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

Johann Gottfried Zinn

Johann Gottfried Zinn

Anatomist and botanist, Johann Gottfried Zinn was born on December 6, 1727 in the city of Ansbach, Germany. He started his medical studies in his native city, becoming later a student of Dr.  Albrecht von Hallers at the University of Göttingen, and received his MD in 1749.

He left for Berlin to continue his studies but came back shortly thereafter. He became a professor of anatomy at the University of Göttingen and in 1753 he also became the director of the botanical garden in the same city.

He is known for his anatomical treatise on the anatomy of the human eye: “Descriptio anatomica oculi humani iconibus illustrata”. Because of this, his name has become an eponym in the “Zonule of Zinn”, a ring of strands that forms a fibrous band connecting the ciliary body with the capsule of the lens of the eye. Zonule of Zinn is sometimes referred to as the suspensory ligaments of the lens, or the “ligament of Zinn”. His name is also attached to the anular ring tendon found in the posterior aspect of the eye, the "anular tendon of Zinn". This ring serves as attachment for all the extraocular muscles of the eye and the optic nerve passes through the center of the ring.

Carol Linné (Carolus Linneaus) named a genus of flowers in the family Asteraceae known vernacularly today as “Zinnia” in his honor. Hover your cursor over his portrait to see the flower.

The chapter on orbital anatomy of his anatomy book, taken from the second edition in 1780, has been translated and the first of three parts is published in an issue of “Strabismus”

His book "Catalogus Plantarum Horti Academici Et Agri" can be seen online here.

His life was short, dying at the early age of 32, but his name lives on in the name of a beautiful flower.

1. “Johann Gottfried Zinn" Simonz, HJ Strabismus – 2004, Vol. 12, No. 2, p. 125 
2. "Anatomical Description of the Human Eye" Zinn, JG Strabismus, 13:45–52, 2005 
Images: Public Domain by Wikipedia Commons. 1. Own work I_am Jin, and H. Wilhem Dietz

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Combining root terms

Most medical words have only one root term and do not require combination as in the word [colectomy]. The situation arises when there is more than one organ or structure that is influenced by the suffix and the prefix (when present), such as [coloproctectomy]. Following are the basic rules for root terms combination:

  1. - Place an [-o-] between the root terms being combined. The combining vowel  [o] means "and". The word [gastroenterology] means "study of the stomach and the small intestine"
  2. - Organize the root terms using their proximal to distal relationship. For a better explanation, click here
  3. - If the first root term ends in a vowel, the combining vowel [-o-] is not needed. An example are the root terms [-chole-], meaning "bile or gall". and [cyst], meaning "bladder or sac". The word [chole-cyst-ectomy] does not have an [-o-] between the root terms
  4. - If the proximal to distal relationship does not apply, then the words should be ordered in a way that is euphonic
  5. - The only time a hyphen should be used is the rare case when using an [o] is not possible. Based on this rule, the word [salpingooophorectomy] is correct, the word [salpingo-oophorectomy] is not. An example of this is the word [cross-section].

An example of rule #5 is the word co-author. Since adding an [o] as a combining vowel would give us the word cooauthor (which is not correct), a hyphen must be used.

In the case of the word [coloproctectomy] the word can be divided into these components" The first root term [-col-], meaning "colon", the combining vowel [-o-], meaning "and", the second root term [-proct-], meaning "rectum", and the suffix [-ectomy], meaning "removal of". Properly read, the word means "removal of colon and rectum]. The proper term is [coloproctectomy], please do not use the terms [proctocolectomy] or worse, [protocolectomy], because they are incorrect usage of medical terminology.

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

There are more nuances to Medical Terminology, but they go beyond the objectives of "Medical Terminology Daily". For a complete course on Medical Terminology for your company, contact CAA, Inc.

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