotes medical libraries and the exchange of information. One of the earliest mandates of the MLA was the Exchange, a distribution and trade service for those who had duplicates or little-used books in their collections. Initially, the Exchange was run out of the Philadelphia medical society, but in 1900 it was moved to Baltimore and Marcia oversaw it. Several hundred periodicals and journals were received and sent each month, a huge amount of work for a tiny staff. In 1904, the Faculty had run out of room to manage the Exchange, so it was moved to the Medical Society of the Kings County (Brooklyn). But without Marcia's excellent administrative skills, it floundered and in 1908, the MLA asked Marcia to take charge once again.

Marsha C. Noyes writingIn 1909, when the new Faculty building opened, there was enough room to run the Exchange and with the help of MLA Treasurer, noted bibliophile and close friend, Dr. John Ruhräh, it once again became successful. Additionally, Marcia and Dr. Ruhräh combined forces to revive the MLA's bulletin, which had all but ceased publication in 1908, taking the Exchange with it. This duo maintained editorial control from 1911 until 1926. In 1934, around the time of Dr. Ruhräh's death, Marcia became the first “unmedicated” professional to head the MLA. During her tenure, the MLA incorporated, the first seal was adopted, and the annual meeting was held in Baltimore. Marcia wanted to write the history of the MLA once she retired from full-time work at the Faculty, but her health was beginning to fail. She had back problems and had suffered a serious burn on her shoulder as a young woman, possibly from her time running a summer camp, Camp Seyon, for young ladies in the Adirondack Mountains. In 1946, a celebration was planned to honor Marcia's 50 years at the Faculty. But she was adamant that the physicians wait until November, the actual date of her 50 years. However, they knew she was gravely ill, and might not make it until then, so a huge party was held in April. More than 250 physicians attended the celebration, but the ones she was closest to in the early years, were long gone. She was presented with a suitcase, a sum of money to use for travelling, and her favorite painting of Dr. John Philip Smith, a founder of the Medical College in Winchester, Virginia. It was painted by Edward Caledon Smith, a Virginia painter who had been a student of the painter Thomas Sully.[4] She adored this painting and vowed, jokingly, to take it with her wherever she went.

The painting was not to stay with her for very long, for she died in November 1946, and left it to the Faculty in her will. Her funeral was held in the Faculty's Osler Hall, named for her dear friend. More than 60 physicians served as her pallbearers, and she was buried at Baltimore's Green Mount Cemetery. In 1948, the MLA decided to establish an award in the name of Marcia Crocker Noyes. It was for outstanding achievement in medical library field and was to be awarded every two years, or when a truly worthy candidate was submitted. In 2014, the Faculty began giving a bouquet of flowers to the winner of the award in Marcia's name, and in honor of her work. Much evidence exists for this tradition, as we know that the physicians, especially Drs. Osler and Ruhräh, frequently gave her bouquets of flowers. Marcia also cultivated flower gardens at the Faculty and decorated the rooms with her work.

Today, the MedChi building is open for tours and if the rumors are to be believed Ms. Marcia Crocker Noyes is still at work in her beloved library as the "resident ghost" [1][5]

NOTE: This article has been modified from the original Wikipedia article on Marcia Crocker Noyes. The article itself is well-written with interesting images of the subject. I would encourage you to visit it. The second insert is from book ML-0736 in my personal library and shows in pencil, the incredibly small handwriting of Marsha C. Noyes.

1. "Marcia, Marcia, Marcia" MedChi Archives blog.
2. "Marcia C. Noyes, Medical Librarian" (PDF). Bulletin of the Medical Library Association. 35 (1): 108–109. 1947. PMC 194645
3. Smith, Bernie Todd (1974). "Marcia Crocker Noyes, Medical Librarian: The Shaping of a Career" (PDF). Bulletin of the Medical Library Association. 62 (3): 314–324. PMC 198800Freely accessible. PMID 4619344.
4. Edward Caledon BRUCE (1825-1901)"
5. Behind the scenes tour MedChiBuilding

Foundations for the Use of Anatomical Terminology (article in Spanish)

The following article was written by contributor anatomists from Chile. Many of the words and concepts used are specific to Spanish, so we decided to publish the article in its original language. For any comments, please contact the authors or use our Facebook page.

Fundamentos para la utilización de la terminología anatómica

1.    Abstract / Resumen
2.    Introducción
3.    Terminología y Nomenclatura
4.    Antecedentes Históricos
5.    Nomenclaturas Anatómicas
6.    Términos
7.    Consideraciones Finales
8.    Conclusiones
9.    Bibliografía


This revision points to clear the evident problem between anatomy professors, professionals and clinical professors, this is, the existence of inaccurate, complex or unspecific anatomical terms, besides the existence and persistence of eponyms and synonyms, a problem which harms pre-grad students in its initial formative process This Semantic definitions will be given, and the acquisition of new anatomic nomenclatures and terminologies will be situated within an historical context, looking with this, justification to the actual “Anatomical terminology”, which has for objective to displace the old “Nomina Anatomica”. In the final section, anatomical terms examples will be given, contrasting the old term with the one actual anatomical terminology suggests. (Back to top)

Page from Nomina Anatomica. Image courtesy of Prof. Uribe
Page from Nomina Anatomica

Key Words: Anatomical Terminology, Nomenclature Anatomical, Eponym

Esta revisión apunta a dar luz sobre un problema evidente entre docentes de Anatomía Humana, profesionales y docentes clínicos, la existencia de términos anatómicos inexactos, complejos o inespecíficos, además de la existencia de Epónimos y Sinonimia, problema del cual los más perjudicados son los alumnos de pregrado en sus procesos formativos iniciales. Se darán definiciones semánticas y se situará dentro de un contexto histórico la adquisición de nuevas nomenclaturas y terminologías Anatómicas, buscando con esto justificación a la actual “Terminología Anatómica” la cual tiene por objetivo el desplazar la antigua “Nomina Anatómica”.
En la parte final se entregarán ejemplos característicos de términos anatómicos, enfrentando el término antiguo con el que sugiere la actual terminología anatómica. (Back to top)

Palabras Claves: Terminología Anatómica, Nomenclatura Anatómica, Epónimos

La anatomía es la ciencia que se preocupa de estudiar la forma, conformación y las interrelaciones de todas las estructuras corporales. Al estudiarla sentamos las bases para la compresión de un individuo bajo un concepto de normalidad. De aquí la gran importancia de la disciplina, ya que posteriormente con esta importante base de conocimiento se puede comprender y tratar la anormalidad.

Un fenómeno frecuente que subyace a todo tipo de lenguaje es la existencia de varios términos para designar un mismo concepto (sinonimia) y además de la posibilidad de que un mismo término pueda poseer varios significados (polisemia) (1). En el lenguaje científico y médico esto es común, con mayor razón en las ciencias morfológicas y de ellas, la anatomía es particularmente la que en términos prácticos genera la mayor cantidad de controversias y desencuentros, ya que los términos usados en clínica, en referencia a estructuras corporales tienen su origen en la terminología anatómica y son de uso diario.

A la gran cantidad de términos anatómicos existentes se suma las confusiones generadas cuando en algunos países y en otras ocasiones, traductores de escritos anatómicos, le asignan un nombre diferente a cada estructura o elemento. Esto lleva a escuchar habituales quejas de profesionales y alumnos frente a “un término” expresado de diferentes formas, ya sea, por los diferentes profesores de anatomía o por los docentes y ayudantes en el pabellón y laboratorio anatómico. Particularmente, en nuestro medio, esta situación es una constante, ya que debemos responder a dialécticas regionales e internacionales, producto de la literatura que recibimos desde el extranjero.

Con los años esto ha generado un conflicto en el desarrollo científico y divulgación de las ciencias morfológicas, separando progresivamente a los docentes de anatomía con los profesionales clínicos. (14)

En el transcurso de esta revisión se darán definiciones semánticas y se situará dentro del contexto histórico la adquisición de diversas nomenclaturas y terminologías, hasta llegar al último gran esfuerzo por consensuar los términos anatómicos, la “Terminología Anatómica” la cual en la actualidad ha desplazado a la anteriormente llamada “Nómina Anatómica”.

En la última parte se hará referencia a términos de uso habitual, fundamentalmente del aparato musculoesquelético, de mayor uso en el quehacer kinésico, enfrentando el termino antiguo con el que sugiere la actualizada terminología anatómica.
(Back to top)

Terminología y Nomenclatura
La palabra terminología puede entenderse de diferentes maneras: en primer lugar, la terminología es el conjunto de vocabulario especial de una disciplina o un ámbito de conocimiento; en segundo lugar, la terminología puede entenderse como una disciplina, que tiene por objeto la construcción de una teoría de los términos, el estudio de los mismos, su recopilación y sistematización en glosarios especializados como las nomenclaturas. (2-5) (12) (16).
El problema terminológico no es nuevo para anatomía, han transcurrido más de 100 años desde que se inició un proceso que busca la unificación de criterios a nivel internacional (6), que consiste en priorizar un término sobre el resto de los equivalentes, mediante la elección de un término único, como el aceptable para designar un solo concepto, rechazando con esto los anteriores sinónimos. (7)
Con este objetivo surgen las nomenclaturas que son un tipo de terminología aplicada a cosas naturales u objetos que forman series más o menos homogéneas cuyas denominaciones se crean conforme a reglas uniformes. Se crean con el objetivo de reducir al máximo la diversidad terminológica, escogiendo el término que posea mayor fuerza descriptiva, mayor simplicidad y especificidad. (1, 2, 5)
La construcción de estas nomenclaturas médicas, así como de listas de términos y glosarios normativos (aprobados por autoridades científicas oficiales), que aspiran a lograr la uniformidad terminológica en la denominación de conceptos, parten de la idea  que la variación es un perjuicio para la comunicación y de que es imprescindible establecer una terminología única y aceptable para todos los sectores implicados en la comunicación médica, como docentes, investigadores, redactores, traductores, correctores, editores, bibliotecarios y otros. (1, 2,8,9)
Autores, como A. Manuila y diversos expertos de la OMS, consideran que la diversidad deja sumida a la terminología en un estado de “confusión” tal, que se convierte en un obstáculo para el propio “progreso” de la ciencia. Hacen referencia estos autores que un término como mielofibrosis tiene 12 sinónimos en inglés, y el correspondiente en alemán posee 13, y en francés existen 31 términos equivalentes del mismo. Esta situación es calificada por dicho especialista como de “desorden”, en la medida en que es un obstáculo para la comparabilidad de los datos y el almacenamiento y recuperación de la información médica. (9,10).
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Antecedentes Históricos
La evolución sufrida por el lenguaje anatómico es el fiel reflejo de la experiencia histórica de los pueblos y de su desarrollo cultural. Sus cambios semánticos y  ortográficos, metáforas, mezclas lingüísticas, conflictos nacionalistas y personalistas por la primacía en las denominaciones, impropiedades léxicas, paronimias y sinonimias, expresan esta rica diversidad. (8).
Es casi imposible sustraerse de estos puntos. Felipe Mellizo expresa en “Literatura y enfermedad”: El profesor de anatomía nombraba en latín las partes, intrigantes, magníficas, del cuerpo, y eso permitía, eso permite, que todos comprendamos que allí no es sólo anatomía lo que se explica, sino que se está explicando también la historia de la cultura. (8,11)
Como es sabido, durante la Antigüedad y la Baja Edad Media, la lengua de la Anatomía, como de toda la ciencia, era el griego, y en menor medida el latín. A partir del siglo XI, la presencia de los árabes en Europa llevó a la realización de traducciones y adaptaciones al latín de textos árabes que contenían el lenguaje clásico (latín). El desconocimiento de terminología latina obligo a introducir por parte de los traductores, términos árabes. Con la llegada del Renacimiento se llevo a cabo una restitución de los textos griegos y latinos originales, recuperando la terminología (6).
Los descubrimientos anatómicos posteriores, con bases más sujetas a la experimentación y la observación directa, traen como consecuencia la aparición de neologismos, no siempre bien construidos, además de numerosos epónimos (dar nombre a una estructura con el apellido o nombre del descubridor) con las consiguientes pugnas en la autoría de los hallazgos anatómicos. (8)
En este aspecto es sorprendente la riqueza metafórica del léxico anatómico y con una semánticas apegada a la realidad humana y a la vida cotidiana: acetabulum designaba un recipiente para contener vinagre; alveolus viene del latín alveus ‘colmena’; amígdala procede del griego Amygdala ‘almendra’; clítoris era para los griegos una colina o pequeño promontorio; gínglimo procede del griego ginglymós ‘gozne’. Inclusive hay metáforas vegetales, animales, geográficas o domésticas que revelan esta tendencia tan humana expresada en el léxico anatómico, estructuras como “deltoides”, “bipenado”, unipenado” dentro de muchas más. (8).
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Nomenclaturas Anatómicas
Los primeros análisis con respecto a la terminología se inician en 1887 en Leipzig, Alemania, continuándose en el Reino Unido en 1894. Producto de esto y después de siglos de acumulación de términos anatómicos se junta un grupo de anatomistas alemanes (el líder fue Wilhelm His) en Basilea en 1895   dando fruto a la primera Nomenclatura Anatómica Internacional con el nombre de Nomina Anatómica; en inglés suelen referirse a ella como Basle Nomina Anatomica o BNA (Nomenclatura Anatómica [Internacional] de Basilea)(6). Fundamentalmente trata de eliminar diferencias nacionales, en forma honorífica mantiene el nombre de uno o más científicos que hubiesen sido los primeros en describir una estructura. En la práctica, sólo se impuso entre los profesionales de habla alemana y en gran parte de Norteamérica. (6).
Con anterioridad a la II Guerra Mundial, se publicaron de forma casi simultánea una revisión británica (The Birmingham Revision, BR, en 1933) y otra alemana (Jenaer Nomina Anatomica, JNA, en 1935) que vinieron a complicar más aún la situación. De ellas, la que alcanzó más importancia fue la alemana y conocida en inglés como Jena Nomina Anatomica o JNA. (6)
En el V Congreso Federativo Internacional de Anatomía que fue llevado a cabo en Oxford, Inglaterra, en 1950 y en un intento de uniformar la nomenclatura anatómica, la Federación Internacional de Asociaciones de Anatomistas (FIAA) creó un Comité Internacional de Nomenclatura Anatómica que elaboró una nueva nomenclatura latina internacional, aprobada en 1955 con motivo del VI Congreso Federativo Internacional de Anatomía, que se celebró en París, aparece  la Parisiensia Nomina Anatomica o, en inglés, Paris Nomina Anatómica o PNA (Nomenclatura Anatómica [Internacional] de París). De hecho cuando se hace referencia en los textos anatómicos de final del siglo XX a la expresión Nomina Anatómica a secas, casi siempre hace referencia a esta Nomenclatura Anatómica de París. En los congresos mundiales anatómicos de Nueva York (1960), Wiesbaden (1965), Tokio (1975) y México (1980) se efectuaron revisiones y nuevas ediciones a la nómina. Lamentablemente las referencias para estas revisiones son muy confusas ya que por ejemplo tras el congreso de Tokio, algunos autores de lengua inglesa hablaban de Nomina Anatomica 4th edition  (o Paris Nomina Anatomica 4th edition), mientras que otros preferían hablar de Tokyo Nomina Anatomica. Y eso sin tener en cuenta las comunes confusiones con nuevas ediciones de reimpresiones en los diferentes países. Una disputa en 1985 entre la FIAA y el Comité Internacional de Nomenclatura Anatómica terminó con la ruptura de relaciones entre ambos organismos en 1989, cuando el Comité publicó la sexta edición de los Nomina Anatómica sin someterla a la aprobación del XIII Congreso Federativo Internacional de Anatomía celebrado en Río de Janeiro. En agosto de 1989, la FIAA decidió crear un nuevo Comité Federal de Terminología Anatómica con el encargo de elaborar una nueva nomenclatura anatómica internacional. En Lisboa 1994 se incorpora el idioma ingles como valido dentro de la terminología. Tras varias reuniones, el nuevo Comité publicó en 1998 la nueva Terminología Anatómica (Terminología Anatómica Internacional), que hoy ha sustituido a la Nomina Anatómica como nomenclatura anatómica oficial en todo el mundo. (6)
En la actualidad existe el Comité Internacional Mundial que revisa la Terminología en Histología y Embriología, además de la terminología Veterinaria.
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Con el interés de ejemplificar los cambios generados por la Terminología Anatómica, haremos referencia  a términos de uso común en la jerga anatómica y clínica los cuales deberían según la terminología anatómica ser sustituidos:

Anatomía General

Partes del cuerpo

Extremidad superior                  cambiar por                   Miembro superior
Extremidad inferior                    cambiar por                   Miembro inferior
Cintura escapular                     cambiar por                   Cintura o Cíngulo Pectoral

Términos descriptivos

Borde externo                           cambiar por                   Borde o Margen lateral
Borde interno                           
cambiar por                   Borde o Margen medial

Sistema esquelético

Apófisis                                    cambiar por                   Proceso
Escotadura                               cambiar por                   Incisura
Maxilar superior                        cambiar por                   Maxila - Maxilar
Maxilar inferior                          cambiar por                    Mandíbula
Agujero                                   cambiar por                   Agujero o Foramen
Omoplato                                cambiar por                   Escápula
Cubito                                     cambiar por                   Úlna
Peroné                                    cambiar por                   Fibula
Rotula                                     cambiar por                   Patela
Astrágalo                                cambiar por                   Talo
Escafoides Tarsiano                  cambiar por                   Navicular
Articulación tipo Diartrosis         cambiar por                   Art. Sinovial o Diartrosis
Articulación tipo Trocoide          cambiar por                   Articulación Pivote
Articulación tipo Ginglimo          cambiar por                   Articulación Bisagra
Articulación tipo Enartrosis        cambiar por                   Art. Enartrosis o Esferoidea
Articulación tipo artrodias          cambiar por                   Articulación plana


Cubital Anterior                         cambiar por                   Flexor Ulnar del Carpo
1er Radial                                 cambiar por                  Extensor Radial largo del Carpo
Supinador Largo                        cambiar por                   Braquiorradial
Extensor común de los dedos    cambiar por                   Extensor de los dedos
Recto interno                            cambiar por                   Grácil


Órgano de Corti                        cambiar por                   Órgano espiral
Articulación de Chopart             cambiar por                   Art. transversa del tarso
Ligamento de Bertin                  cambiar por                   Ligamento Iliofemoral
Fondo de Douglas                     cambiar por                  Excavación rectouterina o rectovesical
Nódulo de Aschoff-Tawara         cambiar por                   Nodo atrioventricular
Nódulo de Keith-Flack               cambiar por                    Nodo sinoatrial
Trompa de Falopio                    cambiar por                   Tuba uterina
Trompa de Eustaquio                cambiar por                   Tuba auditiva
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Consideraciones Finales
Hay que estar consciente de que, en países como Francia y España, países de los cuales recibimos mucha bibliografía clínica la nomenclatura anatómica internacional no ha conseguido desplazar aún a la nomenclatura anatómica tradicional.  Así, por ejemplo, el término internacional fibula para los españoles, sigue siendo ‘peroné’; El músculo Braquiorradial (musculus brachioradialis del latín) es ‘músculo supinador largo’; la arteria Carótida Común (arteria carotis communis) es ‘arteria carótida primitiva’; líquido cerebro espinal (liquor cerebrospinalis) es ‘líquido cefalorraquídeo’; Nervio fibular común (nervus fibularis communis) es ‘nervio ciático poplíteo externo’ y Linfonodos (nodus lymphaticus) es ‘ganglio linfático’. (8)
Es loable el esfuerzo que se hace a favor de una terminología universal, es el caso reciente de la cumbre de Terminología en el año 2002 en la que representantes de instituciones, organismos y redes de terminología de distinta índole, dieron fruto a la declaración de Bruselas, solicitando a los estados y organismos internacionales que en el marco de su política lingüística apoyen la creación de estructuras básicas de terminología, promuevan el desarrollo y la actualización de los recursos terminológicos, así como el acceso gratuito a las terminologías y en particular a aquella utilizada en los documentos oficiales de los gobiernos e instituciones internacionales. Si bien esto esta enfocado a políticas gubernamentales y de las tecnologías de la información se observa la tendencia actual a los consensos lingüísticos. En efecto, el conocimiento y empleo de las terminologías científicas tiene un impacto importante y creciente en el mundo globalizado, en el que las comunicaciones entre especialistas y usuarios procedentes de comunidades lingüísticas diversas se han vuelto una necesidad imperiosa. (13,15)
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Así a 110 años de esfuerzo por unificar internacionalmente los términos usados en Anatomía exhortamos a alumnos, docentes y clínicos a usar la Terminología Anatómica, con lo que evitaríamos, ese estado de “confusión”, que se convierte en un obstáculo para el progreso de la ciencia.
El estudio de los procesos y antecedentes históricos nos aportan datos valiosos; una estructura habla de sí misma producto de su historia terminológica. Ortega y Gasset consideraban a las palabras como “algos humanos vivientes”, de ahí que afirmara que “cada palabra reclama una biografía”.
En una sociedad como la nuestra, que no siempre es capaz de reconocer que la investigación humanística exige el mismo rigor y profesionalidad que la investigación científica, hay que valorar los esfuerzos tendientes a consensuar las dos disciplinas y pensando siempre en el fortalecimiento de la Anatomía como ciencia fundamental y pilar del conocimiento de los profesionales de ciencias biomédicas.
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(1) Díaz Rojo, J. La terminología médica: diversidad, norma y uso. Panace. 2001; vol. 2 (4):40-48.
(2) Cabré, M. T. La terminología. Teoría, metodología y aplicaciones. Barcelona: Editorial Antárdia/Empúries; 1993.
(3) Cabré, M.T. Elementos para una teoría de la terminología: hacia un paradigma alternativo. El Lenguaraz Revista académica del Colegio de Traductores Públicos de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires. 1998; vol 1 (1):59-78
(4) Cabré, M.T. Hacia una teoría comunicativa de la terminología: Aspectos metodológicos. La terminología representación y comunicación. Barcelona: IULA; 1999.p. 129-150
(5) Cabré, M.T. La terminología, una disciplina en evolución: pasado y algunos elementos de futuro. Debate Terminológico. 2008. Disponible en:
(6) FEDERATIVE COMMITTEE ON ANATOMICAL TERMINOLOGY. (FCAT). Terminología anatómica. Stuttgart, Georg Thieme Verlag; 1998.
(7) Wüster E. Introducción a la teoría de la terminología y a la lexicografía terminológica. Barcelona: IULA; 1998.
(8) Díaz Rojo, J., Juan José Barcia Goyanes (1901-2003), estudioso de la historia del lenguaje anatómico. Panace. 2003; Vol.4 , Nº (13–14).
(9) Manuila A.  Progress in Medical Terminology. Basilea: Karger; 1981.
(10) Stewart WH. Towards uniformity in medical nomenclature. Statement by Surgeon General of the United States to WHO in May 1966. En: Manuila A. Progress in Medical Terminology. Basilea: Karger, 1981.
(11) Mellizo F., Literatura y enfermedad. Barcelona: Plaza y Janés; 1979.
(12) Temmerman, R. Towards new ways of terminology description: the socio-cognitive approach. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins; 2000.
(13) Schnell B., Rodriguez N., La terminología: nuevas perspectivas y futuros horizontes. ACTA. 2008. Disponible en:  
(14) Whitmore I. Terminologia Anatomica: new terminology for the new anatomist. Anat Rec (New Anat.) 1999; 257: 50-53.
(15) Rosse C, Terminologia Anatomica; Considered from the Perspective of Next-Generation Knowledge Sources. Clin Anat. 2001;14(2):120-33
(16) Weissenhofer, P. Conceptology in Terminology Theory, Semantics and Word Formation. Viena: TermNet.,1995.
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La imagen en este articulo es una página selecionada de la Terminologia Anatomica ilustrando la organización jerárquica que tiene el libro. Nótese la columna izquierda que indica el código de cada estructura.

Se agradece la exhaustiva revisión, comentarios y aportes del Profesor Dr. Alberto Rodríguez Torres, de la Facultad de Medicina de la Universidad de Chile.

Cristián Uribe Vásquez
Kinesiólogo, Magíster en Ciencias Anatomía Humana
Docente, Universidad Andrés Bello – Chile

Rodolfo Sanzana Cuche
Kinesiólogo,  Magíster Morfología Humana
Docente, Universidad de Chile

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UPDATED: The root term [-zyg-] originates from the Greek [ζεύγος] meaning "a pair", as in a yoke. Applications of this root term include:

• Azygos: The prefix [a-] means "no", "not", or "without". Not paired or unyoked. The azygos system of veins, found in the posterior aspect of the mediastinum, is not symmetrical. It is therefore "unpaired". It is composed of dissimilar contralateral components which include the azygos vein on the right side, and the hemiazygos and accessory hemiazygos on the left side.
Hemiazygos: The prefix [-hemi-] means "half". Half unpaired or unyoked. Refers to the contralateral component of the azygos system of veins.
Zygapophysis: Click on the link for more information. Paired (bilateral) bony articular protrusions in the posterior aspect of the vertebrae

Important note to medical writers: The word is "azygos", not "azygous"

Note: The links to Google Translate in these articles include an icon that will allow you to hear the Greek or Latin pronunciation of the word.

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