A Spider called Willis
Following on from Gates’ demystification of brainstem lesions, here is an excerpt from Stephen Goldberg’s imaginative means of remembering the Circle of Willis (my insertions in square brackets):
A ferocious spider lives in the brain. His name is Willis! Note that he has a nose [pituitary gland], two suckers [mamillary bodies], eyes that look outward [internal carotid arteries], a crew cut [anterior communicating artery – blood flows in either direction], antennae [anterior cerebral arteries], a fuzzy beard [posterior communicating arteries – again, blood flows in either direction], 8 legs, a belly that, according to your point of view, is either thin (basilar artery) or fat (the pons, which lies from one end of the basilar artery to the other), two feelers on his rear legs [posterior inferior cerebellar arteries], and male genitalia [anterior spinal artery]. Willis has hairy armpits – the third cranial nerve exists between the posterior cerebral artery and the superior cerebellar artery [the first two sets of legs]. The cerebellar arteries were named by a real SAP (S – superior, A – anterior inferior, and P – posterior inferior) [SA – the last two sets of legs] and supply the cerebellum and brainstem.
- Gates P. The rule of 4 of the brainstem: a simplified method for understanding brainstem anatomy and brainstem vascular syndromes for the non-neurologist. Internal Medicine Journal 2005; 35: 263-266 [PMID 15836511]
- Goldberg S. Clinical Neuroanatomy Made Ridiculously Simple. MedMaster Series, 2000 Edition.
- Patten J. Neurological Differential Diagnosis. Springer-Verlag.
- Brainstem Rules of 4 (original rules)
- Helpful Brainstem Figures (original figures)
- The rule of 4 of the brainstem (Rules re-imagined)
- Using the Brainstem 1
- Using the Brainstem 2
- The Magic of the Neuro Exam
- Look Left, Look Right (Internuclear Ophthalmoplegia)
- More Befuddling Pupillary Asymmetry (Horner Syndrome)
Chris is an Intensivist and ECMO specialist at the Alfred ICU in Melbourne. He is also a Clinical Adjunct Associate Professor at Monash University. He is a co-founder of the Australia and New Zealand Clinician Educator Network (ANZCEN) and is the Lead for the ANZCEN Clinician Educator Incubator programme. He is on the Board of Directors for the Intensive Care Foundation and is a First Part Examiner for the College of Intensive Care Medicine. He is an internationally recognised Clinician Educator with a passion for helping clinicians learn and for improving the clinical performance of individuals and collectives.
After finishing his medical degree at the University of Auckland, he continued post-graduate training in New Zealand as well as Australia’s Northern Territory, Perth and Melbourne. He has completed fellowship training in both intensive care medicine and emergency medicine, as well as post-graduate training in biochemistry, clinical toxicology, clinical epidemiology, and health professional education.
He is actively involved in in using translational simulation to improve patient care and the design of processes and systems at Alfred Health. He coordinates the Alfred ICU’s education and simulation programmes and runs the unit’s education website, INTENSIVE. He created the ‘Critically Ill Airway’ course and teaches on numerous courses around the world. He is one of the founders of the FOAM movement (Free Open-Access Medical education) and is co-creator of litfl.com, the RAGE podcast, the Resuscitology course, and the SMACC conference.
His one great achievement is being the father of three amazing children.
On Twitter, he is @precordialthump.
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