There is tympanic cavity but also intestinal tympany (distended bowel). I cannot see relation.

What does tympany mean?

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If we look at etymonline it tells us about tympanic:

1808, from tympanum + -ic.

Lookin at tympanum, we find:

"drum of the ear," 1610s, from Medieval Latin tympanum, introduced in this sense by Italian anatomist Gabriello Fallopio (1523-1562), from Latin tympanum "a drum, timbrel, tambourine," from Greek tympanon "a kettledrum," from root of typtein "to beat, strike" (see type (n.)). Compare Old English timpan "drum, timbrel, tambourine," from Latin tympanum. The modern meaning "a drum" is attested in English from 1670s.

So, it has something to do with drums.

Tympanic cavity is explained by MedicineNet as follows:

Tympanic cavity: The major portion of the middle ear, consisting of a narrow air-filled cavity in the temporal bone that contains the bones of the middle ear.

So it's a cavity behind the eardrum.

If we look at the same source for tympany, we find this:

Tympany: A hollow drum-like sound that is produced when a gas-containing cavity is tapped sharply. Tympany is heard if the chest contains free air (pneumothorax) or the abdomen is distended with gas. Also known as tympanites.

So it seems that tympany refers to a symptom of what you call a distended bowel: when we hit it, it sounds like a drum.

  • 1
    +'1 Nice answer: "In addition to detection of ascites, percussion can be used to help define the nature of an abdominal mass. Tympany of an abdominal mass implies that it is gas filled (i.e., intestine)." ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK420 – user66974 Feb 5 '15 at 7:34
  • @Josh61 Ah, I see :) – oerkelens Feb 5 '15 at 8:14
  • Excellent answer with appropriate explanation! Thank you very much! – Léo Léopold Hertz 준영 Feb 5 '15 at 10:21

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