In anatomy, we have the ongoing debate about whether we need to use the anatomical names for bones or the “common” equivalent. Though we are examined only on the anatomical terms, how important is it to be aware of the others?

Credit: Owain Davies
Credit: Owain Davies

“In the distal limb, we have the third metacarpal bone, proximal, middle and distal phalanges and the proximal and distal sesamoids.”

Imagine saying that to a horsey client. You’d probably receive a blank look.

Horsey translation: “Cannon bone, long pastern bone, short pastern bone, pedal bone, navicular bone and sesamoids.”

Now the client more than likely has a rough idea of what you’re going on about.

The importance of being able to relate the different terms is not only essential to the client-vet relationship, but also to your credibility. If someone were to ask about swelling around the cannon bone, and you only know it as the third metacarpal, things become somewhat awkward.

Perhaps it comes down to experience. Those of us from horsey backgrounds take things like that for granted. But it’s not just names of bones. I’m sure during our clinical years, we will learn about equine exertional rhabdomyolysis. Again, a horse owner probably won’t have a clue what that is. Mention azoturia, tying up or Monday morning disease, and you’re now on the same page.

Although anatomical names are “correct”, I feel that the importance of common names is paramount, and this should be emphasised more to us as students.

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