Anatomy is a core discipline of medicine. It provides the map on which all surgical and procedural arts are based. Without it, diagnostic imaging would be impossible and surgical pathology nearly so. It was the first medical art to begin evolving into a science,* preceding by centuries the maturation of other fields of medicine.
*Historians regard Andreas Vesalius (Andries van Wesel, 1514–1564, a Flemish/Dutch physician), as the Father of Modern Anatomy. Vesalius published the accurate and intricate De humani corporis fabrica (The Structure of the Human Body) in 1543 (see bottom image).
Illustration from Vesalius textbook of anatomy
The human body has over 600 muscles, 200 bones, hundreds of named arteries, arterioles, venules and veins, nerves, ligaments, fascia and each organ many gross parts. In all, there are thousands of anatomical terms, and more than ten thousand if one includes the synonyms (aliases). Some synonyms of anatomic structures are never-used curiosities, such as the fossa of Morgagni, which is better known as the navicular fossa of urethra. Other synonyms–e.g., fallopian tube, are in such common use that most physicians don’t know their proper anatomic name which, for the record, is uterine tube (tuba uterina in Latin).
When I began compiling material for the Modern Medical Dictionary (MMD) database in 1984 there were, and still are four major medical dictionaries, all of which do a pretty good job defining anatomic terminology. It made no sense for me to focus on classic anatomy and become a fifth Johnny-come-lately player in a crowded field, when non-classic anatomic structures such as the anatomic snuffbox, epilarynx, and sphenomandibular muscle had not been included in those works.
The MMD’s focus has been to catalog those terms that the reader will not find in his or her medical dictionary. Over time, the MMD will expand and encompass classic anatomy…but it’s not going to happen this year. The terms on the right column are a handful of the anatomic terms that one can find on newmedicalterms.com and many more are in the Modern Medical Dictionary (MMD) database.