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Category: Medical

Topic: Digestive System A&P

Level: Paramedic

7 minute read

Abdominal Topography and Cavities

The abdomen is subdivided into both quadrants and regions.


Abdominal Quadrants

The abdominal quadrants are demarcated by drawing a line at the umbilicus vertically up and down and horizontally side to side. The abdominal quadrants are as follows:

  1. RUQ, the right upper quadrant. From 9 o'clock to 12 o'clock.

    Referencing the region of the liver, gallbladder, right hemidiaphragm, end of the ascending colon and beginning of the transverse colon.

  2. LUQ, the left upper quadrant. From 12 o'clock to 3 o'clock.

    Referencing the region of the stomach spleen, the end of the transverse colon, and the beginning of the descending colon.

  3. LLQ, the left lower quadrant. From 3 o'clock to 6 o'clock.

    Referencing the left ovary in women, the rectum, and the sigmoid colon.

  4. RLQ, right lower quadrant. From 6 o'clock to 9 o'clock.

    Referencing the region of the right ovary in women, the appendix, the end of the small intestines, and the beginning of the ascending colon.


Abdominal Regions (1-9)

While the abdominal quadrants are used for simple divisions of the abdomen, the abdominal regions offer a more detailed localization scheme, a total of nine specific regions organized in three rows and three columns, like a tic-tac-toe overlay (#).

The abdominal regions, from right to left and superior to inferior, are as follows:


1.) right hypochondriac region, 2.) epigastric region, 3.) left hypochondriac region.


4.) right lumbar region, 5.) umbilical region, 6.) left lumbar region.


7.) the right iliac region, 8.) the hypogastric region, 9.)the left iliac region.


Dorsal and Ventral Body Cavities

The body contains both dorsal (back) and ventral (front) anatomic cavities, or spaces within the body that hold different organ groups.

DORSAL CAVITIES: The dorsal anatomic cavities include the cranial cavity and the spinal cavity that encompass

  • the brain and
  • spinal cord.

VENTRAL CAVITIES: The ventral anatomic cavities include the

  • thoracic cavity that encompasses the heart and lungs,
  • the abdominal cavity that encompasses the stomach, liver, kidneys, and digestive organs, and
  • the pelvic cavity that encompasses the urinary bladder and the reproductive organs.


In the Field

In the field, there isn't much calling to describe dorsal or ventral cavities. You won't be reporting, for example, a "ventral cavity penetrating injury," but instead will use descriptions like "left upper quadrant penetrating injury"; instead of describing a ventral cavity GSW (in the chest), you instead will report a GSW to the right hemithorax. 

Quadrants of the abdomen (RUQ, LUQ, RLQ, LLQ) are used more frequently than regions, except for the mixed regions between right and left quadrants, such as epigastric, umbilical, or hypogastric regions. Usually, however, it's just a matter of personal preference.