7 junio, 2024

Anatomical planes and axes

The anatomical planes and the axes are imaginary surfaces that divide the human body to facilitate both the description of its structure and its name and study. The planes are imaginary two-dimensional surfaces, and the axes are imaginary one-dimensional cutting lines.

The main feature that differentiates a plane from an axis is that a plane is two-dimensional, while an axis is one-dimensional. When the third dimension is added, you stop talking about planes and axes and start talking about spaces and cavities.


Anatomic position

To understand the anatomical planes and axes, one must initially understand what the anatomical position is.

Anatomical position is the reference body position, which anatomists have reached by consensus to use the same terms of position and direction, and understand descriptions of body anatomy universally.

This anatomical position is described as a bipedal (standing) human body, with a horizontal view, upper limbs on each side and along the trunk, palms of the hands open forward and the lower limbs together, with the toes pointing forward.

From this it is understood that the patient can be in any position: lying on his back, lying on his stomach, lying on one side or sitting. The descriptions will always refer to the anatomical position described above.

anatomical planes

The function of the anatomical plans is to serve as a spatial reference to facilitate the description and location of organs and body structures.

The anatomical planes mainly used for anatomical descriptions are three: sagittal or lateral, coronal or frontal and horizontal, transverse or axial. However, there are bibliographies that admit a fourth plane: oblique.

– Sagittal or lateral plane

It is delimited by the dimensions high and deep.

It is a plane with vertical and anteroposterior direction; that is, it crosses the longitudinal axis of the body and, therefore, divides it into a right half and a left half. These two halves are completely asymmetrical.

– Coronal or frontal plane

It is delimited by the height and width dimensions.

It is an equally vertical plane oriented transversely; that is, from right to left. Thus, it divides the human body into an anterior half and a posterior half.

– Horizontal, transverse or axial plane

It is a transverse plane, perpendicular to the previous two, which divides the body into an upper half and a lower half.

– Oblique plane

It is bounded by the dimensions width and depth. Little used, it is a plane with a vertical, anteroposterior direction and from right to left or from left to right, which divides the human body into two oblique halves.

body axes

In this anatomical context of description, the concept of axis refers to the point where an imaginary cut is made to establish the position and situation of body structures.

Their function is to distinguish the distance or situation of some organ or structure; for example, whether one is medial (close to the midline) or more lateral (away from the midline).

There are 3 types of axes: sagittal, longitudinal and transverse.

– Sagittal

Refers to the ventrodorsal anteroposterior axis; that is, it traverses the body from front to back, in a horizontal direction, and is perpendicular to the coronal planes.

– Longitudinal

Also called craniocaudal or superior inferior, it is vertical in direction, like an arrow that crosses the body from the highest point of the skull in the direction of the feet, passing through the center of gravity of the body.

– Transverse

Also known as laterolateral, it has a horizontal direction. It runs from one side of the body to the other, perpendicular to the sagittal planes.

Anatomical terms of relationship

Once the anatomical planes and body axes have been established, it is important to know the anatomical terms of relationship and comparison. These terms use the planes and axes to make sense of the anatomical description and its relative situation.

– Anterior: that is ahead or in a preceding position.

– Posterior: that is behind or dorsal.

– Superior: located above.

– Bottom: located below.

– Cranial: closest to the skull, at the upper end of the trunk.

– Caudal: closest to the tail (cauda), lower end of the trunk.

– Medial: closest to the median sagittal plane.

– Proximal: located closer to the trunk or point of origin.

– Distal: located further from the trunk or the point of origin.

– Superficial: close to the surface.

– Deep: far from the surface.

– External: furthest from the center of an organ.

– Internal: close to the center of an organ.

– Axial: located on the sagittal axis.

– Ipsilateral: located on the same side.

– Contralateral: located on the opposite half of the body.


The Ruiz Liard Card. Human anatomy. 4th Edition. Volume 1. Panamerican Medical Editorial. Generalities XIII-XV.
Courtney Smith. Anatomy and Physiology Anatomical plans and cavities. Oct, 13 of 2007. Retrieved from: visiblebody.com
Anatomy body plans and sections. 07/01/2012. Recovered from: memorize.com
Oliver Jones. January 6, 2018. Anatomical plans. Retrieved from: Teachmeanatomy.info
Kinetic Anatomy With Web Resource—3rd Edition. Human Kinetics. 2012.pp. 31

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