Sponsors   Medical Terminology Daily (MTD) is a blog prepared 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

Marie_Francois Xavier Bichat

Marie-Francois Xavier Bichat
(1771 - 1802) 

French physician, surgeon, anatomist and physiologist, Marie-Francois Xavier Bichat was born in the village of Thoirette. His fater was a physician, influencing his early instruction and vocation. In Lyon he studied anatomy and surgery. At 28 years of age Bichat was appointed physician to the Hôtel (Hospital) Dieu. His life was influenced by his mentor, Pierre-Joseph Dassault (1738 - 1795). Upon his mentor's death Bichat took upon him to continue and finish his work, while supporting his mentor's family.

Bichat is know for the concept of the body composed of distinct tissues, which he originally called "membranes". Without the aid of the microscope Bichat described 21 different tissues and is considered the founder of the science of histology. His name is preserved in many eponymic structures such as Bichat’s fossa (pterygopalatine fossa), Bichat’s buccal fat pad, Bichat’s foramen (cistern of the vena magna of Galen), Bichat’s ligament (lower fasciculus of the posterior sacroiliac ligament), and Bichat’s tunica intima (tunica intima vasorum). 

Xavier Bichat also contributed to a newer description of the humoral physiological theory, later becoming the basis of hematology. He was also interested in the description of life and death, proposing the existence of an "organic life" and an "animal life". An interesting note is that Bichat died because of an infection he acquired while dissecting a cadaver. Remember that at the time, no embalming was used!

Original image courtesy of Images from the History of Medicine

1. "Marie-François Xavier Bichat (1771-1802) and his contributions to the foundations of pathological anatomy and modern medicine" Shoja M.M., Tubbs R.S., Loukas M., Shokouhi G., Ardalan M.R.(2008) Annals of Anatomy, 190(5),413-420
2. "Physiological Researches on Life and Death" Bichat, Marie-Francois Xavier, 1827. Translated from French by F. Gold. Richardson and Lord, Boston.
3. "A Historical Perspective: Infection from Cadaveric Dissection from the 18th to the 20th Centuries" Shoja, MM et al. Clin Anat (2013) 26:154-160

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Corona Mortis

Important for inguinal hernia anatomy and surgery, this term is Latin from [corona] meaning "crown' and [mortis] meaning "death'; the "crown or circle of death". The corona mortis (blue arrow) refers to an anatomical variation1, a vascular anastomosis between the obturator and the external iliac vascular systems that passes over Cooper's pectineal ligament and posterior to the lacunar (Gimbernat's) ligament. 

In some cases, the corona mortis is the actual obturator artery that arises from the inferior epigastric artery instead of the internal iliac artery. It can also arise from the external iliac artery. In both cases, it has been called an "aberrant obturator artery". This could be a misnomer, as this anatomical variation can be present in up to 25% of the cases. When present, the corona mortis  can be injured when a surgeon looks to enlarge the femoral ring by opening the lacunar ligament. This vascular structure could even be endangered in a laparoscopic procedure for inguinal of femoral hernia repair and a staple or tack is driven blindly into the pectineal (Cooper's) ligament.

Corona Mortis (A)Image property of: CAA.Inc.Artist: M. Zuptich

Berberoglu states that "although these tiny anastomoses... have been described in classical anatomy textbooks, these texts neglect to mention that theses anastomoses can be life-threatening".

In some rare cases, the corona mortis (aberrant obturator artery) coexists with the normal obturator artery.  Although called a [corona], this anatomical structure is an incomplete circle. In the image, the [corona mortis] is labeled "A".

1. Rusu et al: "Anatomical considerations on the corona mortis" Surg Radiol Anat (2010) 32:17–24
2. Berberoglu et al: "An anatomic study in seven cadavers and an endoscopic study in 28 patients" Surg Endosc (2001) 15:72-75