Medical Terminology Daily (MTD) is a blog sponsored by Clinical Anatomy Associates, Inc. as a service to the medical community, medical students, and the medical industry. We will post a workweek daily medical or surgical term, its 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

Giovanni Batista Morgagni
Original image courtesy of National Institutes of Health

Giovanni Battista Morgagni

(1682 - 1771)

Italian anatomist, physician, and pathologist, Morgagni was born in the city of Forli. He started his medical studies at the University of Bologna, graduating in 1701 with a degree in Medicine and Philosophy. In 1712 he became a professor of anatomy at the University of Padua, Italy, 175 years after Andreas Vesalius. Morgagni was offered and accepted the Chair of Anatomy in 1715 at the University of Padua. Although Morgagni held a position at the anatomy department of the University of Padua, his name is associated mostly with his pathological studies.

Morgagni was interested in the works of Theophile Boneti (1620 - 1689), who started analyzing the correlation between post-mortem anatomical findings and diseases. He tried to establish a relation between the disease and the cause of death. In 1761 Morgagni published his most influential work "De Sedibus et Causis Morburum Per Anatomen Indagatis"  (On the Sites and Causes of Diseases, Investigated by Dissection). His work was essential for pathological anatomy to be recognized as a science in itself.

Morgagni was elected to become a member of several Academies of Science and Surgery: The Royal Society of London, The Academy of Science in Paris, The Berlin Academy of Science, and the Imperial Academy of Saint Petersburg in Russia. He is remembered today by several eponyms in anatomy and pathology:

• Morgagni's caruncle or lobe, referring to the miidle lobe of the prostate
• Morgagni's columns: the anal (or anorectal) colums
• Morgagni's concha, referring to the superior nasal concha
• Morgagni's foramina: two hiatuses in the respiratory diaphragm allowing for passage of the superior epigastric vessels
 Morgagni's hernia: an hiatal hernia through Morgagni's foramen, in the respiratory diaphragm
• Morgagni's ventricle: an internal pouch or dilation between the true and false vocal cords in the larynx
• Morgagni's nodules: the nodules at the point of coaptation of the leaflets (cusps) of the pulmonary valve. Erroneously called the "nodules of Arantius", which are only found in the aortic valve

1. "A Note From History:The First Printed Case Reports of Cancer" Hadju, S.I. Cancer 2010;116:2493–8
2. "Giovanni Battista Morgagni" Klotz, O. Can Med Assoc J 1932 27:3 298-303
3. "Morgagni (1682 -1771)" JAMA 1964 187:12 948-950

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Anatomical variations (1)

"The only constant in anatomy is variation". This dictum is incredibly powerful and true. Even the so-called "anatomical constants" are subject to it.

One common misconception is that "we are all the same". This could not be further from the truth. Every body is different from every else's body. Anatomical variations range from the minimal to the incredible. One of the most interesting anatomical variations is the one called "situs inversus". In this case the individual is a mirror image of a human. The apex of the heart points to the right side of the body; the duodenum circles to the right, the liver "hangs" from the left side of the respiratory diaphragm, etc. This particular anatomical variation presents in different degrees and can sometimes coexist with some cardiovascular congenital abnormalities.

Third supernumerary kidney. (modified from Dixon, 1911
Of course there are minor anatomical variations that have no effect on daily life at all and are only discovered by accident, or upon autopsy or dissection. One of the most complete resources on this topic is the Illustrated Encyclopedia of Human Anatomic Variations. An excerpt from this site states: "It is clear that textbook writers and teachers over the centuries, even until today, fail to understand or to transmit to their students the crucial concept that anatomical and physiological diversity and variation is a canon of living organisms. This failure leads to the belief that textbooks are conveying immutable facts with only few anomalous exceptions".

Shown here is an extremely rare case of a third kidney. Dixon (1911) describes in his research paper that as of that date, only 10 cases were known, of these only eight were recorded, with 87% of them found on the left side of the body. Click on the image for a larger depiction.

Source and primary image: "Supernumerary kidney: The occurrence of three kidneys in an adult male subject" Dixon, A.F. J. Anat. Physiol. 45:117-121, 1911.