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Describing the Cardiac Components-Attitudinally Appropriate Nomenclature

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Bob Anderson


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One of the first principles taught to medical students when they begin their study of human anatomy is that all structures within the body should be described as seen in the anatomical position. In this position, the subject is standing upright and facing the observer. The observer then views left-sided structures to the right hand and right-sided structures to the left hand. Those entities closest to the head are said to be superior, while those closest to the feet are considered to be inferior. And structures within the chest adjacent to the sternum are appropriately described as being anterior, with those adjacent to the spine properly being considered to be posterior. These conventions have been obeyed over the centuries for all organs except the heart. For reasons that are not clear, cardiac structures are described as though the heart has been removed from the thorax and positioned on its apex. This leads to unfortunate descriptions, such as the artery coursing through the middle of the diaphragmatic surface of the heart, blockage of which produces inferior infarction, being said to be posterior and descending. In reality, it is inferior and interventricular. The advent of three-dimensional techniques for imaging, such as computed tomography or magnetic resonance imaging, now demonstrates in unequivocal fashion the spurious natures of such descriptions, which extend also to the leaflets and papillary muscles of the atrioventricular valves. It is surely now incumbent on human anatomists and cardiologists to describe structures within the heart as they are seen relative to the thorax, in other words to do no more than follow a basic rule of human anatomy and use attitudinally appropriate terms. Whether clinical cardiologists will adopt such a logical approach is moot, but adoption will surely facilitate understanding for the future generations? This article is part of a JCTR special issue on Cardiac Anatomy.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Anderson RH, Spicer DE, Hlavacek AJ, Hill A, Loukas M

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Cardiovascular Translational Research

Year: 2013

Volume: 6

Issue: 2

Pages: 118-123

Print publication date: 01/04/2013

ISSN (print): 1937-5387

ISSN (electronic): 1937-5395

Publisher: Springer New York LLC


DOI: 10.1007/s12265-012-9434-z


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