Modern medical imaging devices enable clinicians to obtain “virtual sections” of living bodies. We call these scans. Body sections and scans can be correctly interpreted, however, only if the viewer understands the plane along which the section was made. A plane is an imaginary two-dimensional surface that passes through the body. There are three planes commonly referred to in anatomy and medicine:
- The sagittal plane is the plane that divides the body or an organ vertically into right and left sides.
- If this vertical plane runs directly down the middle of the body, it is called the midsagittal or median plane.
- If it divides the body into unequal right and left sides, it is called a parasagittal plane, or less commonly, a longitudinal section.
- The frontal plane or coronal plane is the plane that divides the body or an organ into an anterior (front) portion and a posterior (rear) portion.
- The transverse plane, axial plane, or horizontal plane is the plane that divides the body or organ horizontally into upper and lower portions.
Can you locate the planes?
Abdominal Regions and Quadrants
To promote clear communication—for instance, about the location of a patient’s abdominal pain or a suspicious mass—health care providers typically divide up the cavity into either nine regions or four quadrants.
Nine Regions with Pronunciations
- One Umbilical region around the navel (umbilicus).
- Two Lumbar regions to the right and left of the umbilical region, near the waist.
- One Epigastric region superior to the umbilical region.
- Two Hypochondriac regions to the right and left of the epigastric region.
- One Hypogastric region inferior to the umbilical region.
- Two Iliac regions or inguinal regions to the right and left of the hypogastric region, near the groin (a.k.a. inguinal regions).
Four Quadrants with Abbreviations
- Right Upper Quadrant (RUQ)
- Left Upper Quadrant (LUQ)
- Right Lower Quadrant (RLQ)
- Left Lower Quadrant (LLQ)