Are eponyms used correctly or not? A literature review with a focus on shoulder and elbow surgery

Evid Based Med. 2016 Oct;21(5):163-71. doi: 10.1136/ebmed-2016-110453. Epub 2016 Aug 26.


Background: Eponymous terms are used frequently in daily patient care and scientific literature. They remind us of our predecessors in surgery. It is debatable whether eponymous terms are reliable in case of information transfer. The aim of our study was to investigate whether the original meaning of eponymous terms in shoulder and elbow surgery has been preserved in its use in contemporary literature.

Objective: To evaluate whether eponymous terms were used correctly, we analysed the use of frequently encountered eponymous terms from January to December 2014.

Study selection: By means of a PubMed search, articles with eponymous terms were identified and analysed for the way an eponymous term was used, and we compared it with the original description. The original description was traced back to the index publication. The use of the eponymous term was scored as similar, divergent or undefined. In the search for eponymous terms, we included those eponymous terms that were used more than 10 times in the English, German and Dutch literature of 2014. 6 eponymous terms were eligible for analysis: Bankart lesion, Bristow-Latarjet procedure, Essex-Lopresti injury of the forearm, Galeazzi fracture, Hill-Sachs lesion and Monteggia fracture.

Findings: We analysed 96 articles with the listed eponymous terms, of which 27 (28%) were scored divergent, 32 (33%) undefined and 37 (39%) similar. Bristow-Latarjet scored lowest, with 0% descriptions similar to the original, meaning that all articles had an undefined or divergent eponym, and Essex-Lopresti scored highest with 82% similarity.

Conclusions: Eponymous terms in shoulder and elbow trauma and surgery are used inadequately and inconsistently. The use of eponymous terms probably cannot be avoided, but since the majority of eponymous terms are not used properly and understanding of its meaning and content varies from surgeon to surgeon, we should be keen on explaining the meaning of eponymous terms when using them.


Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Elbow
  • Eponyms*
  • Humans
  • Joint Instability*
  • Shoulder
  • Shoulder Dislocation*
  • Terminology as Topic