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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

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

Sources:
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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Kiesselbach's plexus

Kiesselbach's plexus is named after Dr. Wilhelm Kiesselbach (1839 – 1902), a German otolaryngologist. It is an area in the anteroinferior aspect of the nasal septum where several arteries from different origins meet and anastomose.

This arterial plexus is also known as the "locus Kiesselbachii", Kiesselbach's triangle, or Little's plexus, or Little's area. This area of the anteroinferior nasal septum has a propensity for epistaxis or nasal bleeding. In fact, close to 90% of nose bleeds (epistaxes) happen in this area.

in this region, terminal branches of the anterior ethmoid artery, greater palatine artery, sphenopalatine artery and superior labial artery anastomose forming an anastomotic circle. The anastomoses are numerous enough to form a plexus.

Kiesselbach's plexus
Click on the image for a larger view

There is a secondary area where epistaxis may happen, but this is a venous nose bleed. This is Woodruff's plexus, a venous plexus found in the posterior aspect of inferior turbinate on the lateral wall of the nose. 

Thanks to Jackie Miranda-Klein for suggesting this post. Jackie is studying for the Physician Assistant Master's degree at Kettering College. Dr. Miranda.


Halsted’s “Rules of Surgery”

In my many years working with medical industry, surgeons, and surgery, I have heard many times that such and such surgical technique follows “Halsted’s Rules of Surgery”. The problem is that only two of these “rules” were mentioned and never did I receive an answer while working with Ethicon and Ethicon Endosurgery, and never did I receive an answer as to where could I find the reference regarding the other rules, if they even existed.

I recently read a great 1957 book by Samuel James Crowe, MD (1883-1952), titled “Halsted of John Hopkins; the man and his men”. Dr. Crowe lived for one year with Dr. William Stewart Halsted (1852-1922) and his wife as a medical student at John Hopkins. He was also an intern for Dr. Harvey Cushing, and although he wanted to follow Cushing into neurosurgery, Dr. Halsted placed him in charge of the newly created department of otolaryngology at John Hopkins, a position he did not want. Dr. Crowe went on to become a world-wide renown otolaryngologist.

Here are Halsted’s “Rules of Surgery” as explained by Dr. Crowe, based on Halsted’s research, experiments, and observations (with my own notes and comments):

1. Wounds are resistant to infection when no bits of tissue have been:

a. torn with clamps 
b. torn by the rough handling of retractors 
c. devitalized by hastily and carelessly applied ligatures

HalstedWilliam S. Halsted
mouseover for
Samuel J. Crowe

Note: this follows the ancient rule of “primum non nocere”: first and foremost, do not harm

2. Wounds or parts rich in blood vessels usually heal without any visible granulation, even when no antiseptic precautions have been taken.

3. Incisions should be closed carefully and gently, layer by layer

4. The approximating sutures should never put the tissues under tension, since tension interferes with the blood supply and may cause necrosis

Note: Tension-avoidance surgical techniques follow this, one of the prime rules of surgery.

5. The end of the forceps used to pick up bleeding points should be small, to avoid crushing and destroying the vitality of surrounding tissues

Note: This observation led to the creation of fine, multiple toothed thumb forceps used today in cardiovascular surgery , such as the Cooley, DeBakey, Castaneda, etc. type forceps.

6. A drain is essential when there is necrotic tissue and infection

7. Silk should never be used in the presence of infection

Note: This makes sense. Since silk is an organic material, infected tissues will react to the presence of this extraneous material causing more inflammation, and the phagocytic cells in the tissues will destroy the silk and its capacity to hold the tissues together

8. The silk (suture) employed should never be coarser (larger gauge) than necessary and it is well to employ a suture a thread that is not stronger that the tissue it holds

9. A greater number of fine stitches is better than a few coarse ones

Note: This also makes sense. Halsted was known to be extremely meticulous and he could place a hundred stitches of fine silk thread where other surgeons would place a lesser number of coarser stitches. Using a larger number of fine stitches distributes the approximating tension of the sutures over a larger area, thus reducing the chance for suture dehiscence.

10. Avoid when possible the combined use of silk and catgut in a wound

11. For sewing up an abdominal wound, when it is necessary to take heavy deep stitches perforating skin and muscles, silver wire serves admirably

Note: Remember the times when these guiding principles where laid. Nylon, polypropylene, and other synthetic absorbable and non-absorbable sutures had yet to be discovered. Today the same dictum would probably say “For sewing up an abdominal wound, when it is necessary to take heavy deep stitches perforating skin and muscles, a synthetic non-absorbable suture material serves admirably”

It must be noted that Halsted never called the above the “rules of surgery”, rather they are observations that have become guiding principles. These have influenced the world of surgery to this day.

SIDE NOTE: It has been said many times that Dr. Halsted was the first to use rubber gloves. This is not true, Dr. Crowe says that “it was an evolution rather than a happy thought” and it involved his wife Caroline Hampton. This will be the subject of another article.


Interesting discoveries in a medical book


As some of you may know by now, I am a collector of antique medical books and books that relate to the history of anatomy and medicine.

As important as the books themselves are, there are details beyond the book itself that can take hours of my time doing research. The first one is the bookplates (also known as Ex-Libris). The have been used  for centuries by book owners and collectors to identify the books in their collections, a tradition that seems to be falling in disuse. Not me, I have one that you can see here. Some of these can lead to places that you cannot imagine initially. One of these bookplates took me to research a potential resident ghost in a library!

Provenance is also important. Where was it printed? Who owned it? Who was the illustrator? etc. I recently acquired a second copy of the book “EPHRAIM MCDOWELL, FATHER OF OVARIOTOMY AND FOUNDER OF ABDOMINAL SURGERY. With an Appendix on JANE TODD CRAWFORD”. By AUGUST SCHACHNER, M.D. Cloth, 8vo.A p. 33I. Philadelphia, J. B. Lippincott CO., I921. Dr. McDowell has also been featured in this blog in the series "A Moment in History".

This second copy is most valuable because of the papers found within the book. There is a series of notes, newspaper clippings, and copies of letters! Here is a detail of what I have found:

The book seems to have belonged to Cecil Stryker, MD.,a physician in Cincinnati, and one of the founders of the American Diabetes Association (ADA). There is a copy of a letter by Dr. Ephraim McDowell to Dr. Robert Thompson (Sr.) dated January 2nd, 1829, a year before Dr. McDowell's death. The letter is shown in the image attached. In this letter Dr. McDowell describes in his own words the ovariotomy he performed on Jane Todd. He also describes other ovariotomies he performed and his opinion on "peritoneal inflammation"

Letter from Ephraim McDowell to Robert Thompson
Letter from Ephraim McDowell to Robert Thompson
Click on the image for a larger depiction

There is a note from Dr. Cecil Striker to "Bob" dated 6/3/73 when he gifted a copy of this book. In the note Dr. Striker explains that he bought several copies of the book and he is sending this copy to him. There is also a copy of Dr. McDowell's prayer (costs 25 cents), and a page of the Kentucky Advocate newspaper published in Danville, KY and dated Sunday April 15, 1973 on the restoration of Dr. Alban Goldsmith home, a surgeon who assisted Dr. McDowell in his first ovariotomy (first in the world, that is).

Last, there is a note dated September 16, 1974 from the wife of Dr. West T. Hill, Chairman of the Dramatic Arts Department at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky. In this handwritten note she mentions the McDowell family reunion that took place on June 15 and 16, 1974 in Danville. With the note comes the program and registration form for the festivities! Dr. West T. Hill was one of the many responsible for the restoration of the MacDowell Home and Museum. Today Danville has the West T. Hill community theatre that honors his name.

All of this in one book, as I always say "You know where you are going to start reading it, but you never know where are you going to end in researching it". This book will be a great addition to my library catalog. Dr. Miranda.


Rudi Coninx, MD

Rudi Coninx, MD  is a physician and Chief a.i. Humanitarian policy and Guidance at the World Health Organization (WHO), based in Geneva. He obtained his MD from the University of KU Leuven Belgium, a Doctorate in Tropical Medicine from the Prins Leopold Instituut voor Tropische Geneeskunde, and an MPH from the John Hopkins University School of Medicine.

His CV shows more than twenty five years of national and international experience in policy and strategy development and analysis, policy dialogue, technical advice and program management support to countries and WHO country offices. Considerable experience in strengthening WHO country offices and in working with partners and networks at the global as well as filed level. Coordinated the WHO Country Focus Policy for more than five years and worked as a member in various strategic planning, decentralization, and global and regional partnership groups, including national and international committees, taskforces. Published several articles on policy analysis, management and health and development in regional and international journals.

He is also an Associate Faculty, Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University, USA.

He has held a series of positions with the International Committee of the Red Cross, and also within the World Health Organization. His LinkedIn profile can be found here.  

Rudi Coninx

Thanks to Dr. Coninx for taking time of his busy schedule and collaborating with "Medical Terminology Daily" with the article "Did Andreas Vesalius really die from scurvy?which he co-authored with Theo Dirix. We look forward to his future writings in this blog.


Wilhelm Kiesselbach


This article is part of the series "A Moment in History" where we honor those who have contributed to the growth of medical knowledge in the areas of anatomy, medicine, surgery, and medical research.To search all the articles in this series, click here.

Wilhelm Kiesselbach (1839 – 1902) German otolaryngologist born in the city of Hanau. Started his medical studies in 1859 in Göttingen. Marburg, and Tübingen. Because of an accident that affected one of his hands and legs, his doctorate was delayed until 1875.

He specialized in otolaryngology in Vienna, although he also studied and specialized in ophthalmology. He had a number of positions such as assistant professor at the Medical Polyclinic in Erlangen, assistant professor for ophthalmological examinations at the Surgical Clinic in Erlangen, and senior physician for ophthalmology.

He died of an infection he contracted while working with patients at the clinic.

His name is eponymically tied to the locus Kiesselbachii, also known as Kiesselbach’s plexus, an area of the anteroinferior nasal septum known for propensity for epistaxis or nasal bleeding. In fact, close to 90% of nose bleeds happen in this area. in this region, terminal branches of the anterior ethmoid artery, greater palatine artery, sphenopalatine artery and superior labial artery anastomose forming a plexus.

Kiesselbach


An answer regarding the death of Andreas Vesalius (3)


NOTE:  In 2014  Pavlos Plessas presented the compelling theory that Andreas Vesalius died in 1564 from scurvy on the island of Zakynthos. With his permission his original article entitled "Powerful indications that Vesalius died from scurvy" was published in this blog in 2016.

His theory was later challenged by Theo Dirix and Dr. Rudi Coninx in this same blog with the article "Did Andreas Vesalius really died from scurvy?". Pavlos Plessas' rebuttal to the latter article is published here from a letter to Theo Dirix.


...continued from: An answer regarding the death of Andreas Vesalius (2). For the initial article, click here.

16. The study’s sample is small, not representative of a general population, based on answering a questionnaire and not observation

Clinical studies of this nature face obvious limitations. If the authors are prepared to disbelieve the testimony of people who lived in a confined space with many victims of scurvy until the final fatal outcome, it is no wonder they complain about the study. Doubting is their prerogative, however, the way to discredit the study is to either find an error in the data or its interpretation, or conduct their own study and come up with different results.

17. The quoted personality changes peak on day 107. Certainly not an early symptom

Do the authors consider a symptom only when it peaks? Is pain not pain until it becomes unbearable?

18. Elevation of this triad is also found in prolonged semi starvation, and deficiencies of B-complex vitamins

Pavlos Plessas
Pavlos Plessas
Click on the image for author information

The study at this point refers to Brozek and indirectly to the Minnesota Starvation Experiment of 1944-45, meaning semi-starvation over many months. It is clearly not relevant here as Vesalius did not face food shortages for more than a few weeks. As for vitamins of the B complex if the authors are ready to suggest that Vesalius may have died from beriberi or pellagra I am ready and happy to argue. 

19. These changes are characteristic of individuals who are physically ill, as the subjects were

Yes, but in the beginning they did not know that they were ill (no clinical signs). Besides, there is another study which indicates that “behavioural change in human scurvy patients has a physiological rather than a solely psychological basis” (6). And there is a suggested biological explanation. “Vitamin C is a cofactor in the biosynthesis of catecholamines, most notably in the conversion of dopamine to norepinephrine, which may explain the behavior and mood disorders associated with vitamin C deficiency” (7). “Acutely hospitalized patients experience emotional distress for many reasons; therefore, it may seem unexpected that simple correction of their vitamin C deficiency could account for such rapid and dramatic improvements in psychological well-being. There are several reasons why this possibility merits serious consideration. First, the result is biologically plausible. Psychological dysfunction is known to occur in vitamin C deficiency, presumably because of the involvement of ascorbate in neuronal transmission and in brain neurotransmitter and fuel metabolism.” (8)

20. Vesalius’ reaction was normal in the view of many passengers getting sick, dying and being thrown overboard

Did all the passengers start begging the crew not to throw their dead bodies overboard? Did Boucherus do it? Why did he then only report Vesalius doing it? Was it normal behaviour for a distressed 16th century aristocrat to beg lowly-born sailors?

21. The only known symptoms of Vesalius are consistent with many other diseases

I think the best way for someone to debunk the scurvy theory is to make a list of diseases that could have killed Vesalius. It appears that the authors do not consider it too great a challenge. But these diseases have to be compatible with the circumstances and the authors will have to do considerably better than the suggestion of food poisoning.

22. Vesalius died from exhaustion combined by illness

All sources agree that Vesalius died from an illness. He had gone through an ordeal, he was probably malnourished and dehydrated to some extent but there is no evidence of exhaustion. He was sick, not tired. He was a passenger on a ship, not a galley slave. The crew, who worked around the clock, were fine. The only exhaustion was that of his reserves of Vitamin C.

23. In order to have a definite diagnosis, it will be important to locate the grave of Andreas Vesalius

Amen. I have one more reason to wish it than most of the many people who wish Theo and Pascale good luck in the search for the grave. I expect to be vindicated. And I hope that maybe my work will contribute in the beyond doubt identification of Vesalius’ remains..


PERSONAL NOTE: My thanks to all the authors who are part of this ongoing discussion and who are also friends and contributors to this blog. Everybody is correct in the fact that the only way to find the truth of the cause of death of Andreas Vesalius is to find his grave. The quest is ongoing and hopefully we are closer every day to this objective. Dr. Miranda


Sources:

1. "Voyages and Travels in the Levant in the Years 1749, 50, 51, 52" London 1766, p. 147
2. "Medicina Nautica: an Essay on the Diseases of Seamen" Volume III, London 1803, p. 387
3. "De magnis Hippocratis" Lienibus Libellus, Antwerp 1564, pp. 26a – 31b
4. A voyage round the world in the years MDCCXL, I, II, III, IV, 5th edition, London 1749, p. 101.
5. Robert A. Kinsman and James Hood, Some behavioral effects of ascorbic acid deficiency, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, April 1971.
6. Fiona E. Harrison, Behavioural and neurochemical effects of scurvy in gulo knockout mice, Journal for Maritime Research, Volume 15, Issue 1, 2013.
7. Olivier Fain, Musculoskeletal manifestations of scurvy, Joint Bone Spine 72, 2005.
8. Wang et al, Effects of vitamin C and vitamin D administration on mood and distress in acutely hospitalized patients, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2013.