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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

Antoine Louis
(1723–1792)

French surgeon, anatomist, and physiologist. Following his medical studies and a long career as a physiologist, Antoine Louis was named Permanent Secretary of the Royal French Academy of Surgery. His other titles were those of Professor of the Royal Academy, Consultant Surgeon of the Armies of the King, member of the Royal Society of Sciences of Montpellier, Inspector of the Royal Military Hospitals, and Doctor in Law of the University of Paris. As a member of these academies Louis was instrumental in the design and construction of the guillotine. Initially called the "Louisette", this device was later named after another French physician in the same committee, Dr. Joseph-Ignace Guillotin.

Antoine Louis' name is better know to history as the eponymic origin of the "sternal angle" also know as the "Angle of Louis" and synonymously (probably by misspelling or translation) the "angle of Lewis", and "angle of Ludwig". This anatomical landmark is extremely important as it serves as a superficial landmark for important anatomical occurrences (click here).

As a point of controversy, there are some that contest the history of this eponym adjudicating it to Pierre Charles Alexander Louis (1787-1872), another French physician dedicated to the study of tuberculosis.

Sources:
1. Srickland, N; Strickland A Angle of Louis, More Than Meets the Eye. MedTalks:
2. Ramana, R. K., Sanagala, T. and Lichtenberg, R. (2006), A New Angle on the Angle of Louis. Congestive Heart Failure, 12: 197–199
3
. "The origin of Medical Terms" Skinner, HA; 1970


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Root term

All words have a foundation, called a root or a root term. The root is the minimal expression of a word that conveys a specific meaning. The word [hepa] does not mean liver, but the root term [-hepat-] does. There are some root words that have two presentations, like [-card-] and [-cord-], both meaning "heart", and even three presentations such as [-uter-], [-metr-], and [-hyster-], all of them meaning "uterus". All these following words have root terms meaning "uterus": periuterine, endometrium, and hysterectomy.

As an example, all the following medical terms: [pneumonectomy], [pneumonia], [pneumonitis], [pneumogastric], [pneumobacillus], and [pneumothorax] have the same common root term [-pneumon-], from the Greek [πνεύμονας], meaning "lung".

In medicine, surgery, and human anatomy there are several cases where there is more than one root term for the same organ. The terms [lienectomy] and [splenectomy] both mean "removal of the spleen", as the root terms [-lien-] and [-splen-] both mean "spleen". The same is the case in the following pairs: [-nephr-] and [-ren-], meaning "kidney"; [-cyst-] and [-vesic-], meaning "bladder";  [-pneumon-] and [-pulmon-], meaning "lung"; etc.

Root terms can also be combined to form complex medical terms, such as [gastroenterology], [leiomyomata], [cholecystectomy], [dacryocystolithectomy], [nephroureterocystourethrectomy], etc. To do this there are specific rules for combination.

For information on how to read medical words, click here.

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