December 26, 2010


In anatomy, spatial relationships are very important for pretty obvious reasons.  If you say an injury is on the front of a person, you have to understand what 'front' means.  So we attempt to avoid confusion by using very precise terminology.  One major relationship is dorsal versus ventral.  It seems obvious at first glance.  Dorsal is where the dorsal fin would go like on a dolphin or shark.  That would mean your back is dorsal and your chest is ventral.  But what do you do about parts of the body that move?  What's dorsal on your arm?  Or, your hand?  Furthermore, what's lateral on your hand?  It would depend on what position your hand is in.  Physicians (especially radiologists) get around that by establishing a concept dubbed Anatomical Position.  In the anatomical position, the body is standing facing forward with arms to the side and palms forward.  The legs are also straight with the feet pointed straight down.  What about the penis?  You'd think it'd be the state that is the most common, ie relaxed.  Nope.  It's when it's in an erect state.  So what the average person would call the front is really the dorsal (or back) portion.  Obviously whoever decided that had to be a male.

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