Anatomical position and direction designations

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The anatomical planes

The position and direction designations of the body of most tissue animals (including humans) are used in anatomy to describe the position (situs), the location (versio) and the course of individual structures. Some of these terms are also part of anatomical names . While the standard language location designations such as "top" or "bottom" can change depending on the body position, the anatomical location designations are clear because they are relative to the body and thus independent of its position.

Except for the sponges and the radial symmetry " coelenterates " (coelenterates, Radiata ) all multicellular animals belong (95 percent) to the Bilateria (Bilateralia, "animals with two sides"), due to their bilateral body symmetry (except echinoderms : Pentamerie ) are called. A body is bilaterally symmetrical if it can be divided into two externally identical, mirror-image halves along the median plane (mirror plane, plane of symmetry). In contrast to radially symmetrical tissue animals, through which many planes of symmetry can be laid (polysymmetry), the bilateria have a clear plane of symmetry in the longitudinal direction of the body (monosymmetry), on the basis of which different planes and directions can be defined.

Sometimes it is necessary to resort to the basic anatomical position. In humans this is defined as follows: standing upright, eyes straight ahead, hands supinated (palms facing forward); the feet are parallel (see also the neutral-zero method ).

from behind
from the front


Main anatomical directions using the example of humans
Horse Axes.JPG
Main anatomical directions using the example of the horse
Direcoes anatomicas.svg
further anatomical directions using the example of the dog

Main anatomical directions

  • dorsal * (Latin dorsum , back '): on the back, located on the back
  • ventral * (lat. venter 'belly'): on the belly side, located on the belly (represented in butterfly studies with the symbol kunde)
  • cranial or cranial * (Latin cranium , skull '): towards the skull
  • caudal or caudal * (Latin cauda , tail '): towards the tail (in tailless animals the buttocks or tailbone determine the direction here)
  • proximal (Latin proximus , next '): towards the center of the body
  • distal (lat. distare ' to be away'): removed from the center of the body (different meaning in dentistry, see below )

With regard to the median plane (mirror plane of body symmetry) one differentiates:

  • median (Latin: medium , middle): located approximately in the median plane
  • paramedian: (clearly) located next to the median plane
  • medial * : towards the median plane
  • lateral * (Latin latus 'side'): away from the median plane, towards the side
    • ipsilateral or homolateral: on the same side
    • contralateral: on the opposite side
  • dexter: right
  • sinister: left

Other general location and directional descriptions

  • vertical (lat. vertex , crown '): along the line from the crown to the sole
  • postcranial or postcranial: 'behind the skull' (in humans: below), i.e. concerning the trunk and limbs
  • profund (lat. profundus 'deep'): located in deeper, superficial tissues of the body (part)
  • superfizial (lat. superficialis , superficial '): near or at the surface of the body (part) located s
  • terminal: located at the end
  • subterminal: not quite at the end
  • apical * (Latin apex , tip '): located at the tip (cf. apex cordis "heart tip", apex linguae "tongue tip", apex nasi "nose tip")
  • basal * : forming the base, at the base, fundamental
  • intracorporeal (lat. intra 'within', corpus 'body'): within the body
  • ectopic: located in the wrong place (→ ectopia )
  • peripheral: far from the trunk
* These designations can be combined in order to provide more precise information or to be able to specify intermediate positions by replacing the original ending “-al” in the first word component with an additional “o”, e.g. B. crani o dorsal : head to back; ventr o lateral : half laterally, half on the abdomen; poster o lateral : laterally behind. Axis orientations, relative distances and directions can be indicated by compound words from opposing adjectives, e.g. B. apik o basal : from the base to the tip; later o medial : oriented transversely to the median plane.

Position and direction designations on the fuselage

In addition to the usual names for the main directions , the terms are often used in human anatomy in the area of ​​the trunk

  • anterior (Latin ante 'in front of'): anterior, lying in front (in humans, identical with ventral )
  • posterior (Latin post 'behind'): posterior, lying behind (in humans, identical with dorsal )
  • inferior (Latin infra 'under'): lower, lying down (in humans, identical with caudal )
  • superior (lat. super 'over'): upper, lying on top (in humans, identical with cranial )

In animal anatomy, the above terms are only allowed on the head.

In relation to the spine:

  • prevertebral: in front of the spine
  • paravertebral: next to the spine

In relation to the sternum :

  • retrosternal: behind the breastbone
  • parasternal: on the side of the sternum

Position and direction designations on the head

Reference directions of the anatomical attributes rostral and caudal ( occipital ) in a human skull, occiput (Os occipitale) highlighted in green. Note that the "rostro-occipital axis" in the human skull is bent by approx. 90 °, while in almost all other vertebrates it is stretched.

The term cranial does not make sense on the head. The terms are therefore used for structures located on the front of the skull or oriented towards the front or the front end of the skull:

  • rostral (Latin rostrum ' beak ', ' trunk '): on the front of the head, towards the nose or beak
  • oral (Latin os ' mouth '): on the mouth, in the mouth, towards the mouth; concerning the mouth

The term is also used for structures lying behind:

  • aboral: located away from the mouth
  • occipital or occipital (lat. occiput , back of the head ): located towards the neck (or the contact plane between head and neck) (→  occiput ).

Instead of lateral and medial , the terms are also used on the head, especially on the eye :

  • temporal (lat. tempus ' temple '): towards the temples , i.e. laterally
  • nasal (Latin nasus , nose '): towards the nose, towards the central nose (medial)

Indications of position and direction on the limbs

While the same terms apply to the wrist or tarsus as to the trunk, the following is used on the hand or on the foot :

Hand Directional Axes.JPG
  • dorsal (lat. dorsum manus , back of the hand 'and dorsum pedis , back of the foot'): located towards the back of the hand or foot
  • palmar (Latin palma manus , palm '): palm side
  • volar: on the palm side, identical to the palmar
  • plantar (Latin planta pedis , sole of the foot): on the sole of the foot
  • axial (lat. axis 'axis'): located towards an imaginary limb axis
  • abaxial: located away from the imaginary limb axis

Due to the possible rotation of the forearm and lower leg , the terms medial and lateral are not clearly defined. That is why it is usually used for the forearm

  • ulnar: towards the ulna (instead of medial )
  • radial: towards the spoke ( radius ) (instead of lateral )

and in the same way with the lower leg

  • tibial: towards the shinbone (tibia)
  • fibular: the fibula (fibula) towards

Position and direction designations in body cavities

In the body cavities the terms are also used:

  • parietal (Latin paries , wall '): belonging to the wall of an organ or to the body wall; wall-mounted, laterally. The term can also refer to the vertex area (Latin os parietale " parietal bone ").
  • visceral (lat. viscera 'entrails'): located towards the intestines, belonging to the intestines
  • thoracic ( lat.thorax 'chest'): on the chest , in the chest
  • abdominal (lat. abdomen , belly): on the stomach, in the stomach

Adjectives for other parts of the body

Adjectives can be formed for practically all parts of the body and organs to denote affiliation. For this purpose, the Latin word stem is usually provided with the final syllable -al , for example

  • anal ** (Latin ānus , anus )
  • genital (Latin genitalia , sex organ )
  • intestinal (lat. intestinum , gut ')
  • laryngeal (Latin larynx , larynx ')
  • nuchal (Latin nucha , neck ')
  • sacral (Latin os sacrum , sacrum ')
  • spinal (lat. spina , vertebral column ')
  • cervical (Latin cervix , neck ')

With prefixes like sub (under) and supra (over) positions relative to the body part or organ can be given, for example

** These designations can be combined by replacing the original ending “-al” in the first word component with an additional “o”, e.g. B. an o genital : affecting both the anus and the genital organs.

Position and direction designations on the teeth

In the case of teeth , the usual terms such as medial ("to the middle") cannot be used because of the curvature of the dental arch . Instead, other terms such as mesial are used. The term distal has a specific meaning for the bit .

The individual teeth themselves are identified with the tooth scheme , although today the EDP-compatible FDI scheme is used almost exclusively .

Designations using the example of teeth 16 and 21 (upper jaw viewed from below)

Surfaces of the tooth crown

Along the dental arch

  • mesial *** (Greek mesos , centered): towards the center of the dental arch
  • distal *** (lat. distare , to be distant): towards the end of the dental arch
  • approximal (Latin approximare , to approach '): towards the neighboring tooth (unspecific alternative to mesial and distal )

Outer surface

  • labial *** (lat. labium , lip '): on the lip side, in the anterior region identical to vestibular §
  • buccal or buccal *** (lat. bucca , cheek '): on the cheek side, in the posterior region identical to vestibular §
  • vestibular § (Latin vestibulum 'atrium') towards the oral vestibule ( labial or buccal )

Inner surface

  • lingual *** (Latin lingua , tongue '): on the tongue side, identical to oral
  • Palatal (Latin: palatum , palate '): on the palate (only to be used on the upper jaw teeth), identical to oral
  • oral (Latin os 'mouth'): towards the inner oral cavity ( lingual or palatal )

Occlusal surface

  • occlusal (Latin occludere , to close '), outdated also mastical : towards the occlusal surface (chewing surface) (for posterior teeth)
  • incisal (Latin incidere ' to cut in'): towards the incisal edge (for front teeth)
*** These designations can be combined in order to provide more precise information or to be able to specify intermediate positions by replacing the original ending “-al” in the first word component with an additional “o”, e.g. B. mesiobuccal: half in front, half on the cheek.
§ Attention! In neurology, refers vestibular to the organ of balance ! In zoology, instead of vestibular, the terms labial and buccal are mostly used synonymously, regardless of whether the animal has the cheeks that are predominantly typical for mammals or whether the lips extend to the end of the rows of teeth.

Crown, neck, root and pulp

  • coronal (Latin corona , crown '): on the tooth crown , towards the tooth crown
    • intracoronal (lat. intra 'within', lat. corona 'crown'): in the tooth crown
    • pericoronal (Greek peri 'around ...', Latin corona 'crown'): around the tooth crown
  • cervical (Latin cervix , neck '): at the tooth neck , towards the tooth neck
  • radicular (lat. radix 'root'): at the tooth root , relating to the tooth root, starting from the tooth root
    • periradicular (Greek peri 'around ...', radix 'root'): around the tooth root
    • interradicular (Latin inter 'between', radix 'root'): located between the tooth roots
    • intra-canalicular (lat. intra 'within', lat. canalis 'tube'): in the root canal
  • apical (Latin apex , tip '): at the tip of the root, towards the tip of the root
    • periapical (Greek peri 'around ...', Latin apex 'tip'): around the tip of the root
  • pulpal (lat. pulpa 'meat'): on the tooth pulp (the tooth pulp), concerning the pulp
    • intrapulpal (lat. intra within ', lat. pulpa , meat') in the tooth pulp (the pulp)
    • parapulpär (Greek para 'next to', Latin pulpa 'meat'): located next to the tooth pulp (in the dentin)

Jawbones and gums

  • mandibular (Latin mandibula , lower jaw ): related to the lower jaw
    • paramandibular (Greek para 'next to', Latin mandibula , lower jaw '): next to the lower jaw
    • perimandibular (Greek peri 'around ...', Latin mandibula , lower jaw '): around the lower jaw
    • submandibular (Latin sub 'under', Latin mandibula , lower jaw '): under the lower jaw
  • mental (lat. mentum , chin '): on the chin, concerning the chin, ambiguity with mental from , spirit '
    • submental (Latin sub 'under', Latin mentum , chin '): under the chin
  • maxillary (Latin maxilla , upper jaw ): related to the upper jaw. The word maxillary rarely also refers to the lower jaw. Example: A bimaxillary osteotomy is an operation in which both the lower jaw and the upper jaw are separated from the rest of the facial skeleton and fixed in a new position.
  • crestal or crestal (English crest , Latin crista 'comb'): 1. from the jaw ridge; 2. in the area of ​​the bony alveolar margin (limbus alveolaris) or at the crista alveolaris; Arcus alveolaris
    • subcrestal or subcrestal (Latin sub 'under', English crest , Latin crista 'comb'): under the alveolar ridge
    • supracrestal or supracrestal (Latin supra 'above', English crest , Latin crista 'comb'): above the alveolar ridge
  • gingival (Latin gingiva 'gums'): belonging to the gums, towards the gums
    • subgingival (Latin sub 'under', Latin gingiva 'gum'): under the gum, also for below the gum margin
  • marginal (lat. margo 'edge'): belonging to the gum line
    • paramarginal (Greek para 'next to', Latin margo 'edge'): next to the gumline, mostly in the sense of parallel to the gumline
  • periodontal (Greek para 'next to', Latin dens 'tooth'): pertaining to the tooth supporting apparatus
  • interdental (Latin inter 'between', Latin dens 'tooth'): between the teeth or between two neighboring teeth
  • intrafurkal (lat. intra 'within', furka fork): in the area of ​​the division point of the tooth roots ( bifurcation , trifurcation )

Other location and direction designations

  • axial (lat. axis 'axis'): in the direction of the tooth axis
  • central (lat. centrum , middle ') on the jaw-facing side of a tooth or to the alveolar out
  • transdental (Latin trans 'beyond' and dens 'tooth'): through the tooth, beyond the tip of the root

Body levels

The three body levels

There are three main sets of body planes: transverse planes , frontal planes , and sagittal planes . The middle sagittal plane is the median plane . The directions are differentiated accordingly:

  • transversal: right ↔ left
  • longitudinal: above ↔ below
  • sagittal (Latin sagitta 'arrow'): front ↔ back
    • median: front ↔ back in the median plane

In head imaging , sections along these body planes are named as follows:

  • axial cuts: horizontal cuts (in the transverse planes). Result: You look into your head from above or below. Explanation of the term: "Section through the longitudinal axis of the body".
  • sagittal sections: vertical sections in the sagittal planes. Result: You look into the head from the side.
  • coronal (coronal) cuts: vertical cuts in the frontal planes. Result: You look into your head from the front. Explanation of the term: “Section parallel to the sutura coronalis”. That is why the term “coronal plane”, which was more common in the past, also exists in anatomy. In contrast, the coronary plane is common, especially in clinical use and in radiology.

History labels

  • ascendant (lat. ascendere ascend ') ascending
  • descending (Latin descendere , to descend): descending
  • antegrade or anterograd: forward; in the normal direction of movement or flow
  • retrograde: backwards; contrary to the normal direction of movement or flow


Web links

Commons : Anatomical designations of position and direction  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Bilateria . In: Lexicon of Biology . Spectrum Academic Publishing House. Heidelberg. 1999. Retrieved September 28, 2016.
  2. ^ Hynek Burda : General Zoology. Verlag Eugen Ulmer, Stuttgart 2005, ISBN 3-8001-2838-1 , p. 54.
  3. Wolfgang Miehle: Joint and spinal rheumatism. Eular Verlag, Basel 1987, ISBN 3-7177-0133-9 , p. 175.