Saturday, August 21, 2021

The Lymphatic System Deserves Its Own Chapter

 A social media thread I ran across recently laments that the lymphatic system is an undervalued and undertaught topic in the anatomy and physiology curriculum. That puzzles me.

Admittedly, I don't bring up the lymphatic system a lot in my day-to-day conversations. Not even in chats with other A&P enthusiasts. But it does come up sometimes in conversations about teaching or learning A&P. And when it does, I think the usual reaction involves some variety of love for the lymphatic system. So I'm puzzled.

In our Patton Anatomy & Physiology textbook, the lymphatic system certainly gets the love and attention it deserves. In fact, we feel that it deserves its own chapter! Unlike most A&P textbooks, Patton Anatomy & Physiology has a separate Lymphatic System chapter that follows Blood, Heart, Blood Vessels, and Circulation of Blood chapters and precedes the chapters Innate Immunity, Adaptive Immunity, and Stress.

That placement of the chapter puts it in exactly that spot in the story where we want it. That is, our story of the lymphatic system picks up the story of circulation begun in the Circulation of Blood chapter by explaining where the excess fluid left out of venous return goes. It goes back to the bloodstream via an elegant lymphatic drainage system. 

But wait! There's more! That fluid being returned to the bloodstream from the tissues is filtered in the lymph nodes before joining the blood supply. Which then allows us to introduce the concept of immunity and the lymphatic system's key role as a partner in the immune system. 

The next chapters Innate Immunity and Adaptive Immunity then pick up that part of the story after the Lymphatic System chapter. Then, after all those parts of the story set the final pieces needed, the Stress chapter integrates diverse concepts learned in previous chapters into a big picture of how our body deals with the world.

Although that social media thread lamenting that the lymphatic system is undervalued and undertaught puzzles me on one level, I wholeheartedly agree that the lymphatic system deserves any love we do give it. In the eleventh edition of Patton Anatomy & Physiology, available November 2021, we've added a bit more love by adding a brief description of the emerging concept of the glymphatic system. And, in our usual style, we generally refined and clarified our story of the amazing lymphatic system.

Check out the heavily illustrated story of the lymphatic system in Patton Anatomy & Physiology. I think you'll agree that we really do show this system some love.


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