German Contact How to study Login Register

Supracolic compartment

Contents

Overview

It is extremely important for a clinician to have a solid understanding of the anatomical spaces of the human body; at least those within their specialty. Particularly in the abdomen and pelvis, knowledge of the anatomical spaces (and how they communicate with each other and adjacent structures) is particularly useful in recognizing certain pathologies on clinical examination of a patient. This article is aimed at identifying both patent and potential anatomical spaces within the supracolic compartment of the abdominal region. The borders, location and contents of these spaces will be described in clinically relevant points related to some of the spaces.

Supracolic compartment - ventral view

Supracolic Compartment of the Abdominal Cavity

Greater Omental Sac

The intricate folding of the midgut and hindgut during embryological development has resulted in the convoluted nature of the peritoneal cavity. The greater omentum – double membranous layer of peritoneum extending inferiorly from the greater curvature of the stomach – covers the intestines before turning superiorly to attach to the transverse colon. All the structures deep to the greater omentum are therefore said to be in the greater omental sac (bursa); or simply, the greater sac.

Greater sac

Lesser Omental Sac

Since there is a greater omentum and corresponding omental sac, there is also a lesser omentum with its lesser omental sac. The lesser omental sac (bursa) lies deep to the lesser omentum, which is attached along the lesser curvature of the stomach and along the hepatic fissure of ligamentum venosum and the porta hepatis. This sac is limited anteriorly by the quadrate lobe of the liver, the gastrocolic ligament and the lesser omentum. The parietal peritoneum forms the posterior limit of the space.

Lesser sac - ventral view

Deep to this layer is the left suprarenal gland along with the superior part of the left kidney, the neck and body of the pancreas, and the diaphragm. Also related posteriorly are the abdominal aorta, celiac trunk and its branches, and the inferior phrenic arteries.

Lesser sac

Superiorly, the lesser omental bursa continues into a superior recess which extends cranially between the esophagus and the inferior vena cava. To the left it is limited by the left kidney and the left adrenal gland. To understand the right limitations of the sac, recall the fact that the lesser omentum is divided into a gastrohepatic and a hepatoduodenal part. The hepatoduodenal part, which transmits the portal triad (hepatic artery proper, common bile duct and hepatic portal vein), forms the right anterior border of the lesser omental bursa.

Superior recess of omental bursa

Also to the right, the inferior vena cava is located posteriorly, the superior part of the duodenum inferiorly, and the caudate process of the caudate lobe of the liver superiorly. These limitations form the epiploic foramen of Winslow, which allows communication between the lesser sac and the greater sac. Finally, the transverse mesocolon, which attaches to the mesocolic taenia of the transverse colon, limits the lesser omental bursa inferiorly.

Subphrenic Space

The transverse colon has an additional function in dividing the peritoneal cavity. Its mesocolon serves as an anteroposterior divisive line that partitions the peritoneum into a supracolic and an infracolic compartment. In addition to the lesser omental bursa, the supracolic region houses subphrenic and subhepatic spaces. The subphrenic space lies immediately inferior to the diaphragm and superior to the liver.

Subphrenic recess

It can be divided into a right and left subphrenic space by the falciform ligament of the liver. The right subphrenic space is limited posteriorly by the coronary ligament and relates directly to the anatomical right lobe of the liver (namely, the right lateral, anterior and superior parts).

Falciform ligament of the liver - ventral view

The left subphrenic space is substantially larger than the right and has been described as having anterior and posterior segments. Overall, the left subphrenic space relates to the anterior parts of the cardia and fundus of the stomach, the spleen’s diaphragmatic region and the anterosuperior extent of the anatomical left lobe of the liver. It is restricted posteriorly by the left triangular ligament and inferomedially by the lienogastric, lienorenal and phrenicocolic ligaments. The latter three ligaments also aid in partially separating the subphrenic space from the left paracolic gutter.

Subhepatic Space

Below the liver, but above the transverse mesocolon, are the subhepatic spaces of the abdomen. The pars descendens of the duodenum (the second or descending part) forms the medial extent of the right subhepatic space; also known as the hepatorenal pouch of Morrison. The lateral boundary is formed by the right lateral abdominal wall. Superiorly, the coronary ligament limits the space while the anterosuperior part of the upper pole of the right kidney forms the anterior boundary. The left subhepatic space or the lesser omental bursa communicates with the right subhepatic space via the epiploic foramen of Winslow.

Get me the rest of this article for free
Create your account and you'll be able to see the rest of this article, plus videos and a quiz to help you memorize the information, all for free. You'll also get access to articles, videos, and quizzes about dozens of other anatomy systems.
Create your free account ➞
Show references

References:

  • Netter, F. (2011). Atlas of human anatomy. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders: Elsevier, pp.266, 268, 269.
  • Sinnatamby, C. and Last, R. (2011). Last's Anatomy. 12th ed. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone/Elsevier, pp.235-237.
  • Standring, S., Borley, N. and Gray, H. (2008). Gray's Anatomy. 40th ed. [Edinburgh]: Churchill Livingstone/Elsevier, pp.1107-1108.

Author and Layout:

  • Lorenzo Crumbie
  • Catarina Chaves

Illustrators:         

  • Supracolic compartment - ventral view - Irina Münstermann
  • Greater sac - Paul Kim
  • Lesser sac - ventral view - Esther Gollan
  • Lesser sac - Paul Kim
  • Superior recess of omental bursa - Paul Kim
  • Subphrenic recess - Paul Kim
  • Falciform ligament of the liver - ventral view - Irina Münstermann
© Unless stated otherwise, all content, including illustrations are exclusive property of Kenhub GmbH, and are protected by German and international copyright laws. All rights reserved.

Continue your learning

Article (You are here)
Other articles
Well done!
Create your free account.
Start learning anatomy in less than 60 seconds.