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RADIOGRAPHIC ANATOMY AND POSITIONING
Radiographic Anatomy and Positioning
Anatomic Planes
A plane is a flat surface formed by making a cut (imaginary or real) through the body or a part of it. In
radiography, various planes are used as points of reference that assist in localizing areas of the body to
permit specific centering guidelines. The major anatomic planes used in radiographic positioning are:
Longitudinal plane
Running lengthwise; in the direction of the long axis of the body
or any of its parts or sections.
Transverse plane
Placed across the body at right angles to the frontal and sagittal
planes. Transverse planes are perpendicular to the long axis of
the body or limbs, regardless of the position of the body or limb;
in the anatomic position, transverse planes are horizontal;
otherwise the two terms are not synonymous.
Median (midsagittal) plane
A plane vertical in the anatomic position, through the midline of
the body, that divides the body into right and left halves.
Sagittal plane
Plane parallel to the median plane; sagittal planes are vertical
planes in the anatomic position.
Frontal (coronal) plane
A vertical plane at right angles to the sagittal plane, dividing the
body into anterior and posterior portions, or any plane parallel to
the central frontal plane.
Transpyloric plane
A transverse plane midway between the superior margins of the
manubrium of the sternum and the symphysis pubis; the pylorus
may be located on this plane in the supine or prone positions, but
in the erect (anatomic) position it descends to a lower level.
Subcostal plane
A transverse plane passing through the inferior limits of the costal
margin (i.e., the 10th costal cartilages); it delimits the boundary
between the hypochondriac and epigastric regions superiorly and
the lateral and umbilical regions inferiorly.
RADIOGRAPHIC ANATOMY AND POSITIONING
transverse plane
transpyloric plane
(9th costal cartilage)
subcostal plane
(10th costal cartilage)
transverse plane
midsagittal or median plane
sagittal planes
transverse plane
transpyloric plane
(9th costal cartilage)
subcostal plane
(10th costal cartilage)
transverse plane
frontal planes
Anatomic Planes
RADIOGRAPHIC ANATOMY AND POSITIONING
medial
superior
anterior
posterior
lateral
proximal
distal
inferior
Body Part Terminology
Anterior
The front surface of the body. Often used to denote the position of one
structure relative to another (i.e., situated nearer the front of the body).
Posterior
The back surface of the body. Often used to denote the position of one
structure relative to another (i.e., situated nearer the back of the body).
Medial
Relating to the middle or center; near to the median or midsagittal
plane.
Lateral
Farther from the median or midsagittal plane.
Proximal
Nearest the trunk or the point of origin, said of part of a limb, of an
artery, or nerve, so situated.
Distal
Situated away from the center of the body or from the point of origin;
specifically describes to the extremity or distant part of a limb or organ.
Superior
Situated nearer the vertex of the head in relation to a specific point.
Inferior
Situated nearer the soles of the feet in relation to a specific reference
point.
RADIOGRAPHIC ANATOMY AND POSITIONING
abduction
flexion
adduction
extension
Body Movement
Abduction
Movement of a limb or body part farther from or away from the
midline of the body.
Adduction
Movement of a limb or body part closer to or toward the midline of
the body.
Extension
Straightening of a joint or extremity so that the angle between
contiguous (adjoining) bones is increased.
Flexion
Bending of a joint or extremity so that the angle between
contiguous (adjoining) bones is decreased.
RADIOGRAPHIC ANATOMY AND POSITIONING
Eversion
Movement of turning a body part outward (away from the midline).
Inversion
Movement of turning a body part inward (toward the midline).
Pronation
Movement of turning the body to face downward or turning the
hand so that the palm is facing downward.
Supination
Movement of turning the body to face upward or turning the hand
so that the palm faces upward.
inversion
eversion
supinate
pronate
RADIOGRAPHIC ANATOMY AND POSITIONING
anatomic
supine
Positioning Terminology
Anatomic position
Position of the body when the subject is facing the front in the erect
position with the arms and legs fully extended. The palms of the
hands are facing forward and the feet are together. In radiography,
this term is used as the reference position of the body to describe
various positions.
Supine position
Position in which the subject is lying on the back with the face up.
Sometimes referred to as the dorsal recumbent (lying down) or
dorsal decubitus position, because the back (dorsal surface) of the
body is dependent (nearer the table).
RADIOGRAPHIC ANATOMY AND POSITIONING
prone
lateral
oblique
Prone position
Position in which the subject is lying face down on the front of
the body. Sometimes referred to as the ventral recumbent or
ventral decubitus position, because the front (ventral surface) of
the body is dependent (nearer the table).
Lateral position
Position in which the side of the subject is next to the film. A
lateral position is named by the side of the subject that is
situated adjacent to the film. Sometimes referred to as an erect
lateral if the subject is sitting or standing, and a lateral
recumbent or lateral decubitus if the subject is lying down.
Oblique position
Position in which the subject is neither prone nor supine, but
rotated somewhere between. In radiographic terminology, the
subject is in a posterior oblique position if some part of the
posterior surface of the body is closer to the film, and in an
anterior oblique position if some part of the anterior surface of
the body is closer to the film.
RADIOGRAPHIC ANATOMY AND POSITIONING
right anterior oblique (RAO)
left anterior oblique (LAO)
left posterior oblique (LPO)
right posterior oblique (RPO)
Right anterior oblique (RAO)
Patient is lying semiprone (face down) on the radiographic
table or standing facing a vertical grid device with the right
side closer to the film.
Left anterior oblique (LAO)
Patient is lying semiprone (face down) on the radiographic
table or standing facing a vertical grid device with the left
side closer to the film.
Left posterior oblique (LPO)
Patient is lying semisupine (face up) on the radiographic
table or standing with the back against a vertical grid device
with the left side closest to the film.
Right posterior oblique (RPO)
Patient is lying semisupine (face up) on the radiographic
table or standing facing away from a vertical grid device
with the right side closest to the film.
RADIOGRAPHIC ANATOMY AND POSITIONING
dorsal decubitus
ventral decubitus
lateral decubitus
Decubitus position
Patient is lying down, and the central ray is horizontal (parallel to
the floor).
Dorsal decubitus
Patient is lying supine (face up) on the radiographic table or on a
stretcher placed next to a vertical grid device. The x-ray beam
enters from one side of the patient and exits the other.
Ventral decubitus
Patient is lying prone (face down) on the radiographic table or on a
stretcher placed next to a vertical grid device. The x-ray beam
enters from one side of the patient and exits the other.
Lateral decubitus
Patient is lying on either side on the radiographic table or on a
stretcher placed next to a vertical grid device. For a left lateral
decubitus, the patient is lying on the left side with the right side up,
whereas for a right lateral decubitus, the patient is lying on the right
side with the left side up. The x-ray beam passes through the patient
from front to back or back to front, depending on whether the
patient is facing toward or away from the radiographic tube.
RADIOGRAPHIC ANATOMY AND POSITIONING
anteroposterior (AP)
lateral
posteroanterior
(PA)
Radiographic Projections
In radiography, the term projection describes the path along which the x-rays travel from the radiographic tube through the subject to the image receptor.
Anteroposterior (AP) projection
Patient is either supine (face up) on the radiographic table
(dorsal decubitus) or erect with the back against a vertical
grid device. The x-ray beam enters the front (anterior)
surface of the body and exits the back (posterior) surface.
Posteroanterior (PA) projection
Patient is either prone (face down) on the radiographic table
(ventral decubitus) or erect facing a vertical grid device. The
x-ray beam enters the back (posterior) surface of the body
and exits the front (anterior) surface.
Lateral projection
Patient is lying on either side on the radiographic table
(lateral decubitus) or standing with either side against a
vertical grid device. The lateral projection is always named
by the side of the patient that is placed next to the film.
RADIOGRAPHIC ANATOMY AND POSITIONING
axial
tangential
tangential
Oblique projection
Patient is rotated into a position that does not produce either a
frontal (AP or PA) or lateral projection.
Axial projection
Any projection in which there is longitudinal angulation of the
central ray with respect to the long axis of the body part.
Tangential projection
Any projection in which the central ray passes between or passes
by (skims) body parts to project an anatomic structure in profile
and free of superimposition.
Adapted from Eisenberg RL, Dennis CA, May CR. Radiographic positioning, 2nd ed. Boston: Little,
Brown & Co., 1995.
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