Medical Terminology For Dummies, 3rd Edition
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Body parts and their accompanying medical terms don’t make a whole lot of sense until you can put them in the context of their general location within the body. Your body can be defined in several different ways, from groups and regions to cavities and planes.

Body regions are used to specifically identify a body area. To illustrate all that’s involved with a body region, take a closer look at two major regions: the abdominal and spinal.

The abdominal area is divided further into anatomic regions to diagnose abdominal problems with greater accuracy.

Starting with the diaphragm, which is the muscle separating the thoracic cavity from the abdominal cavity, down to the level of the pelvis or groin, the abdominal area is divided into nine equal regions.

Visualize the abdomen divided into nine squares: three across the top, three across the middle, and three across the bottom, like a tic-tac-toe board. The center portion is the umbilical region, the region of the navel or the umbilicus. Directly above this is the epigastric region, or the region of the stomach. Directly below the umbilical region is the hypogastric region.

On either side of the epigastric region are the right and left hypochondriac regions. To the right and left of the umbilical region are the right and left lumbar regions. To the right and left of the hypogastric region are the right and left iliac regions.

The anatomical divisions of the abdomen are referenced in anatomy textbooks to specify where certain organs are found.

The clinical regions of the abdomen are used to describe the abdomen when a patient is being examined. The clinical regions of the abdomen divide the abdominal area, as above, into four equal quadrants:
  • The right upper quadrant (RUQ) contains the right lobe of the liver, gallbladder, and parts of the small and large intestines.

  • The left upper quadrant (LUQ) contains the left lobe of the liver, stomach, pancreas, spleen, and parts of the small and large intestines.

  • The right lower quadrant (RLQ) contains parts of the small and large intestines, appendix, right ureter, right ovary, and fallopian tube.

  • The left lower quadrant (LLQ) contains parts of the small and large intestines, left ureter, left ovary, and fallopian tube.

Here’s a quick look at some of the smaller body regions, beginning at the head and moving downward.
Region Where It Is
Auricular region Around the ears
Axillary Axillae (armpits)
Buccal Cheeks of the face
Carpal Wrist
Cervical Neck
Clavicular On each side of the suprastemal notch (small dip at top of the sternum)
Infraorbital Below the eyes
Infrascapular On each side of the chest, down to the last rib
Interscapular On the back, between scapulae (shoulder blades)
Lumbar Below the infrascapular area
Mammary Breast area
Mental Region of the chin
Nasal Nose
Occipital Lower posterior head
Orbital Around the eyes
Pectoral Chest
Popliteal Behind the knee
Pubic Below the hypogastric region (above the pubis)
Sacral Area over the sacrum
Sternal Over the sternum
Submental Below the chin
Supraclavicular Above the clavicles
More body divisions are the regions of the spinal column, also known as the back. Note the difference between the spinal column (the vertebrae) and the spinal cord (the nerves running through the column). The spinal column is made of bone tissue, and the spinal cord is composed of nerve tissue.

The spinal column is divided into five regions. Begin at the top and work downward:

  • The cervical region (abbreviation C) is located in the neck region. There are seven cervical vertebrae, C1 to C7.

  • The thoracic or dorsal region (abbreviation T or D) is located in the chest region. There are 12 thoracic or dorsal vertebrae, T1 to T12, or D1 to D12. Each bone in this segment is joined to a rib.

  • The lumbar region (abbreviation L) is located at the loin or the flank area between the ribs and the hip bone. There are five lumbar vertebrae, L1 to L5.

  • The sacral region (abbreviation S) has five bones, S1 to S5, that are fused to form one bone, the sacrum.

  • The coccygeal region includes the coccyx, or tailbone, a small bone composed of four fused pieces.

Check out the body’s anatomical positions and regions, planes, and cavities.
[Credit: Illustration by Kathryn Born] Anatomical positions and regions of the body.
Credit: Illustration by Kathryn Born
It is important to remember that all these terms are for directional purposes only. They provide a road map to the body.
[Credit: Illustration by Kathryn Born] Planes of the body.
Credit: Illustration by Kathryn Born
In a medical examination, directional planes, regions of the abdomen, and divisions of the spinal column are used often by the examiner.
[Credit: Illustration by Kathryn Born] The body’s cavities.
Credit: Illustration by Kathryn Born

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book authors:

Beverley Henderson, CMT-R, HRT, has more than 40 years of experience in medical terminology and transcription as both an educator and manager. Jennifer L. Dorsey, PhD, has coauthored, revised, and ghostwritten books in the medical, business, and personal growth categories for more than 20 years.

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