Medical shows and crime shows have made body cavities all too familiar, and anatomically speaking, these spaces are very important, providing housing and protection for vital organs. The following list identifies the cavities and subcavities of the human body:

  • Dorsal cavity: Bones of the cranial portion of the skull and vertebral column, toward the dorsal (posterior) side of the body.

    • Cranial cavity: Contains the brain

    • Spinal portion: Contains the spinal cord, which is an extension of the brain

  • Ventral cavity: Anterior surface of torso; divided by diaphragm muscle into upper thoracic cavity and abdominopelvic cavity.

  • Thoracic cavity: The chest; contains trachea, bronchi, lungs, esophagus, heart and great blood vessels, thymus gland, lymph nodes, and nerves. Contains smaller cavities, too:

    • Pleural cavities surround each lung

    • Pericardial cavity contains the heart. The pleural cavity surrounds both the pleural and pericardial cavities.

  • Abdominopelvic cavity: Imaginary line that runs across hipbones divides the body into the abdominal and pelvic cavities.

    • Abdominal cavity: Contains stomach, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, spleen, kidneys, and intestines (small and large), ovaries (in female); the peritoneal cavity (peritoneum) surrounds the abdominal organs

    • Pelvic cavity: Contains colon, rectum, urinary bladder, uterus (in females)

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Anatomy & Physiology For Dummies Cheat Sheet