Biology Suffix Definition: -otomy, -tomy

Phlebotomist taking a blood sample from patient
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The suffix "-otomy," or "-tomy," refers to the act of cutting or making an incision, as in a medical operation or procedure. This word part is derived from the Greek -tomia, which means to cut.


Anatomy (ana-tomy): the study of the physical structure of living organisms. Anatomical dissection is a primary component of this type of biological study. Anatomy involves the study of macro-structures (heart, brain, kidneys, etc.) and microstructures (cells, organelles, etc.).

Autotomy (aut-otomy): the act of removing an appendage from the body in order to escape when trapped. This defense mechanism is exhibited in animals such as lizards, geckos, and crabs. These animals can use regeneration to recover the lost appendage.

Craniotomy (crani-otomy): surgical cutting of the skull, typically done to provide access to the brain when surgery is needed. A craniotomy may require a small or large cut depending on the type of surgery needed. A small cut in the skull is referred to as a burr hole and is used to insert a shunt or remove small brain tissue samples. A large craniotomy is called a skull base craniotomy and is needed when removing large tumors or after an injury that causes a skull fracture.

Episiotomy (episi-otomy): surgical cut made into the area between the vagina and anus to prevent tearing during the child birthing process. This procedure is no longer routinely performed due to associated risks of infection, extra blood loss, and possible increase in the size of the cut during delivery.

Gastrotomy (gastr-otomy): surgical incision made into the stomach for the purpose of feeding an individual who is incapable of taking in food through normal processes.

Hysterotomy (hyster-otomy): surgical incision made into the uterus. This procedure is done in a Cesarean section to remove a baby from the womb. A hysterotomy is also performed in order to operate on a fetus in the womb.

Phlebotomy (phleb-otomy): incision or puncture made into a vein in order to draw blood. A phlebotomist is a health care worker who draws blood.

Laparotomy (lapar-otomy): incision made into the abdominal wall for the purpose of examining abdominal organs or diagnosing an abdominal problem. Organs examined during this procedure may include the kidneys, liver, spleen, pancreas, appendix, stomach, intestines, and female reproductive organs.

Lobotomy (lob-otomy): incision made into a lobe of a gland or organ. Lobotomy also refers to an incision made into a lobe of the brain to sever nerve tracts.

Rhizotomy (rhiz-otomy): surgical severing of a cranial nerve root or spinal nerve root in order to relieve back pain or decrease muscle spasms.

Tenotomy (ten-otmy): incision made into the tendon in order to correct a muscle deformity. This procedure helps to lengthen a defective muscle and is commonly used to correct a club foot.

Tracheotomy (trache-otomy): incision made into the trachea (windpipe) for the purpose of inserting a tube to allow air to flow the lungs. This is done to bypass an obstruction in the trachea, such as swelling or a foreign object.

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Bailey, Regina. "Biology Suffix Definition: -otomy, -tomy." ThoughtCo, Sep. 7, 2021, Bailey, Regina. (2021, September 7). Biology Suffix Definition: -otomy, -tomy. Retrieved from Bailey, Regina. "Biology Suffix Definition: -otomy, -tomy." ThoughtCo. (accessed May 30, 2023).