The medical field is full of eponymous terms for all kinds of things, especially clinical findings and tests. These terms are named after notable individuals such as the physician who first described them or possibly even after a famous patient with the condition. Because these terms generally have no obvious connection to specific disease conditions, they simply must be memorized. This article provides a brief overview of common eponymous terms you’ll encounter in nursing school and at the bedside.

Allen TestABG analysisBy obstructing the radial and ulnar arteries, the test determines the presence of a palmar arch which allows for blood to flow to the hand should one of these key arteries become damaged.

For the modified Allen test, the patient is instructed to make a tight fist and the radial and ulnar arteries are occluded by the observer. When the patient releases the fist, the hand should be white due to blocked blood flow. The observer releases pressure on the ulnar artery and watches for color to return to the palm. This indicates that if the radial artery were compromised during the procedure, the hand would still get adequate perfusion. 
Babinski ReflexNeurological injury and infantsThis test evaluates the corticospinal tract and is one way we test adults for serious neurological injury. Up until age 24 months, the presence of this reflex is normal. However, if it is present in an older individual or an adult, this may indicate brain or spinal cord injury is present.

To perform this test, a blunt instrument is run along the lateral plantar surface from heel to toe and then across the metatarsal pads to the bottom of the first toe. A positive Babinski reflex is present if the toes fan outward or the first toe moves upward.
Barlow ManeuverDevelopmental dysplasia of the hipTo perform the Barlow maneuver, the infant is placed supine with the hip flexed to 90-degrees. The observer grasps the infant’s thigh and gently adducts the thigh without adding downward pressure. The observer palpates the hip to determine if the head of the femur moved out of the back of the acetabulum. Additionally, a “thunk” may be noticed. The hip may also be subluxatable, which the observer may note as a sliding feeling or “looseness.”

If the hip is dislocatable or subluxatable, this is a positive test and suggestive of developmental dysplasia of the hip. This test is often performed along with the Ortolani maneuver.
Battle’s Sign
Neurological injuryBruising over the mastoid process with or without associated “raccoon eyes” bruising indicates head trauma (typically blunt head trauma). It has a positive predictive value of more than 75% for basilar skull fracture. However, recent studies indicate it may also occur with hepatic encephalopathy without traumatic head injury.
Beck’s TriadCardiac tamponadeBeck’s triad is a group of three symptoms that are associated with cardiac tamponade – hypotension, jugular vein distension, and muffled heart sounds.
Biot’s RespirationsNeurological injuryBiot’s respirations are irregular with rhythmic periods of apnea lasting 10 to 30 seconds. Though it is generally due to neurological injury, this respiratory pattern may also be present with opioid use.
Broca’s AphasiaStrokeIn Broca’s aphasia, spontaneous speech is diminished and the patient has difficulty with grammatical structure, prepositions, and linking words such as “or” and “but.” Individuals with Broca’s aphasia can understand language. It is considered a non-fluent aphasia.
Buerger’s TestPeripheral artery diseaseThis test evaluates for insufficient arterial blood flow. The observer elevates the patient’s lower extremity until the veins have drained. The extremity is then returned to a dependent position and the observer times how long it takes for blood flow to return to the foot.

In a healthy individual, the foot remains normal color when elevated. A patient with PAD will have pallor with elevation and a dusky flush when the foot is lowered.
Cheyne-Stokes RespirationsNeurological injury and heart failureThis is a cyclical breathing pattern with periods of apnea and hyperventilation. It is often described as a “crescendo and decrescendo” pattern.

The pattern is due to fluctuating PCO2 levels which can occur in patients with neurological injury (such as a stroke) and heart failure. In those with heart failure, the presence of Cheyne-Stokes respirations is indicative of a higher risk of sudden cardiac death.
Chvostek’s SignHypocalcemiaThough recent studies indicate the clinical correlation between hypocalcemia and this sign are minimal, it is still widely considered to be associated with hypocalcemia. In fact, a cross-sectional analysis conducted in 2023 showed that it may actually be most likely to indicate a normal or even elevated calcium level.

The sign is elicited by stimulating the facial nerve with a finger. If the ipsilateral facial muscles twitch, this is considered a positive sign.
Cushing TriadIncreased intracranial pressureThe triad of signs indicating increased intracranial pressure are a widening pulse pressure, bradycardia and irregular respirations.
Cullen’s SignPancreatitisCullen’s sign is a bluish discoloration around the umbilicus that occurs in hemorrhagic or necrotizing pancreatitis as well as other conditions that cause bleeding in the abdomen, such as ruptured ectopic pregnancy, ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm, abdominal trauma, spleen rupture, and perforated duodenal ulcer.
Kernig SignMeningitisThe patient assumes a supine position with thighs and knees flexed. The observer then passively straightens the leg. Resistance to the leg extension or pain in the lower back or thighs indicates a positive response.
Koplik SpotsRubeolaKoplik spots appear in 60 to 70% of patients with rubeola (measles) and are raised bluish white spots on the buccal mucosa.
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Korotkoff SoundsBlood pressureKorotkoff sounds are the pulsating sounds that are heard when auscultating the brachial artery during a blood pressure measurement. The sounds occur due to the blood pressure cuff compressing the brachial artery, which causes blood flow to be more turbulent and audible.
Kussmaul RespirationsDiabetic ketoacidosisThough Kussmaul respirations can occur with any metabolic acidosis, it is most commonly seen with diabetic ketoacidosis. It is characterized by rapid, deep breathing due to the body’s attempts to rid itself of excess CO2.
McBurney’s PointAppendicitisMcBurney’s point is located on the lower right side of the abdomen. Pressure is applied here to evaluate a patient with abdominal pain for appendicitis. If pain is more intense at this location, it is indicative of appendicitis.
Murphy’s SignCholecystitisTo assess for Murphy’s sign, the patient takes a deep breath and holds it while the observer palpates the right subcostal area. If pain occurs upon inspiration, this is due to the inflamed gallbladder coming into contact with the observer’s hand.
Ortolani ManeuverDevelopmental dysplasia of the hipThe infant is placed in a supine position with the hip flexed to 90-degrees. The observer grasps the infant’s thigh and gently abducts the hip while simultaneously lifting the trochanter in an anterior direction.

If the hip is dislocated, this maneuver may bring it back into the proper position. The Ortolani maneuver is generally utilized in coordination with the Barlow maneuver to dislocate and then reduce the hip.
Osler NodesEndocarditisFound on the fingers and toes, Osler nodes are thought to be caused by an immune reaction to infective endocarditis.
Raynaud’s PhenomenonFingers and toesRaynaud’s phenomenon (also called Raynaud’s syndrome or Raynaud’s disease) is a condition in which vascular spasms cause blood flow to the fingers and toes is reduced. These spams occur in response to stress and exposure to cold.
Romberg’s TestNeurological diseaseThe Romberg’s test evaluates the area of the brain and spinal cord that controls proprioception. In this test the patient stands with feet together with arms held down by their sides or crossed in front. The patient then closes their eyes and the observer evaluates their ability to balance. If the patient loses their balances, this is a positive test and indicative of some kind of neurological impairment or disease.
Trousseau’s SignHypocalcemiaThis test evaluates the patient for tetany associated with low calcium levels. A blood pressure cuff is inflated to 20 mm Hg above the patient’s systolic BP for three minutes. A carpopedal spasm will occur in most cases of hypocalcemia and may also occur in hypomagnesemia and metabolic alkalosis.
Turner’s SignPancreatitisAlso called “Grey-Turner sign” this manifestation is often seen along with Cullen’s sign in necrotizing pancreatitis and possibly other conditions that cause bleeding in the abdominal cavity. It is a discoloration of the flank which may be green, yellow or purple, depending upon how much RBC breakdown has occurred in abdominal wall tissue.
Uhthoff’s PhenomenonMultiple sclerosisUhthoff’s phenomenon is a temporary worsening of MS symptoms when the individual’s core body temperature increases.
Virchow’s TriadDVT/PEVirchow’s triad is a collection of risk factors for the development of deep vein thrombosis and ultimately pulmonary embolism. The three contributing factors are venous stasis, vascular injury, and hypercoagulability.
Wernicke’s AphasiaStrokeA type of aphasia where the individual has impaired understanding of speech and inserts random words in a pattern often described as “word salad.” For example, “The plindle car cat want hear to me grocery time.”
Wernicke EncephalopathyThiamine deficiencyWernicke encephalopathy is a life-threatening neurological condition that occurs in patients with thiamine deficiency. This is often due to severe alcohol use disorder but can also be associated with anorexia, hyperthyroidism and hyperemesis gravidarum. The classic signs and symptoms are ophthalmoplegia with nystagmus, ataxia, and confusion.

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