Anatomical Body Landmark

Anatomical Position

The first important thing in learning about anatomy and physiology is to know the anatomical position and body landmarks. To accurately describe body parts and position, initial reference point and directional terms should be used in a medical setting. The correct anatomical position is standing up (erect) with the feet parallel and the arms hanging at the sides with the palms facing forward and the thumbs pointing away from the body.

Body Landmarks

To precisely point out the chief complaint of a patient, the nurse or physician uses anatomical terms representing a certain body part. For example, a patient walks in the emergency room with a hacking wound on the posterior portion of the left lower leg. To clearly state the area of injury the nurse uses the term “sural” which means the posterior surface of the lower leg rather than writing “back area of the lower leg”. Knowing these terms not only give the nurse a more accurate formulation of chief complaints but it also saves time of a good deal of description.

Anterior Body Landmarks

Abdominal – anterior body trunk inferior to ribs
Acromial – point of shoulder
Antecubital – anterior surface of elbow
Axillary – armpit
Brachial – arm
Buccal – cheek area
Carpal – wrist
Cervical – neck region
Coxal – hip
Crural – leg
Digital – fingers, toes
Femoral – thigh
Fibular – lateral part of the leg
Inguinal – area where thigh meets body part
Nasal – nose area
Oral – mouth
Orbital – eye area
Patellar – anterior knee
Pelvic – area overlying the pelvis anteriorly
Pubic – genital region
Sternal – breastbone area
Tarsal – ankle region
Thoracic – chest
Umbilical – navel

Posterior Body Landmark
Calcaneal – heel of foot
Cephalic – head
Deltoid – curve of shoulder formed by large deltoid muscle
Femoral – thigh
Gluteal – buttock
Lumbar – area of back between ribs and hips
Occipital – posterior surface of head
Olecranal – posterior surface of elbow
Popliteal – sacral
Scapular – shoulder blade region
Sural – posterior surface of the lower leg
Vertebral – area of spine
Plantar – sole of the foot
Directional Terms
To clearly explain exactly the relation of a body structure to each other, directional terms are used. For example to describe the relationship or location of the heart to the arms, we can say “the heart is located in between the arms”. Using anatomical terminology, this is expressed as “the heart is medial to the arms.” Hence, it is a more clear and precise statement.
Superior – above
Inferior – below
Anterior – in front of
Posterior – behind
Medial – middle
Lateral – away from the middle; at outer the sides
Intermediate – between a more medial and a more a lateral surface
Proximal – close to the body part
Distal – away from a body part
Superficial – external; at the surface
Deep – internal; away from the surface


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