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The Reliability of Orthopaedic Eponymous Terms

Somford, Matthijs P. MD1,a; Nieuwe Weme, Rebecca A. MD2; Sierevelt, Inger MSc3; Doornberg, Job N. MD, PhD4,5; Niek van Dijk, C. MD, PhD5; Ring, David MD, PhD6; Eygendaal, Denise MD, PhD5,7; ; the Orthopaedic Eponymous Terms Study Group

doi: 10.2106/JBJS.16.01433
The Orthopaedic Forum

Background: There are approximately 20,000 medical eponymous terms in use today. Familiar eponymous terms serve as shorthand during communication with colleagues. This study tested the reliability of the everyday use of common orthopaedic eponymous terms.

Methods: Using an online survey, 224 orthopaedic surgeons were quizzed on common eponymous terms. The correspondence of each eponymous term with its original description (termed appropriate use) was calculated with 95% confidence intervals. We measured the reliability of the use of eponymous terms using the kappa statistic and the proportion of agreement.

Results: The percentage of appropriate use averaged 45% (ranging from 27% [for the Barton fracture eponymous term] to 75% [for the Sever’s disease eponymous term]), with greater misuse among European surgeons. The reliability of the use of eponymous terms was low (kappa, 0.11; proportion of agreement, 68%). The support for using eponymous terms in daily practice was significantly lower among surgeons practicing in North America (63%) than among their colleagues in Europe and South America (80%; p < 0.001). Eponymous terms were used more often than anatomical descriptions or classifications.

Conclusions: Using eponymous terms is an inaccurate and unreliable method of communication. Descriptive terms are preferable to eponymous terms.

1Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Rijnstate Hospital, Arnhem, the Netherlands

2Department of General Surgery, Isala Clinics, Zwolle, the Netherlands

3Department of Orthopedic Surgery, MC Slotervaart, Amsterdam, the Netherlands

4Flinders Medical Centre, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

5Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Academic Medical Center Amsterdam, Amsterdam, the Netherlands

6Department of Surgery and Perioperative Care, Dell Medical School, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas

7Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Amphia Hospital, Breda, the Netherlands

aE-mail address for M.P. Somford:

Copyright © 2017 by The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, Incorporated
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