Anatomical Body Landmark

Anatomical Body Landmarks

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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Daisy Jane Antipuesto RN MN

Currently a Nursing Local Board Examination Reviewer. Subjects handled are Pediatric, Obstetric and Psychiatric Nursing. Previous work experiences include: Clinical instructor/lecturer, clinical coordinator (Level II), caregiver instructor/lecturer, NC2 examination reviewer and staff/clinic nurse. Areas of specialization: Emergency room, Orthopedic Ward and Delivery Room. Also an IELTS passer.

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