Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Laparoscopic, Ligand

After a friend of mine had their third laparoscopic surgery, I got to wondering what this meant. Experience with technical terms has taught me that the more a word is used, the less it means.

Years ago, as a non-biologist, non-chemist, I attend an academic conference of biochemists. The presentation were on a wide variety of topics (as best as I could tell). What I found interesting was that most of the speakers talked about ligands. I used my best words skill to infer the meaning, but I was baffled.

Sometimes ligands seem to be like antibodies to cure diseases. But other times they seemed to be associated with viruses or bacteria that caused diseased. And they even took on non-disease roles like enzymes. I was completely baffled.

Eventually I asked someone and learned that a ligand binds things together. My etymological research found that it shared the Latin root with ligament and ligature. More interesting, this Latin root is also used in religion and oblige.

But, back to laparoscopic surgery. How can so many different operations be laparoscopic.

Heres a hint. Similar to these operations is cardiac catheterization. Similar in that it makes a small incision, in the thigh in this case, an uses that entry to access to heart, usually though femoral artery. Though this looks very much like laparoscopic surgery, it is never called by that name.This hint lets us know that the surgical name has nothing to do with the instruments or techniques.

Additionally, the name has nothing to do with the target, because many organs are attacked by laparoscopic surgery -- including gall bladder, uterus, and appendix.

The more a word is used, the less it means.  
Laparo merely means abdomen or flank. So laparoscopic surgery is any surgery where they poke little hole in your belly, and the friend I mentioned above proves this point. His belly looks like a pin cushion with all those 1-2 cm cuts.