By Maggie Norris, Donna Rae Siegfried

Part of Anatomy and Physiology For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Medical 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 posterior (dorsal) side of the body

    • Cranial cavity: Contains the brain

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

  • Ventral cavity: Anterior portion of the torso; divided by the diaphragm into the thoracic cavity and abdominopelvic cavity

  • Thoracic cavity: The chest; contains the trachea, bronchi, lungs, esophagus, heart and great blood vessels, thymus gland, lymph nodes, and nerve,. as well as the following smaller cavities:

    • Pleural cavities: Surround each lung

    • Pericardial cavity: Contains the heart. The pleural cavities flank the pericardial cavity.

  • Abdominopelvic cavity: An imaginary line running across the hipbones and dividing the body into the abdominal and pelvic cavities:

    • Abdominal cavity: Contains the stomach, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, spleen, small intestines, and most of the large intestine

    • Pelvic cavity: Contains the end of the large intestine, rectum, urinary bladder, and internal reproductive organs