Great EMT Shirts and Related Items for the EMT, AEMT, EMT-I, Paramedic, and EMR


Anatomical Position, Directions, and Planes

In order to properly communicate with other care providers and to accurately document patient information we must have a standardized method of describing the location of injuries and regions of the body. In this article I will cover the basics of navigating the human body.

The Anatomical Position

Human Anatomy Anatomic Position

The anatomical position describes a person that is standing erect with the feet facing forwards, arms hanging to the sides, and the palms of the hands facing forward. Directional terms are always from the patient’s perspective. When we refer to the right side we are referring to the patient’s right side.

Anatomical Planes of the BodyHuman Anatomy Anatomic Planes

Sagittal (Median) – Divides the body into right and left halves.

Frontal (Or Coronal) – Divides the body into anterior and posterior halves.

Transverse (Or Horizontal) Plane – Divides the body into superior and inferior halves.

Directional Terms

Right and left – Refers to the Patient’s right or left sideHuman Anatomy Directional Terms

Superior – Above, Over
Inferior – Below, Under

Anterior – In front of, front
Posterior – Behind, toward the rear

Lateral – Toward the side, away from the mid-line
Medial – Toward the mid-line, middle, away from the side

Proximal – Near, closer to the origin
Distal – Away from, farther from the origin

Superficial – Near the surface
Deep – Beneath or below the surface

Ventral – Toward the belly
Dorsal – Toward the back

Body Positions

Supine – Patient is lying on his or her backHuman Anatomy Body Positions
Prone – Patient is lying face down

Right Lateral Recumbent – Patient is lying on their right side
Left Lateral Recumbent – Patient is lying on their left side

Fowlers – Patient is sitting straight up or leaning slightly back
Trendelenberg – Patient is lying supine with their head slightly lower than their feet

Flexion – Bend at a joint, or to reduce the angle
Extension – Straighten at a joint, or to increase the angleHuman Anatomy Body Positions

Abduction – Movement away from the midline
Adduction – Movement toward the midline

Medial Rotation – Rotation inward towards the midline
Lateral Rotation – Rotation outward away from the midline

Supination – Rotation of the forearm so that the palm faces forward
Pronation – Rotation of the forearm so that the palm faces backward

Abdominal Quadrants

The abdominal quadrants are created by drawing an imaginary vertical line down the midline dividing the abdomen into right and left sides. Another line is drawn horizontally at the umbilicus dividing the abdomen into upper (superior) and lower (inferior) sections. The quadrants are used to pinpoint the location pain or injury.

Each quadrant is labeled as shown below:Human Anatomy Abdominal Quadrants

Right Upper Quadrant (RUQ)
Left Upper Quadrant (LUQ)
Right Lower Quadrant (RLQ)
Left Lower Quadrant (LLQ)


By sectioning the abdomen into quadrants it makes it easier to locate and describe possible issues with the underlying organs. It is important that EMS care providers know the organs in each quadrant.

Organs of the Abdominal Quadrants

So there you have it. Knowing the anatomical position, directional terms, and planes will greatly help you in your studies of human anatomy. It will also aid you in patient assessments, communicating with others in EMS, and report writing.

Until next time, get addicted and become an EMS Junkie! Stay Safe out there.

Back to the Home Page
Mobile Home Page

Disclaimer - The Legal Stuff