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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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Subscapular muscle (subscapularis)

The subscapular muscle or subscapularis is a large triangular muscle which is found on the anterior aspect of the scapula, in close relation to the posterolateral aspect of the thorax. It is covered by a well-defined fascia layer, the subscapularis fascia. It is one of the muscles that forms the rotator cuff.

It originates from the internal aspect of the medial border of the scapula, in close proximity to the insertion of the serratus anterior (magnus), and the internal aspect of the inferolateral border of the scapula, where it is separated from the teres major muscle by a thick aponeurosis. It also takes origin directly from the subscapular fossa, where some of the muscular fibers attach directly to the bone.

The muscle inserts by way of a tendon in the lesser tubercle of the humerus and the anterior aspect of the glenohumeral joint capsule. The tendon of the muscle is separated from the neck of the scapula by a large bursa (the infratendinous bursa of the subscapularis) which communicates with the cavity of the glenohumeral joint through an aperture in the capsule.

It receives innervation by two subscapular nerves, both branches of the brachial plexus.

Subscapularis muscle - Image modified from the original by Henry VanDyke Carter, MD. Public domain
Subscapularis muscle.
Click on the image for a larger depiction 
The superior suprascapular nerve arises from the ventral rami of C5 and C6 nerve fibers. It branches from the posterior cord of the brachial plexus and supplies the superior aspect of the muscle. The inferior subscapular nerve arises from the ventral rami of C5 and C6 nerve fibers. It branches from the posterior cord of the brachial plexus and supplies the superior aspect of the muscle. Although these nerves have the same origin from the cervical spine, their origin from the posterior cord of the brachial plexus is different.

This muscle rotates the head of the humerus medially. When the upper extremity is raised, it draws the humerus anteroinferiorly.  As part of the shoulder’s rotator cuff it helps prevent subluxation of the glenohumeral joint by keeping the head of the humerus in situ.

Note: The image shown in this article is from “Gray’s Anatomy” (1918) which is in the public domain

Sources:
1. “Gray’s Anatomy” Henry Gray, 1918
2. "Tratado de Anatomia Humana" Testut et Latarjet 8th Ed. 1931 Salvat Editores, Spain
3. "Gray's Anatomy" 38th British Ed. Churchill Livingstone 1995
4. “An Illustrated Atlas of the Skeletal Muscles” Bowden, B. 4th Ed. Morton Publishing. 2015

Image modified from the original by Henry VanDyke Carter, MD. Public domain