The human body’s standard anatomical position is described as follows: the body is in an erect position, facing towards the observer, directed forward, and feet flat on the ground. The arms are at the side of the body, palms forward and feet together.
In studying Anatomy and Physiology, it is important to standardize the position of the organism’s body to avoid disorientation and confusion. Every other organism is unique and can take on different positions that might change the placement of its internal and external organs. Descriptions are standardized even when the organism’s limbs are in a different position, thus providing a more accurate location of the organs when studying the anatomies of 2 different representatives of the same species.
With a standard position, you are ensured that when you talk about the posterior side of the left foot, everyone will understand and will be on the same page. From an anatomical perspective, the right will be on the right, and the posterior will always be the back part of the body.
The supine position, which is also referred to as Dorsal Decubitus, is when the anatomical position of the body is positioned face up. It is defined by horizontally lying down with the torso and face facing upwards.
When the supine position is used during surgical procedures, surgeons will have access to the thoracic, peritoneal, and pericardial areas of the body.
The prone position is when the anatomical position of the body is faced down. The patient is positioned prone to provide surgeons access to the dorsal areas of the body. The patient is positioned facing down with the head in a neutral position without too much extension, rotation, or flexion.
The arms are abducted to not more than 90 degrees with palms down and elbows flexed to retain the alignment of wrists and arms. This position is commonly used during colorectal surgeries, neurosurgeries, and vascular surgeries.
Anatomical Directional Terms
Anatomical directional terms are used to point out definite anatomical structures based on someone’s perspective. These terms allow you to easily find an organ with respect to the location or position of another. It is a language commonly used to navigate yourself through anatomy and body structures easily.
- Proximal and distal means nearer or further. It is usually used when describing the position of the structures, such as the arms and feet with respect to the trunk—proximal means closer to the body and distal means further from the body.
- The superior and inferior are terms used to describe the position of the structure, whether it is above or below, when moving through the axis of the body in an anatomical position. In a human body, superior structures are near the cranial area, and inferior structures are the ones nearer to the feet.
- The anterior and posterior areas are universally understood as the front and the back areas of the body. When the structure is described as anterior to the other, it means that it is nearer to the front area of the body.
- The cephalic and caudal terms are used to describe structures when it is closer to the head (cephalic) or closer to the tail (caudal).
- Superficial and deep are commonly used when describing layers of the integumentary system. When the structure is much closer to the surface than it is superficial, further from the surface is described as deep.