I know, medical terminology seems so…boring.
Were you going to say boring?
Well I don’t think so! Learning anatomy and related subjects is like learning a new language. Personally, if I didn’t study human bodies and bones, I’d be studying language. It’s super cool to me!
Learning new things
Learning new structures is made easier if you can break down the components of it’s name. For example, the superior thyroid artery supplies the superior pole of the thyroid gland – the inferior thyroid artery takes care of the inferior pole of the thyroid gland. Likewise, the internal branch of the superior laryngeal nerve actually dives INTO the larynx, as it names implies. The external branch of the same superior laryngeal nerve does innervate one laryngeal muscle, but it never enters into the larynx, again as it name implies.
Secret codes and tricks
Naming conventions are also a hint about nearby structures. If anatomists have gone to the trouble to call something by a specific name – anterior superior pancreaticoduodenal arteries, for example, you can assume there is a complementary inferior posterior pancreaticoduodenal artery branch, too. Or, the name medial circumflex femoral artery implies that there is a lateral circumflex femoral artery (and there is!). That works most of the time! This convention is like a secret code to deciphering the anatomy of the body.
What is “up” or “down?”
Positional and directional terms are the basis of how anatomists speak to one another about the body. It is not sufficient to say “above” or “below” because those terms are relative to the overall position of the body. What if someone is inverted? Or laying down? Or a limb is bent? What is “up” and “down” then?
The directional terms you see below are always the same – proximal is always closer to the trunk, superior is always “above” inferior, caudal is always closer to the “tail” than the head, deep is always…deep 🙂
Swipe through the cards below to review the most common directional anatomical terms. Or, grab a PDF file containing all 16 cards so far. Get solid on their use because you’ll see these used everywhere. Incorporate these words into your speech patterns. Act as if you’re learning a new language…because you are! And that is awesome!
PDF file of the directional terms seen below: