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

Thomas Willis, MD
Thomas Willis

An English physician and anatomist, Willis was born on his parents' farm in Great Bedwyn, Wiltshire, where his father held the stewardship of the Manor. He was a kinsman of the Willys baronets of Fen Ditton, Cambridgeshire. He graduated M.A. from Christ Church, Oxford in 1642. In the Civil War years he was a royalist, and was dispossessed of the family farm at North Hinksey by Parliamentary forces. In the 1640's Willis was one of the royal physicians to Charles I of England. He obtained his medical degree in 1646.

Thomas Willis might well be one of the greatest physicians of the 17th century.He is one of the founders of the Royal Society of London. He is remembered by his many publications, especially "Cerebri Anatome: Cui accessit Nervorum Descriptio et Usu", where he describes the arterial anastomoses at the base of the brain. This work is also the first detailed description of the vasculature of the brain. Willis described nine cranial nerves.

He is considered as the father of Neurology as a discipline. He used the term "neurology" for the first time in 1664. He described several neurological conditions

The Arterial Circle of Willis is a famous eponymous structure found at the base of the brain. It represents an anastomotic roundabout that connects the right and left sides as well as the carotid and vertebral arterial territories that supply the brain. Named after Thomas Willis, this structure was known well before him, but it was Willis who described its function.  If you click on the image or here, you will be redirected to a detailed description of this structure.


1. "The legendary contributions of Thomas Willis (1621-1675): the arterial circle and beyond" Rengachary SS et al J Neurosurg. 2008 Oct;109(4):765-75
2. "Thomas Willis, a pioneer in translational research in anatomy (on the 350th anniversary of Cerebri anatome)" Arraez-AybarJournal of Anatomy, 03/2015, Volume 226, Issue 3
3. " The naming of the cranial nerves: A historical review" Davis, M Clinical Anatomy, 01/2014, Volume 27, Issue 1
4. "Observations on the history of the circle of Willis". Meyer A, Hieros, R.Med Hist 6:119–130, 1962

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Myopectineal orifice

The term [myopectineal orifice] was coined originally by Dr. Henri Fruchaud, and refers to  a "distinct area of weakness in the pelvic region". The term [myopectineal] arises from two root terms which are combined. The root term [-my-] means "muscle" and the  term [-pect-] means "comb"or "pectinate". The word [pectineal] in this case refers to the pelvic bone area of origin of the pectinate muscle of the thigh.

Fruchaud postulated that the anterior abdominal wall has an area that is inherently weak, and that this area is genetically determined. As such, hernias are part of human nature, or as he stated, "a healthy man is, unknown to himself, a hernia bearer".  

The myopectineal orifice, or MPO, is bound superiorly by the arching fibers of the transversus abdominis and internal oblique muscles, and inferiorly by the pectineal line. 

Myopectineal orifice of Fruchaud
The MPO is then composed by two regions separated by the inguinal ligament; the suprainguinal region, marked by one asterisk and site for direct and indirect inguinal hernias, and a small subsegment of the subinguinal region, (marked by two asterisks), site for femoral hernias.

In the accompanying sketch, the subinguinal region looks large, but this area is closed off by muscles, arteries, veins, and nerves, leaving only a small area of weakness (the femoral ring) where femoral hernias can arise.

Fruchaud advanced the separate concepts of inguinal hernias and femoral hernias and provided a new (for the time) concept of the repair of these hernias. Today, with laparoscopic herniorrhaphy, a surgeon attempts to repair the weak MPO instead of only the herniated locus.

Image property of:CAA.Inc.Artist:David M. Klein

Clinical anatomy of the inguinofemoral hernias, as well as abdominal and perineal hernias are some of the lecture topics developed and delivered to the medical devices industry by Clinical Anatomy Associates, Inc.