5. Positional and Directional Terms
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Superior (soo-pe¯´re¯-o¯r) and inferior (ι˘n-fe¯r´e¯-or)
- are “up” and “down” terms, or “above” and “below.” Superior means “toward the head,” and inferior means “toward the feet.”
- For example, the lungs are located inferior to the trachea; the trachea is located superior to the lungs.
- Sometimes the term cephalic (se˘-fa˘l´ι˘k) (pertaining to the head) is used to mean “superior,” or the term caudal (kaw´da˘l) (pertaining to the tail) to mean “inferior.”
Anterior (a˘n-te¯r´e¯-or) and posterior (po˘s-te¯r´e¯-or)
- are “front” and “back” terms.
- The nose is on the anterior surface and the tailbone on the posterior surface of the body.
- Since we stand up on two feet instead of on all fours, the anterior of humans is also the ventral (ve˘n´tra˘l) (toward the belly) side, and the posterior is the dorsal (dor´sa˘l) (toward the back) side.
Medial (me¯´de¯-a˘l) and lateral (la˘t´er-a˘l)
- are the “middle” and “to the side” words.
- Medial means “toward the midline of the body” while lateral means “away from the midline of the body.” So your little toe is on the lateral side of your foot, and the big toe is on the medial side.
Proximal (pro˘k´sι˘-ma˘l) and distal (dι˘s´ta˘l) refer to the proximity of a part to its point of origin
- (consider that everything’s point of origin is closest to the middle of the body).
- Proximal is closer, distal is farther.
- For instance, the proximal end of the thigh bone joins with the hip bone; the distal end, with the kneecap.
Superficial (soo´´per-fι˘sh´a˘l) and deep
- refer to the distance from the surface of the body.
- A superficial or external (e˘ks-ter´na˘l) wound is one close to the surface, whereas a deep or internal (ι˘n-ter´na˘l) wound extends far below the surface.
- Skin is superficial to the thigh muscles, whereas the thigh bone is deep to the same muscles.
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