Thursday 5 January 2017

New organ?

I saw this headline a few days ago, and as I waited 4.294 seconds (I counted) in extreme antici...pation for the page to load (goddamned WiFi), I couldn't believe what I was seeing.  As a surgeon it struck me firmly in the gut (pun fully intended).  Another organ?  In the abdomen?  What the hell have I been missing for the last {redacted} years??  Holy shit, what have we ALL been missing?

I felt like the worst surgeon in the world.  I've been in the abdomen countless hundreds of times, and I know all the organs in there like the back of my hand.  Or so I thought.  Those 4.294 seconds ticked by interminably, which gave me enough time to tick off all those well-known organs in my head:
  • stomach
  • diaphgram
  • small bowel
  • colon
  • rectum
  • appendix (fuck you, appendix)
  • omentum
  • spleen
  • liver
  • gall bladder
  • kidneys
  • urinary bladder
  • mesentery
  • peritoneum
  • pancreas
So what is it?  WHAT IS IT?  GODDAMMIT WHAT IS IT???  What is this new organ that Italian researchers just discovered???

It's . . . the mesentery.

The page finished loading, and I read with some degree of incredulity that this brand new organ was, in fact, an organ which doctors, researchers, and anatomists have known about literally for centuries.  The description of the supposed discovery was somewhat confusing, stating that we thought the mesentery was multiple separate entities (no, we didn't), which is why it wasn't really considered an organ (yes, it was).  One particular bit, however, left my mouth literally ajar:
Although its function is still unclear, the discovery opens up “a whole new area of science,” according to J Calvin Coffey, a researcher at the University Hospital Limerick who first discovered it.
Wait wait wait, Coffey discovered it?  Then what the hell is this drawing by Leonardo da Vinci from 1452?
Now admittedly I'm no art expert, but that sure looks to me like a depiction of a continuous mesentery, which is oddly consistent with what we've known for over 500 years.  And what's this bullshit about not knowing the function?  What??

The mesentery suspends the entirety of the bowel (both small and large) and keeps it in place, preventing it from twisting on itself.  If the mesentery is too long or doesn't form properly, the bowel can twist about its blood supply, causing something called volvulus.  No, despite what you may have seen on House, MD, the intestines do NOT look like a continuous sausage link.  If you happened to miss that episode, no it was not lupus.  It's never lupus.

Not only that, the mesentery also contains the intestine's blood supply and lymphatic drainage.  Whenever I need to remove a section of bowel (for cancer, knife holes, or anything else), I also must remove the portion of mesentery that supports it.  Imagine if I were in there and encountered this brand new organ I'd never seen before and had no idea what function it had.

"AH!  What the hell is that?  Should I remove it?  Keep it?  What do I do?"

No.  Just, no.

The mesentery is NOT a new organ, it is NOT mysterious, and we DO know exactly what it does.  Unfortunately a quick search for "new organ" will generate countless sites all reporting the same shit.  File this under Fake News.  

Way to go, news outlets.  What a way to ring in 2017.  God damn it.


  1. Thank you for properly eviscerating the hype.

  2. Good. 'Cause mesentary sounds too much like disentary and knowing what disentary is, I was going to call my surgeon stat and say "get it out, get it out now!" It sounds just like what disentary causes.

  3. As soon I saw the 'announcement' yesterday in my feeds I'd been waiting for this post. Thank you. /tears/

  4. whew do not want any more organs!!! It would just make me weigh more, so thanks.

  5. Oh dear. I shared that article. I'm sorry. I'll do better next time ;-)

  6. They need to discover the "Brain" and send it to the journalists. Seems they lost theirs.

    Kate Johnson

    1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    2. Anon just above - your comment is both off-topic and insensitive. Do not do that again.

  7. I used to subscribe to Live Science until I discovered that the health writers' (same writer who authored this article) LinkedIn page said that she was also the Medical Associate Producer on the Dr. Oz show.

    1. I like reading Science Daily

  8. I think mesentery was thought of as tissue. Now they call it an organ. After reading Doc B's post I had to Google it. Can a person's mesentery grow too much and cause a pudgy abdomen?

  9. Have you never seen this sadly oh-so-true cartoon?

    1. I have now. It is shockingly true.

    2. I actually laughed out loud. Yes, very true.

  10. It's official. 79 organs in the human body according to Gray's Anatomy.

  11. Really and truly, you should go and lambast J Calvin Coffey.

    I don't want to go through the fuss and bother of registering and reading it from home, so I'll let others get the full text.


    (No, my profile and password weren't lurking somewhere behind the refrigerator - sorry Doc.)

  12. Here we go, from no later than 2014 (probably earlier with all the graphic recycling that goes on in anatomy books).


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