Anatomy word of the month: decussation

May 1, 2010 —

“To make an X” (Latin). A decussation is an intersection of pathways in the form of an X. Most nerve pathways between our brain and spinal cord cross over at some point.This accounts for why each side of our brain (two cerebral hemispheres) has control over the opposite side of our body. In anatomical language this is called a contralateral relationship (opposite sides). This information is useful in determining the location of a stroke. Paralysis of the right side of the body would mean that a cerebrovascular accident (CVA), the fancier name for stroke, had occurred in the left cerebral hemisphere.”Decem” is the Latin word for the number ten, or “deca” in Greek.Hence, decussation literally means to draw the Roman numeral for ten.December is also the tenth month of an early Roman calendar.


Dr. Dyche was born in New Jersey and trained at Penn State’s Hershey Medical Center before coming to Des Moines in 1976. Over 30 plus years he has taught gross anatomy, embryology and neuroanatomy. He also served in administration as associate dean for basic sciences, dean of the College of Health Sciences, and acting director of the PA program. He was one of the founding instructors of CPR and ACLS at a time when few medical schools offered this training. He retired to Oregon in 2008, then returned to DMU in 2009. Did he miss the tornadoes, the below zero wind chills or the cadavers?