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 mediastinum is the median region of the thorax, usually described as the "space"1 between the lungs. This region is divided into a superior and inferior mediastinum by a plane that pases through the sternal angle or Angle of Louis.

The inferior mediastinum is itself divided into three separate regions by the pericardial sac. The region anterior to the pericardial sac is the "anterior mediastinum", the region posterior to the pericardial sac is the "posterior mediastinum", and the region containing and including the pericardial sac is the "middle mediastinum". Thus described the mediastinum comprises four regions as follows:

Superior mediastinum:  It contains the aortic arch, the brachiocephalic trunk, the thoracic segments of the left common carotid and the left subclavian arteries, the brachiocephalic veins, a portion of the superior vena cava, the vagus nerve, phrenic nerve, and left recurrent laryngeal nerve, trachea, esophagus, thoracic duct and the remains of the thymus gland

Anterior mediastinum: A narrow space, more developed on the left side, anterior to the pericardial sac and contains some lymph nodes and connective tissue

Middle mediastinum: The largest mediastinal region, it contains the pericardial sac, the heart, the bifurcation of the trachea, the inferior vena cava, and the cardiac end of the great vessels

Mediastinum (www.en.wikipedia.org)

Images courtesy of Wikipedia.org

• Posterior mediastinum: Contains the descending aorta, the azygos and hemiazygos veins, the esophagus, and thoracic duct.

1. Personally, I do not use the description of the mediastinum as a "the space beween the lungs", as it conjures the image of literal "open spaces" around or between the organs. The fact is that the mediastinum is tightly packed with no spaces between the organs. This is why I prefer the definition of the mediastinum as an "area" or "region" between the lungs. Dr. Miranda.