Science, Tech, Math › Science Anatomical Position: Definitions and Illustrations Share Flipboard Email Print Anatomical Positions. Copyright Evelyn Bailey Science Biology Anatomy Basics Cell Biology Genetics Organisms Physiology Botany Ecology Chemistry Physics Geology Astronomy Weather & Climate By Regina Bailey Biology Expert B.A., Biology, Emory University A.S., Nursing, Chattahoochee Technical College Regina Bailey is a board-certified registered nurse, science writer and educator. Her work has been featured in "Kaplan AP Biology" and "The Internet for Cellular and Molecular Biologists." our editorial process Regina Bailey Updated July 03, 2019 The standard anatomical position is considered the reference position for a given organism. For humans, the standard position is at rest, standing erect while facing forward. Every other anatomical position is described with respect to this standard position. Anatomical positions are important because they give us a frame of reference for describing the body. Similar to a compass, they give us a universal way to describe the position of an organism. The concept of anatomical position is particularly important in medicine, as mistakes can occur if medical professionals do not have a shared point of reference for discussing patients' bodies. Key Terms Supine: Horizontal position with the face oriented upProne: Horizontal position with the face oriented downRight lateral recumbent: Horizontal position with the right side oriented downLeft lateral recumbent: Horizontal position with the left side oriented downOther common positions include Trendelenburg's and Fowler's positions Anatomical Positions The four main anatomical positions are: supine, prone, right lateral recumbent, and left lateral recumbent. Each position is used in different medical circumstances. Supine Position Copyright Evelyn Bailey Supine position refers to a horizontal position with the face and upper body facing up. In the supine position, the ventral side is up and the dorsal side is down. A number of surgical procedures use the supine position, particularly when access to the thoracic area/cavity is needed. Supine is the typical starting position for human dissection as well as for autopsies. Prone Position Copyright Evelyn Bailey Prone position refers to a horizontal position with the face and upper body facing down. In the prone position, the dorsal side is up and the ventral side is down. A number of surgical procedures use the prone position. It is most commonly used for surgeries requiring access to the spine. The prone position also helps to increase oxygenation in patients with respiratory distress. Right Lateral Recumbent Position Copyright Evelyn Bailey The word "lateral" means "to the side," while "recumbent" means "lying down." In the right lateral recumbent position, the individual is lying on their right side. This position makes it easier to access a patient's left side. Left Lateral Recumbent Position Copyright Evelyn Bailey The left lateral recumbent position is the opposite of the right lateral recumbent position. In this position, the individual is lying on their left side. This position makes it easier to access a patient's right side. Trendelenburg and Fowler's Positions Fowler's Position and Trendelenburg Position. Copyright Evelyn Bailey Other common positions include Trendelenburg's and Fowler's positions. Fowler's position has a person sitting up (straight or with a slight lean), while Trendelenburg's position has the person in a supine position with the head about 30 degrees lower than the feet. Fowler's position is named after George Fowler, who originally used the position as a way to help with peritonitis (inflammation of the membrane lining of the abdominal wall). Trendelenburg's position is named after Friedrich Trendelenburg and is often used in surgery and to improve venous blood return to the heart.