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Body Planes

Body Planes and Directional Terms

25 July 2022

As part of an Independent Medical Assessment, a specialist may be required to carry out a physical examination of the claimant.  When the specialist dictates the report, they will need to refer to the body and the location of its parts in precise detail.  In doing this they will use terminology of body planes.  They will also use directional terms when communicating the position or location of a condition or injury. Directional terms are also used to describe how a process, organ or body system relates to another. These are terms that will appear in the finished medicolegal report and on occasion, it can be difficult for the client or claimant to interpret.  The tables below should assist in understanding some of these terms.

Sagittal PlaneThis plane divides the body or any of its parts lengthwise into left and right sides.
Frontal (or Coronal) PlaneThis plane divides the body into front (anterior or ventral) and back (posterior or dorsal) portions. This plane slices from right to left.
Transverse or Horizontal PlaneThis plane divides the body into the superior (upper) and inferior (lower) parts.
SuperiorAbove or towards the headProximalNear to or close to
InferiorBelow or towards the feetDistalAway from or distant
AnteriorTowards the front of the bodySupineLying horizontally, facing down
PosteriorTowards the back of the bodyProneLying  horizontally, facing up
VentralPertaining to the frontExtensionMaking the angle of the joint larger
DorsalPertaining to the backFlexionMaking the angle of the joint smaller
MedialMiddle of the bodyEversionTurning outward or inside out
LateralTowards the sideInversionTurning inward, or reversal of normal
AbductionTo move away from the midlineExternalTowards or near the outside
AdductionTo move towards  the midlineInternalTowards or near the inside

PDF Body Planes Article