Medical Definition of Anatomic orientation terms

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Anatomic orientation terms: In anatomy, certain terms are used to denote orientation. For example, a structure may be horizontal, as opposed to vertical.

Some of the terms of anatomic orientation are as follows:

  • Anterior: The front, as opposed to the posterior.
  • Anteroposterior: From front to back, as opposed to posteroanterior.
  • Caudad: Toward the feet (or tail in embryology), as opposed to cranial.
  • Caudal: Pertaining to, situated in, or toward the tail or the hind part. Or below another structure.
  • Cranial: Toward the head, as opposed to caudad.
  • Deep: Away from the exterior surface or further into the body, as opposed to superficial.
  • Distal: Further from the beginning, as opposed to proximal.
  • Dorsal: The back, as opposed to ventral.
  • Horizontal: Parallel to the floor, a plane passing through the standing body parallel to the floor.
  • Inferior: Below, as opposed to superior.
  • Inferolateral: Below and to one side. Both inferior and lateral.
  • Lateral: Toward the left or right side of the body, as opposed to medial.
  • Medial: In the middle or inside, as opposed to lateral.
  • Posterior: The back or behind, as opposed to the anterior.
  • Posteroanterior: From back to front, as opposed to anteroposterior.
  • Pronation: Rotation of the forearm and hand so that the palm is down (and the corresponding movement of the foot and leg with the sole down), as opposed to supination.
  • Prone: With the front or ventral surface downward (lying face down), as opposed to supine.
  • Proximal: Toward the beginning, as opposed to distal.
  • Sagittal: A vertical plane passing through the standing body from front to back. The mid-sagittal, or median plane, splits the body into left and right halves.
  • Superficial: On the surface or shallow, as opposed to deep.
  • Superior: Above, as opposed to inferior.
  • Supination: Rotation of the forearm and hand so that the palm is upward (and the corresponding movement of the foot and leg), as opposed to pronation.
  • Supine: With the back or dorsal surface downward (lying face up), as opposed to prone.
  • Transverse: A horizontal plane passing through the standing body parallel to the ground.
  • Ventral: Pertaining to the abdomen, as opposed to dorsal.
  • Vertical: Upright, as opposed to horizontal.

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Reviewed on 12/27/2018

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