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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 

Title page of Anathomia Corporis Humanis by Mondino de Luzzi. Image courtesy of the National Library of Medicine
Title page of "Anathomia Corporis Humanis" by Mondino de Luzzi

Alessandra Giliani

 
(1307 – 1326

Italian prosector and anatomist. Alessandra Giliani is the first woman to be on record as being an anatomist and prossector. She was born on 1307 in the town of Persiceto in northern Italy.

She was admitted to the University of Bologna circa 1323. Most probably she studied philosophy and the foundations of anatomy and medicine. She studied under Mondino de Luzzi (c.1270 – 1326), one of the most famous teachers at Bologna.

Giliani was the prosector for the dissections performed at the Bolognese “studium” in the Bologna School of Anatomy. She developed a technique (now lost to history) to highlight the vascular tree in a cadaver using fluid dyes which would harden without destroying them. Giliani would later paint these structures using a small brush. This technique allowed the students to see even small veins.

Giliani died at the age of 19 on March 26, 1326, the same year that her teacher Mondino de Luzzi died.  It is said that she was buried in front of the Madonna delle Lettere in the church of San Pietro e Marcellino at the Hospital of Santa Maria del Mareto in Florence by Otto Agenius Lustrulanus, another assistant to Modino de Luzzi.

Some ascribe to Agenius a love interest in Giliani because of the wording of the plaque that is translated as follows:

"In this urn enclosed are the ashes of the body of 
Alessandra Giliani, a maiden of Persiceto. 
Skillful with her brush in anatomical demonstrations 
And a disciple equaled by few, 
Of the most noted physician, Mondino de Luzzi, 
She awaits the resurrection. 
She lived 19 years: She died consumed by her labors 
March 26, in the year of grace 1326. 
Otto Agenius Lustrulanus, by her taking away 
Deprived of his better part, inconsolable for his companion, 
Choice and deservinging of the best from himself, 
Has erected this plaque"

Sir William Osler says of Alessandra Giliani “She died, consumed by her labors, at the early age of nineteen, and her monument is still to be seen”

The teaching of anatomy in the times of Mondino de Luzzi and Alessandra Giliani required the professor to be seated on a high chair or “cathedra” from whence he would read an anatomy book by Galen or another respected author while a prosector or “ostensor” would demonstrate the structures to the student. The professor would not consider coming down from the cathedra to discuss the anatomy shown. This was changed by Andreas Vesalius.

The image in this article is a close up of the title page of Mondino’s “Anothomia Corporis Humani” written in 1316, but published in 1478. Click on the image for a complete depiction of this title page. I would like to think that the individual doing the dissection looking up to the cathedra and Mondino de Luzzi is Alessandra Giliani… we will never know.

The life and death of Alessandra Giliani has been novelized in the fiction book “A Golden Web” by Barbara Quick.

Sources 
1. “Books of the Body: Anatomical Ritual and Renaissance Learning” Carlino, A. U Chicago Press, 1999 
2. “Encyclopedia of World Scientists” Oakes, EH. Infobase Publishing, 2002 
3. “The Biographical Dictionary of Women in Science”Harvey, J; Ogilvie, M. Vol1. Routledge 2000 
4. “The Evolution of Modern Medicine” Osler, W. Yale U Press 1921 
5. “The Mondino Myth” Pilcher, LS. 1906 
Original image courtesy of NLM
 


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Parietal

The word [parietal] has its origin in the Greek term [paries] meaning "wall". [Parietal] then means "pertaining to a wall", wall-related", or simply stated, "wall". Following are some examples of the use of this term.

The parietal bones of the cranium (os parietale), create the lateral "wall" of the cranium. These quadrangular bones join in the midline forming the sagittal suture. (see image). Click here for a detailed description of the parietal bone.

The term [parietal] is also used to denote membranes that are related to the body wall. The parietal peritoneum is the portion of the peritoneal membrane that is found away from the viscera and in relation to the abdominal wall.  The pleura is a membrane that lines the lungs, and it has a component that is related to the wall of the thorax. This is the [parietal] pleura.

There is a couple of cases where the use of term [parietal] is not related to a wall, but rather as "away from a viscus". An example of this would be the parietal pericardium, where the parietal component is the membrane that is away from the visceralpericardium.

An interesting use of the term is legal, where a [parietal] law, is used to denote a law that establishes boundaries or "walls" between legal parties.

Original image and links courtesy of bartleby.com


Diagnosis / Prognosis

These two terms are related by the Greek root term [-gnos-] which means "knowledge".

The first word [diagnosis] has the prefix [dia-] meaning "apart" or "to take apart". [Diagnosis] then means "to discern", or in a more detailed explanation, it is "knowledge by taking apart", identifying a pathology by looking at all its components.

The second word [prognosis] has the prefix [pro-] meaning "forward". Prognosis is then "forward knowledge", an statement of outcome of the course of a pathology.

Words suggested by: Sara Mueller


Coronary arteries

The term [coronary] comes from the Latin root [corona] meaning "crown", therefore [coronary] is used to denote a structure that surrounds another as a crown or a garland. In the heart, the coronary arteries and their branches form a crown that surrounds the heart at the level of the atrioventricular sulcus. There are two coronary arteries, the right coronary artery (RCA), and the left coronary artery (*). Both these coronary arteries are the only branches that arise from the ascending aorta.

The right coronary artery passes from the anterior to the posterior surface of the heart, ending in a terminal branch, the posterior descending artery, or PDA. The left coronary artery, sometimes called the "left main", gives origin to two branches: the circumflex artery (CFX) and the left anterior descending artery (LAD). Each one of these arteries gives origin to several named branches. 

Coronary Arteries
There can be interesting anatomical variations in the coronary arteries of the heart. Heart and coronary artery anatomy is one of the topics developed and delivered by CAA, Inc.

Image property of: CAA.Inc.Artist: Victoria G. Ratcliffe

 

Ventricle

The Latin word [ventriculus] means "little sac" or "little belly" and arises from the Latin term [venter] meaning "belly" or "abdomen". Originally the term [ventricle] was used to denote the stomach. This use of the word has changed and now the term [ventricle] denotes a "sac" or "cavity", as in the "ventricles of the brain". The term [ventricular] means "pertaining or related to a ventricle".

In the case of the heart, the ventricles represent the two inferior chambers of the heart. (see image, items "C=right ventricle" and "D=left ventricle"). The anatomy of the right and left ventricles is quite different. The left ventricle has a thicker lateral muscular wall, almost three times thicker than the lateral wall of the right ventricle.

Image property of: CAA.Inc.Photographer: D.M. Klein

Heart model - LAO cranial view
 

Atrium

The term [atrium] is Latin, its plural form is [atria]. The atrium was the center hall of a Roman home, around which the rest of the rooms opened. Since the atrium was the first area of the house that was entered once passing through the front door, the term [atrium] has been used to describe the "entrance hall', such as the atrium of a hotel. The [atria] are the two superior chambers of the heart. (see image, items "A=right atrium" and "B=left atrium")

An interesting question is why are the atria called so, since they are part of the heart, and not just the entrance?. The reason is that early anatomists considered the heart to be composed only by the ventricles. The atria were then chambers where blood would wait before entering the "heart proper", ergo [atria].

Image property of: CAA.Inc.Photographer: D.M. Klein

Heart model - LAO cranial view
 

Perineum

The term [perineum] has two definitions:

1. It is the area of the trunk inferior to the pelvic diaphragm. As such, the perineum contains the ischioanal fossa, the urogenital diaphragm, and the superficial genitalia.

2. It is the area of the body between the upper thighs containing the external openings of urethra, vagina, and anus. This area is delimited (see image) by the symphysis pubis, ischial tuberosities, and coccyx.

The perineum, as described in the second definition, is formed by two large triangular regions. The anterior region (in purple) is called the urogenital triangle, and the posterior region (in yellow) is called the anal triangle. 

Image property of: CAA.Inc.. Artist: D.M. Klein.
Word suggested and edited by: Dr. Sanford S. Osher , MTD Contributor

Perineum, inferior view