directions on the body

To help you interpret things you might overhear, here is a brief summary of the descriptive terms that physicians use to describe exactly what they are talking about on the body.

anterior - in front of

posterior - behind

medial - toward the center of the body

lateral - away from the center of the body

distal - farther from the origin of a limb or from the center of the body

proximal - nearer to the origin of a limb or from the center of the body

volar - a toughie; imagine a man standing with arms at the sides, palms facing toward you - that is the volar surface of the arm

dorsal - back or rear of the body

ventral - underside or front side of the body

plantar - relating to the surface of the sole of the foot

palmar - relating to the surface of the palm

cephalad - toward the head

caudad - toward the "tail"

peri - around, as in periumbilical (around the belly button)

ipsi - the same, as in ipsilateral (same side)

contra - the opposite, as in contralateral (the other side)

infra - below, as in infraorbital ridge (bony ridge under the eye)

supra - above, as in supraorbital ridge (bony ridge above the eye)

intra - within, as in intraventricular (inside the ventricle)

extra - outside of, as in extravasate (to flow outside of the vessel)

flexor - the crease side of a limb, e.g. the crease side of the elbow, or on the leg, the side opposite the kneecap

extensor - the opposite side of the limb, e.g. the side of the elbow where you bump your funnybone

unilateral - on one side of the body

bilateral - on both sides of the body

I will think of some more when I can. It is getting late...

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