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 post anatomical, medical or surgical terms, their 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

Self-portrait, Henry Vandyke Carter, MD (Public Domain)
Self-portrait, Henry Vandyke Carter, MD (Public Domain)

Henry Vandyke Carter, MD
(1831 – 1897)

English physician, surgeon, medical artist, and a pioneer in leprosy and mycetoma studies.  HV Carter was born in Yorkshire in 1831. He was the son of Henry Barlow Carter, a well-known artist and it is possible that he honed his natural talents with his father. His mother picked his middle name after a famous painter, Anthony Van Dyck. This is probably why his name is sometimes shown as Henry Van Dyke Carter, although the most common presentation of his middle name is Vandyke.

Having problems to finance his medical studies, HV Carter trained as an apothecary and later as an anatomical demonstrator at St. George’s Hospital in London, where he met Henry Gray (1872-1861), who was at the time the anatomical lecturer. Having seen the quality of HV Carter’s drawings, Henry Gray teamed with him to produce one of the most popular and longer-lived anatomy books in history: “Gray’s Anatomy”, which was first published in late 1857.  The book itself, about which many papers have been written, was immediately accepted and praised because of the clarity of the text as well as the incredible drawings of Henry Vandyke Carter.

While working on the book’s drawings, HV Carter continued his studies and received his MD in 1856.

In spite of initially being offered a co-authorship of the book, Dr. Carter was relegated to the position of illustrator by Henry Gray and never saw the royalties that the book could have generated for him. For all his work and dedication, Dr. Carter only received a one-time payment of 150 pounds. Dr.  Carter never worked again with Gray, who died of smallpox only a few years later.

Frustrated, Dr. Carter took the exams for the India Medical Service.  In 1858 he joined as an Assistant Surgeon and later became a professor of anatomy and physiology. Even later he served as a Civil Surgeon. During his tenure with the India Medical Service he attained the ranks of Surgeon, Surgeon-Major, Surgeon-Lieutenant-Colonel, and Brigade-Surgeon.

Dr. Carter dedicated the rest of his life to the study of leprosy, and other ailments typical of India at that time. He held several important offices, including that of Dean of the Medical School of the University of Bombay. In 1890, after his retirement, he was appointed Honorary Physician to the Queen.

Dr. Henry Vandyke Carter died of tuberculosis in 1897.

Personal note: Had history been different, this famous book would have been called “Gray and Carter’s Anatomy” and Dr. Carter never gone to India. His legacy is still seen in the images of the thousands of copies of “Gray’s Anatomy” throughout the world and the many reproductions of his work available on the Internet. We are proud to use some of his images in this blog. The image accompanying this article is a self-portrait of Dr. Carter. Click on the image for a larger depiction. Dr. Miranda

1. “Obituary: Henry Vandyke Carter” Br Med J (1897);1:1256-7
2. “The Anatomist: A True Story of ‘Gray’s Anatomy” Hayes W. (2007) USA: Ballantine
3. “A Glimpse of Our Past: Henry Gray’s Anatomy” Pearce, JMS. J Clin Anat (2009) 22:291–295
4. “Henry Gray and Henry Vandyke Carter: Creators of a famous textbook” Roberts S. J Med Biogr (2000) 8:206–212.
5. “Henry Vandyke Carter and his meritorious works in India” Tappa, DM et al. Indian J Dermatol Venereol Leprol (2011) 77:101-3

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The aortic root and the aortic valve (2)

This article is a continuation of: The aortic root and the aortic valve (1)

The aortic valve is formed by three semilunar leaflets which are very thin as to be almost transparent.  The attachment of the leaflets is complex, as part of them attaches to ventricular wall, part attaches to the sinusal arterial wall, and even part of them attaches to the membranous interventricular septum and other fibrous structures. Loukas et al state that at “least one third of the circumference of the aortic root is supported by fibrous tissue rather than ventricular musculature”

Each of the three aortic leaflets has a semilunar attachment and shape (hence the term “semilunar valve” used for both the aortic and pulmonary valve, as they have similar shape). The attachment of these three leaflets create a continuous line where the highest points are the three locations where the leaflets attach at the STJ, and the three lower points or “nadirs” form an edge shaped like a three-pronged “coronet”. This coronet is called by many the “anatomical anulus” of the aortic valve, as this is where the fibrous skeleton of the heart forms the “hinges” of the aortic valve.

Aortic root and aortic valve
Aortic root and aortic valve.
Click on the image for a larger version.
The leaflets of the aortic valve (as well as those in the pulmonary valve) have a tissue excrescence that can become quite hard at the point where the three leaflets touch on each heartbeat. These are the nodules of Arantius, named after Giulio Cesare Aranzio (1530 – 1589). As a side note, the nodules of the pulmonary valve have a different name. Distally, the aortic leaflets may present a very thin extension that may be cribriform (not shown in the sketch). These are called the lunulae (singular: lunula) as they look like a sliver of moon.

The second component of the base of the aortic root is a ring defined by the lowest portion of each leaflet, the nadir. This ring is called the “virtual basal ring”, is found within the left ventricle and is used as a surgical reference for aortic valve replacement implants.

The three leaflets are found within three dilations of the aortic root, each one called a “sinus of Valsalva”, which extend between the virtual basal ring inferiorly and the STJ superiorly. The presence of the sinuses of Valsalva permits “fluttering” of the open aortic leaflets in ventricular systole. This fluttering of the leaflets allows blood to flow into the sinuses and into the coronary arteries during ventricular systole.

Aortic valve may present with different number of leaflets, as in the case of a bicuspid aortic valve.

The shape of the attachment of the leaflets create two distinct situations:

First, there is a portion of the ventricle related to the leaflets where the ventricle acts as an artery, the aorta. These areas are found inside the sinuses of Valsalva.

Second, there are triangular areas of the aortic root (the interleaflet triangles) where the aortic wall is within the left ventricle and submitted to the pressures and hemodynamics of the left ventricle. These interleaflet triangles have been involved in aneurysms. For simplicity, these interleaflet triangles are not shown in the sketch and are the subject of a separate article in this website.

Note: The image depicts only one complete aortic leaflet. The other one has been transected to show the sinus of Valsalva and the third has been removed to show the attachment or "hinge" of the leaflet. For an anatomical image of the aortic valve click here.

1. The Anatomy of the Aortic Root: Loukas, M et al. Clinical Anatomy 27:748–756 (2014)
2. “Extracardiac aneurysm of the interleaflet triangle above the aortic-mitral curtain due to infective endocarditis of the bicuspid aortic valve.” Hori D, et al. Gen Thorac Cardiovasc Surg. 2008 Aug;56(8):424-6
3. “Anatomy of the aortic root: implications for valve-sparing surgery” Efstratios I. Charitos, HS. Ann Cardiothorac Surg 2013;2(1):53-56
4. “The Forgotten Interleaflet Triangles: A Review of the Surgical Anatomy of the Aortic Valve” Sutton JP, et al Ann Thorac Surg 1995;59:419-27

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