Common Medical Term that’s Not Common Vocabulary: Meatus

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Another Common Medical Term that’s Not Common Vocabulary

I was thinking about some of the words that as physicians we used casually, that just are not a part of the vocabulary of most people.  I suspect that the first time I heard this word it was in a context that allowed me to figure out what it meant, and that I’ve heard it so many times now that it seems normal to use it.  Really though, who says meatus?

From the online Merriam-Webster Dictionary:     me·a·tus

noun \mē-ˈā-təs\     pluralme·a·tus·esorme·a·tus

Definition of MEATUS: a natural body passage

Origin of MEATUS Late Latin, from Latin, going, passage, from meare to      go — more at permeate First Known Use: 1580

In everyday medicine the common meatus we discuss is the urethral meatus, of the opening of the urinary tract to the outside, on the tip of the penis in normal males, and at the area between the clitoris and the vagina in normal females.   Here are several of the anatomic meatuses we learned about in gross anatomy:

Urethral meatus: The opening of the urethra from the bladder to the outside.

External Auditory Meatus: (also called the external auditory canal) is the opening in the outside of the skull from the outer ear to the eardrum.

Internal Auditory Meatus: (also called the internal auditory canal) is the opening in the temporal bone that the facial (7th)  and vestibulocochlear (8th) cranial nerve travel through to enter the cranium and go to the brainstem.  The facial nerve gives innervations to the muscles of the face and the muscles of the middle ear.  The vestibulocochlear nerve is for the senses of hearing and balance.  Like all 12 of the cranial nerves they exit the brainstem through the skull as opposed to the spinal nerves which exit the spinal cord through the vertebra.

Superior, Middle and Inferior Meatuses: (of the nose) Are the openings of various sinuses  into the nose just below the superior, middle and inferior conchi.  These are the areas where ENT surgeons sometimes make larger with endoscopic surgery to allow better sinus drainage.

Hopefully you never have a problem with a meatus, and your physician never has to mention the term.   If this anatomy is causing an issue for you and your physician refers to a meatus you now can feel like you know anatomy a little bit better.


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