Instant Anatomy - Anatomy lecture made easy - Introduction to Anatomy : The basic

What is anatomy? Anatomy derives from the Greek words ‘temnein’ which means ‘to cut’. The study of anatomy is often associated with dissection, which is performed onto the cadavers by the students or the anatomy tutors. However, the procedure has long been augmented with the use of plastic models, 3D images from the computer or previously dissected organs (prosected).


The term anatomy involves gross (macroscopically) studies of a structure and microscopic studies of a structure with magnification. In general, anatomy is associated with a study of the whole structure of the organs without any magnification requires while a microscopic study (requires magnification) of organs is known as histology.


Anatomy is important as the basic science of medicine. Anatomy is applied by the physician, surgeon, physical therapist, chiropractors and dentist to perform physical examination, evaluating clinical signs, requesting further imaging techniques, proper investigation and deciding the form of treatment.


Anatomy is focusing more on observation and visualization as well as understanding. It is important to visualize the spinothalamic tract or the course of lingual artery from the neck to the base of the tongue. It is also important to understand the organization of the soft palate and its association with oral cavity and nasal cavity.


Anatomy can be learned either by regional approach and systemic approach. The regional approach may include the study of a different region of the body which includes thorax, abdomen, pelvis, perineum, upper limbs and lower limbs. On each region, the main focus will include the study of the organ, the vasculature, the nerve supply, the bone structure and the muscle involved.


Systemic approach is another form where anatomy can be learned. It involves the study of anatomy based on a particular system in our body such as the cardiovascular system, respiratory system, gastrointestinal system, nervous system and endocrine/ metabolic system. Systemic approach provides a better understanding of how the body functions and the continuity between each system.


Studying anatomy requires a sound knowledge of anatomy terms. One of the most important terms is anatomical position. Anatomical position is the standard reference of the body position that is used to describe the relative position of a particular structure. Someone is in the anatomical position if the individual stands straight with both feet together and the toes facing forward and both hands by the sides. The individual also needs to face forward with an expressionless / neutral face. The mouth supposed to be closed with the rim of the bone under the eye is at the same level as the top opening of the ear. The eyes need to be focused at a distance and keep open. The palm needs to face forward and the fingers are straight and closely together pointing downwards towards the floor. The pad of the thumb and the fingers should be perpendicular to each other.



Anatomical planes are the planes that will pass across the body in the anatomical position. There are four different types of anatomical planes which includes horizontal (transverse / axial) planes, sagittal plane, median sagittal plane and coronal plane.


Horizontal (transverse/ axial) plane- It is a horizontally oriented plane that divides the body into the upper part (superior) or lower part (inferior).


Sagittal plane - It is a vertically oriented plane that passes through the centre of the body and divides it into vertical right and left parts.


Median sagittal plane- It is a vertically oriented plane that passes through the centre of the body and divides it into equal vertical right and left parts.


Coronal plane- It is a vertically oriented plane that passes through the centre of the body and divides it into anterior/ventral (front) and posterior/ dorsal (back) parts of the body.

There are also terms that are used to describe the particular anatomical position. These include superficial and deep, proximal and distal, cranial and caudal, rostral, anterior/ventral and posterior/dorsal.


Superficial and deep are to describe the relative position of two structures in relation to the surface of the body. As an example, the skull is superficial in relation to the brain and the lung is deep in relation to the thorax.


Proximal and distal are useful to describe the relative position of a structure in relation to the origin of another structure. Proximal means the position of a structure in a relation of being closer to the structure of origin such as the proximal end of the femur bone form a joint with the socket of the hip or the arm is proximal to the forearm. Distal means the position of a structure in a relation of being further from the structure of origin such as the hand is distal to the forearm. Proximal and distal may also describe the branches of a linear structure which are near to the site of origin or towards the end of the structure (airway, blood vessel and nerves).


Cranial and caudal are other anatomical terms use to describe the structure which is towards the head (cranial) and towards the tail (caudal). Rostral is used to describe a relative position of a structure in a relation to the the nose such as the frontal lobe of the brain is rostral to occipital lobe of the brain in relative to the distance from the nose.


Anterior/ventral and posterior/dorsal are terms that are useful to describe the relative position of a structure in reference to the front and the back of the body such as the eyes are anterior to the body and the spinal cord is posterior to the body.


Medial and lateral are terms that are used to describe the relative position of a structure in relation to the median sagittal plane /centre of the body such as the nose is medial to the ear and the ear is lateral to the eyes in relation to the centre of the body.


Superior and inferior describe the relative portion of a structure in relation to the vertical axis such as the head is superior (above) the leg and the ankle is inferior (below) to the knee.


These are all the terms that are useful for anatomy study.




Introduction to anatomy terms

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