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.

Click on the link below to subscribe to the MTD newsletter. If you think an article could be interesting to somebody else, click on the mail link at the top of each article to forward it. 

You are welcome to submit questions and suggestions using our "Contact Us" form. The information on this blog follows the terms on our "Privacy and Security Statement"  and cannot be construed as medical guidance or instructions for treatment. 

Click here to subscribe to the Medical Terminology Daily Newsletter

fbbuttons sm

We have 129 guests and no members online

A Moment in History

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

Dr. Thomas Dent Mütter


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

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.

"Clinical Anatomy Associates, Inc., and the contributors of "Medical Terminology Daily" wish to thank all individuals who donate their bodies and tissues for the advancement of education and research”.

Click here for more information

Rare & Collectible Books at AbeBooks.com 



The jejunum is an intraperitoneal organ, it is the second portion of the small intestine and part of the digestive tract. It begins at the duodenojejunal junction  where it is related to the ligament of Treitz, and extends 8 to 9 feet, continuing distally with the ileum.

Being intraperitoneal, it is anchored to the posterior abdominal wall by the double-layered mesentery through which the jejunum receives its blood and nerve supply. At the root (base) of the mesentery are the superior mesenteric vessels.

The Latin word [jejunis] means "empty" or "fasting". The Latin term [jejunum] was used by the Romans to denote the first meal of the day, breakfast, when you have an "empty" stomach. The term was associated with this segment of the small intestine, as it is most of the time found empty in cadavers being dissected.

There is no clear anatomical boundary between the jejunum and ileum, as they blend smoothly one into the other. There are several gross changes from jejunum to ileum, one of them being that the complexity of the mesenteric arterial arches increases from proximal to dista. See the accompanying image. Click on it for a larger depiction.

Jejunoileal vascular supply (www.bartleby.com)

Two interesting side notes: In English, the term for the first meal of the day is self-explanatory: [break - fast], adding to the Roman concept of "fasting" or "jejunum". In Spanish, the term for breakfast is [desayuno], where the word [ayuno] means "fasting", therefore the word [des-ayuno] also means "the end of fasting". Look at the evolution (in Spanish) from [jejunum] to [yeyuno] (the Spanish term for the organ) to [ayuno], meaning "fasting" or "empty".

1. "Clinically Oriented Anatomy" Moore, KL. 3r Ed. Williams & Wilkins 1992
2. "The origin of Medical Terms" Skinner, AH, 1970
Images and links courtesy of Bartleby.com

Crus / crura

The word [crus] is Latin (cruris) and refers to the leg, or region of the shin. It is commonly used to mean "leg" or "pillar". The plural form is [crura].

Several authors suggest a relation of [crus] with another Latin term [crux] meaning "cross" as if a cross is formed by two [crura] (legs).

The term crus is widely used in human anatomy:

- crus cerebri: there are two crus cerebri in the anterior aspect of the mesencephalon
- crura of the penis: the posterior aspect of the corpora cavernosa firmly attached to the ischiopubic rami
- crura of the clitoris:  the posterior aspect of the corpora cavernosa firmly attached to the ischiopubic rami
- crura fornix cerebrii: the posterior converging bands that form the fornix of the cerebrum

Special mention is deserved by the crura of the diaphragm. There are two pairs of diaphragmatic crura. The esophageal crura (right and left) which bound the passageway of the esophagus from the thorax into the abdomen, the esophageal hiatus. The esophageal crura have a muscular structure. The aortic crura (righ and left) allow for passage of the aorta into the abdomen, and although muscular superiorly, they are mostly tendinous. The accompanying image shows an anteroinferior view of the respiratory diaphragm. Click on the image for a larger picture.

Respiratory diaphragm - anteroinferior view (modified from bartleby.com) 1. Right tendinous aortic crus 2. Left tendinous aortic crus IVC=Inferior Vena Cava

1. Right tendinous aortic crus 2. Left tendinous aortic crus IVC= Inferior vena cava. Modified from the original image. Courtesy of www.Bartleby.com

Luigi A. Galvani

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.

Luigi A. Galvani (1737-1798). Italian anatomist, surgeon, and physiologist, Luigi Aloisio Galvani was born in Bologna in 1737. Although he started his studies to join the church, Galvani followed with medical studies at the University of Bologna, where he became a skilled anatomist and surgeon. On July 15, 1759 Galvani obtained his degree in medicine and philosophy.

He was interested in the effects of electricity on tissues and through observation and experimentation he postulated the existence of "animal electricity", that is, electricity generated within the tissues. He postulated the possibility that nerves carried electricity. His theories led to a passionate controversy with Volta, who denied Galvani's postulates. Galvani's theories would only be confirmed after his death. 

Galvani was deeply religious, and when forced by government officials to take an oath of atheism, he refused. He was stripped of his position and was lead to poverty. His position was restored close to his death. In his honor, Andre Ampere (1775-1836) named one of his inventions that measures electricity,  the "galvanometer". His name is also present in vernacular English, when we say that a rock star or a movie "galvanizes" an audience, meaning it was "electrifying"!

1. "Luigi Galvani" Haas LF J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry v.56(10); Oct 1993
2. "Luigi Galvani and the foundations of electrophysiology" Cajavilca C, Varonb,J,Sternbachc GL; Resuscitation 80 (2009) 159–162

Luigi Galvani

Original imagecourtesy of National Institutes of Health.


The capitate bone is one of the four bones that comprise the distal row of the carpus or carpal bones that form the wrist. It is the largest of the carpal bones and is placed in the center of the wrist (see image).

Its name originates from the Latin [caput], meaning "head". The capitate bone presents a large, rounded area, called the "head". To complete the homology, the capitate bone also has a narrow segment called the "neck", the rest of the bone called the "body". It is also known as "os capitatum" or "os magnum"

The capitate bone articulates with seven bones, including the scaphoid, lunate, trapezoid, hamate, and the three central metacarpals (2nd, 3rd, and 4th).

The accompanying image shows the anterior (volar) surface of the wrist. Click on the image for a larger picture.

Scaphoid bone - anterior (volar) view of the wrist

Image modified from the original: "3D Human Anatomy: Regional Edition DVD-ROM." Courtesy of Primal Pictures


The duodenum is a mostly retroperitoneal organ, part of the digestive tract, and the most proximal portion of the small intestine. This organ is approximately 10 inches in length (24.5 cm). It starts at the pylorus of the stomach, has a "C" shape, curving around the head and the neck of the pancreas, to end at the duodenojejunal junction.

The duodenum is described as having four segments of differing length, usually named numerically:

- First segment: about two inches in length, it is dilated and called the "duodenal ampulla", or "superior duodenum"
- Second segment: about three inches in length, it receives bile and pancreatic juice through the hepatopancreatic ducts and ampullae. It is also called the "descending duodenum"
- Third segment: about four inches in length, it crosses the midline, and is also known as the "horizontal" or "transverse duodenum"
- Fourth segment: one inch in length, this is the shortest segment, it ascends towards the duodenojejunal junction, which is tethered to the diaphragm by a fold of peritoneum around a fibromuscular band called the "ligament of Treitz". At this point the retroperitoneal duodenum becomes the intraperitoneal jejunum. This fourth segment is also called the "ascending duodenum"

Retroperitoneal organsImage property of:CAA.Inc.Artist:Dr. E. Miranda
The name of the organ is interesting. Most textbooks claim that is originates from the Latin [duodeni], meaning "twelve". The fact is that the duodenum was originally named in Greek [δώδεκα δάχτυλαν] meaning "twelve fingers". If you place both your hands together and add 1/4 of an inch to each side (as if you had an extra finger on each hand) that measures approximately 10 inches. The term was shortened by an incorrect translation to "twelve" by Gerard of Cremona (1114 - 1187) who called it "duodenum", a bad translation, as twelve fingers in Latin is [duodecim digitorum].

"Clinically Oriented Anatomy" Moore, KL. 3r Ed. Williams & Wilkins 1992
2. "The origin of Medical Terms" Skinner, AH, 1970 


This prefix is derived from the Greek and means "slow". Most everybody knows about [bradycardia] meaning "slow heart", but there is a large number of applications of this prefix as follows:

• Bradytrophia: from the Greek [trophe] meaning "to feed" or "nutrition". Braditrophia is a slow nutritional process
• Bradypnea: from the Greek [pnoia], meaning "breath" or "air". Bradypnea is an abnormally slow breathing rhythm
• Bradylalia: from the Greel [lalein] meaning "to talk". Bradylalia is a slow articulation or formation of words, sometimes also known as [bradyarthria] or [bradyphasia]. See the article on aphasia and dysphasia here
Bradykinesia: from the Greek [kinesis], meaning "movement". Bradykinesia means "slow movement", also known as [bradypragia]
• Bradycrotic: from the Greek [krotos], meaning "pulse" "or pulsation" A bradycrotic agent slows down the patient's pulse or heart rate.
Bradytocia: from the Greek [tokos], meaning "birth". Bradytocia is a slow birthing process