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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

Thomas Willis, MD
Thomas Willis
(1621-1675)

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.

Sources:

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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Triangle of "doom"

The so-called "Triangle of doom" is a misnomer perpetuated by the first laparoscopic surgeons who observed the anatomy of the inguinofemoral region from the posterior aspect. It is neither a triangle (as it only has two boundaries), nor is it an eponym (no such person). It does indicate an area where it is extremely dangerous to place staples or sutures during laparoscopic hernia surgery.

The "triangle of doom" is an inverted "V" shaped area with its apex at the internal (deep) inguinal ring. The "triangle of doom" is bound laterally by the gonadal vessels, and medially by the vas deferens in the male, or the round ligament of the uterus in the female. Within the boundaries of this area you can find the external iliac artery and vein. To see the "triangle of doom" hover your cursor over the image.

It should be pointed out that although the "triangle of doom" landmark does protect the surgeon from damaging the external iliac vessels, a portion of these vessels lie outside of this area. In fact, there are several other areas of concern for neurovascular damage when performing a laparoscopic herniorrhaphy.

The image also depicts other structures of anatomical importance for laparoscopic herniorrhaphy:

Arcuate line (b)
Hesselbach's triangle (in yellow)
Aberrant obturator artery (Corona Mortis) (a)
• Inferior (deep) epigastric artery (c)

Image property of:CAA.Inc.Artist:M. Zuptich.


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.