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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

Antoine Louis
(1723–1792)

French surgeon, anatomist, and physiologist. Following his medical studies and a long career as a physiologist, Antoine Louis was named Permanent Secretary of the Royal French Academy of Surgery. His other titles were those of Professor of the Royal Academy, Consultant Surgeon of the Armies of the King, member of the Royal Society of Sciences of Montpellier, Inspector of the Royal Military Hospitals, and Doctor in Law of the University of Paris. As a member of these academies Louis was instrumental in the design and construction of the guillotine. Initially called the "Louisette", this device was later named after another French physician in the same committee, Dr. Joseph-Ignace Guillotin.

Antoine Louis' name is better know to history as the eponymic origin of the "sternal angle" also know as the "Angle of Louis" and synonymously (probably by misspelling or translation) the "angle of Lewis", and "angle of Ludwig". This anatomical landmark is extremely important as it serves as a superficial landmark for important anatomical occurrences (click here).

As a point of controversy, there are some that contest the history of this eponym adjudicating it to Pierre Charles Alexander Louis (1787-1872), another French physician dedicated to the study of tuberculosis.

Sources:
1. Srickland, N; Strickland A Angle of Louis, More Than Meets the Eye. MedTalks:
2. Ramana, R. K., Sanagala, T. and Lichtenberg, R. (2006), A New Angle on the Angle of Louis. Congestive Heart Failure, 12: 197–199
3
. "The origin of Medical Terms" Skinner, HA; 1970


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How to read medical terms

Medical Terms Animated2

Although this article is called “How to Read Medical Terms”, a better title would have been “How to Translate Medical Words” because that is what we do, we translate terms which have multiple linguistic origins to vernacular English.

Medical words are not read as we normally read English, from left to right. Rather, they are read in an order related to their components, prefixes, root terms, suffixes, and combining vowels.

Let’s take as an example the word [preperitoneal], where the prefix is [pre-], the root term is [-periton-] and the suffix is [-eal].  Read in normal left to right English the word would translate as “anterior (aspect of) peritoneum pertaining to”, which does not sound correct.

The proper way is to read the suffix first, the prefix second, and the root term last. Thus, this translation would read as “pertaining to (the) anterior (aspect of) the peritoneum”. There are exceptions of course, but the rule presented here applies to most medical words.

In the absence of the prefix, the word is translated suffix first and root term second.

When a word contains combined root terms they are read in the way they are written, from left to right, as they will have already been placed in a proximal to distal relationship, otherwise the word would be wrongly constructed.

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.

Image property of: CAA.Inc.