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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(UPDATED) The term [ventral] arises from the Latin word [venter] and the root term [ventr-] meaning "belly" or "sac". The adjective [ventral] means "towards the front" , or "towards the belly side of the body". The term ventral therefore means "abdomen".

Many use the term [ventral] synonymously with "anterior"; although this is technically correct, the proper term to use when referring to the patient in the anatomical position should be "anterior". In embryology, since the embryo is curved, most of the anterior aspect of the embryo looks towards the abdomen, ergo ventral.

A ventral hernia is any herniation that occurs in the anterior aspect of the abdomen, including Spigelian hernias, omphaloceles, etc.

Other terms that arise from the same root term are [ventricle], meaning "little belly", or "little sac", and [ventricular], meaning "pertaining to a ventricle".

Lateral view - Human fetus 60 days (www.bartleby.com)
Note: A comment from my friend Dr. Elizabeth Murray

"My understanding of "anterior" means "in the direction of movement" for any given organism (and "posterior" means opposite the direction of movement for an organism). Thus, ventral does not ever change for any creature (vertebrate or even invertebrate), as it refers to a body part/surface.  But when considering two-legged and four-legged (or finned) creatures, you see the differences:  Ventral = anterior in us, but in a dog or fish ventral = inferior.

Ventral/dorsal refer to belly/back in any organism, and cranial/caudal refer to head-end and tail-end in any organism -- those four terms refer to body parts.  However, anterior/posterior refer to the way an organism moves in space, and superior/inferior refer to an organism's relationship to the earth/pull of gravity."

An interesting side note: The word [ventriloquist] arises from the root term [-ventri-] from the Latin [venter] and the suffix [-loquist], from the Latin [loquos] and [locutus], meaning "to speak", or "someone who speaks". The term [ventriloquist] means then "someone who speaks from the abdomen (or stomach)". We now know that this is not so, but that is what most people thought a ventriloquist does!

Images courtesy of www.bartleby.comClick on the image for a larger version. 

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