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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

Dr. Thomas Dent Mütter
Dr. Thomas Dent Mütter (1811-1859)

Dr. Thomas Dent Mütter

(1811-1859)

Thomas Dent Mutter was born on March 9, 1811, in Richmond, VA. His mother died in 1813, and his father died of tuberculosis in 1817. Thomas was orphaned when he was barely 8 years old. His father left him a somewhat meager inheritance and in his early life had to do with less that others with his objectives in life. He was well educated under the tutelage of Robert Carter, his guardian, and in 1824 he started his studies at the Hampden Sidney College of Virginia. He continued with a medical apprenticeship with a Dr. Simms in VA. He was well respected and even at his early age he would do home visits for his medical benefactor with great results. He started medical studies at the University of Pennsylvania, where he earned his MD in 1831. The new young doctor, Thomas Dent Mutter, MD was only 20 years of age.

At the time, Europe was the place to go to if you wanted advanced medical studies. Dr. Mutter had no money, so he applied as a ship surgeon to be able to cross the Atlantic. Once in Europe, he spent time in Paris, where he studied under the tutelage of Dr. Guillaume Dupuytren. He later studied for a short time in England where he met Dr. Robert Liston. Following Dupuytren's teachings, Mutter was fascinated by plastic surgery.

A chance encounter with what was to become his first well-known acquisition of a medical curiosity, Mutter started thinking on how to help those people that were known at that time as “monsters”, patients who the general public did not see, because they did not appear in public. The curiosity in question was a wax reproduction of the face of a French woman who had a “horn” arising from her forehead. This piece is on exhibit at the Mütter Museum.

Back in the United States in 1832, Thomas Dent Mutter changed his last name to give it a more “European” sound and added an “umlaut”, so now he was Thomas D. Mütter, MD. It may also be that he wanted to pay homage to his Scottish-German heritage, who knows? He opened his medical office in Philadelphia and although it took time, eventually he had a thriving practice. One of his specialties was the work on “deformities” so common at the time because of facial scars born out of the use of open fires in houses, and deformities caused by burns and loss of tissue due to chemicals used in local industry. Dr. Mütter is the pioneer of what we call today “Reconstructive Surgery”.

In 1835 he was asked to join the Medical Institute of Philadelphia as an assistant professor of Surgery. He was an instant success. Dr. Mütter was adored by his students because, he would question the students and guide them to discovery instead of just lecturing and leaving. In his Discourse eulogy of Dr. Mütter by Joseph Pancoast he writes:” The power of attracting students near him by his mingled gentleness, energy, and enthusiasm; of fixing their attention by the lucid and methodical arrangements of his Subject, by his clear demonstrations, and sprightly oral elucidations, came so readily to him, and was so early displayed) as to seem almost intuitive.” In 1841 Dr Mütter was appointed Professor of Surgery at the Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia.

Dr. Mütter had always had poor health, even in childhood, and his dedication to his passion, long hours, took its toll on his body. In 1956 he set sail for Europe and resigned his teaching duties. He was named Emeritus Professor of Surgery. Unfortunately, the trip did not help, and he returned to the US in early 1958. Fearful of another winter in cold Philadelphia, he moved to Charleston, SC, where he died on March 19, 1859.

Dr. Mütter’s story does not end here. He was an avid collector and throughout his short life he had pulled together an impressive collection of medical oddities, samples, and curiosities. Knowing that his life was at an end, he negotiated with the Philadelphia College of Physicians to have them host his collection in perpetuity as well as the creation of a trust fund that would ensure that the public and medical students would have access to this incredible collection. Through the years this collection has increased and is known today as the Mütter Museum of the Philadelphia College of Physicians. I strongly urge our readers to visit this incredible museum. For more information, click here.

Personal notes: In the late 90’s, I attended a meeting of the American Association of Clinical Anatomists.  During the meeting I met Gretchen Worden, who at the time was the Curator of the Mütter museum. Gretchen was inspirational, fun, and a great conversationalist! I had the opportunity to visit Gretchen at the Mütter museum and had the luck to be treated to a “behind the scenes” tour. What an experience! I was saddened to hear that Gretchen Worden passed on August 2, 2004. Still, in my recent visit to the Mütter Museum, I was glad to see a new section at the museum that remembers Gretchen. Her biography can be read here.

I would like to thank Dr. Leslie Wolf for lending me the book by O’Keefe that lead to me writing this article. Dr. Miranda

Sources:
1. “Dr. Mütter’s Marvels: A True Tale of Intrigue and Innovation at the Dawn of Modern Medicine” O’Keefe, C. 2015 Penguin Random House, LLC
2. “A Discourse Commemorative of the Late Professor T.D. Mütter” Pancoast, J. 1859 J Wilson Publisher
3. “Thomas Dent Mütter: the humble narrative of a surgeon, teacher, and curious collector” Baker, J, et al. The American Surgeon, Atlanta 77:iss5 662-14
4. “Thomas Dent Mutter, MD: early reparative surgeon” Harris, ES; Morgan, RF. Ann Plast Surg 1994 33(3):333-8
5. “5 Things I Learned from Thomas Dent Mütter” O’Keefe C.


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The interleaflet triangles of the aortic valve

The interleaflet triangles (ILTs) are three triangular regions found in the ventricular aspect of the aortic root. They are bound inferiorly by the virtual basal ring (VBR), laterally by the attachment of the leaflets (the hinge) to the aorta and left ventricular wall (muscular and fibrous), and superiorly by the commissures (site of attachment and meeting of adjacent leaflets) which are usually located at the sinotubular junction, also known as the sinotubular ridge.  

A review of the literature on the topic shows that although many speak of these ILTs, not many authors have clearly defined their boundaries. In fact, some only reserve the term ILT to the triangular region distal to the ventriculoaortic boundary. The description used in this article includes the ventricular wall found between the VBR and the ventriculoaortic junction as well as fibrous components found between these two boundaries. Based on this description, we have developed an image of the ILTs that, to our knowledge is not found in literature. (see accompanying images).

Interleaflet triangles of the aortic valve by MTD
Interleaflet triangles of the aortic valve by MTD.
Click on the image for a larger version.
 
The virtual basal ring is a circular virtual line formed by the nadirs of the three aortic leaflets (cusps). The attachment of the three leaflets create a three-pronged coronet that is useful in defining the interleaflet triangles (see image)

The superior boundary of the ILTs is formed by three commissures, the points where the leaflets meet each other at the sinotubular junction. There are two posterior commissures, right and left. The right-posterior commissure is found between the noncoronary and the left coronary sinuses (of Valsalva). An important point about this commissure is that it is situated above the midpoint of the septal (anterior) leaflet of the mitral valve. The left-posterior commissure is found between the left and the right coronary sinuses. The anterior commissure is located between the right and the noncoronary sinus close to the membranous interventricular septum.

Based on the above description, there are three interleaflet triangles:

a. Right (posterior), left (posterior), and anterior. The right posterior ILT is located between the noncoronary and the left coronary sinuses, and just as the commissure at its apex, is located at the midpoint of the septal (anterior) leaflet of the mitral valve. Also, the superior aspect of this ILT is related to the transverse pericardial sinus.

b. The left posterior ILT is located between the right and the left coronary sinuses, and is lies immediately behind the right ventricular outlet.

c. The anterior ILT is found between the right and the noncoronary sinuses. It is related to the membranous septum and the right fibrous trigone, forming part of the central fibrous body (skeleton) of the heart. This ILT is a good anatomical landmark to the location of the bundle of His and the left bundle branch, both components of the conduction system of the heart. These structures can be compressed during the implantation of an aortic or mitral valve, causing transitory or permanent cardiac conduction problems.

The ILTs are important in the normal physiology and hemodynamics of the aortic valve. A small ILT will affect the diameter of the valve and the movement of the leaflets, causing stenosis. This is the case in bicuspid aortic valves where the fusion of two of the leaflets leads to the reduction in size of the ILT normally found between these two fused leaflets.

Since they are located within the functional portion of the left ventricle, the ILTs are subject to the pressures of the ventricle and can be areas that develop aneurysms.

Because of their importance in the hemodynamics of the aortic valve, new procedures and medical devices that reshape the ILTs are being developed. This is specially important in the case of a bicuspid aortic valve, where the interleaflet triangles may be abnormal.

Interleaflet triangles of the aortic valve by Sutton
Interleaflet triangles of the aortic valve by Sutton.
Click on the image for a larger version.
Further to the images that are depicted in this article, the lower image is the classic image of the interleaflet triangles by Sutton (1995). As you can see, the base of the triangles is shown straight with no clear boundary, and it seems as though they are related to the ventriculoaortic junction.  The nadirs are not used as a point of reference. The upper image (developed by us and based on Sutton's original sketch) clearly shows the extent of the ILTs as well as their relation to the three landmarks that define the aortic root: The virtual basal ring, the ventriculoaortic junction, and the sinotubular junction.

NOTE: The pulmonary valve also has interleaflet triangles, with a somewhat similar description, but since they are under low pressure they do not develop or are cause of pathology as the ILTs of the aortic valve.

Sources:
1. The Anatomy of the Aortic Root: Loukas, M et al. Clinical Anatomy 27:748–756 (2014)
2. “Extracardiac aneurysm of the interleaflet triangle above the aortic-mitral curtain due to infective endocarditis of the bicuspid aortic valve.” Hori D, et al. Gen Thorac Cardiovasc Surg. 2008 Aug;56(8):424-6
3. “Anatomy of the aortic root: implications for valve-sparing surgery” Efstratios I. Charitos, HS. Ann Cardiothorac Surg 2013;2(1):53-56
4. “The Forgotten Interleaflet Triangles: A Review of the Surgical Anatomy of the Aortic Valve” Sutton JP, et al Ann Thorac Surg 1995;59:419-27
5.” The aortic interleaflet triangles annuloplasty: a multidisciplinary appraisal” Mangini, A., et al. European Journal of Cardio-Thoracic Surgery, Vol. 40:4, 2011, 851-857
6. “Structure and Anatomy of the Aortic Root” Ho, SH., Eur J Electrocar 2009 10; i3-i10
7. “In vitro study of the aortic interleaflet triangle reshaping” Vismara, R Journal of Biomechanics; 47:2; 2014. 329-33