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Regions of the abdomen

Recommended video: Regions of the abdomen [13:18]
Regions of the abdomen seen anteriorly.

The regions of the abdomen are theoretical divisions used by clinicians to help localize, identify and diagnose a patients symptoms. There are two main forms of categorization, the first which is simpler and is mapped out by dividing the abdomen into four quadrants, while the second method divides it into nine segments.

Either of these two ideas about the abdominal regions are internationally recognized and can be used on a daily basis during clinical practice. It is simply up to the physician on how they wish to present their findings.

This article will discuss both schemes and include a list of the internal organs and other important anatomical structures that can be found within each region.

Key facts
Four region scheme Principle: vertical line through linea alba (median plane) crosses horizontal line through the umbilicus (transumbilical plane) -> four quadrants: right upper quadrant (RUQ), right lower quadrant (RLQ), left upper quadrant (LUQ), left lower quadrant (LLQ)
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Nine region scheme Principle: two vertical midclavicular lines (left and right) cross two horizontal: subcostal (through lower edge of 10th costal cartilage) and transtubercular (through tubercles of iliac crests) -> nine segments: right and left hypochondrium, epigastrium, right and left lumbar regions, umbilical region, right and left inguinal regions, hypogastrium
right hipochondrium - epigastrium - left hipochondrium
right lumbar - umbilical - left lumbar
right inguinal - hypogastrium - left inguinal
Clinical relations Grey-Turner's sign, Cullen's sign
  1. The four region scheme
    1. Divisions and landmarks
    2. Right upper quadrant
    3. Right lower quadrant
    4. Left upper quadrant
    5. Left lower quadrant
  2. The nine region scheme
    1. Divisions and landmarks
    2. Left hypochondriac region
    3. Right hypochondriac region
    4. Epigastric region
    5. Left lumbar region
    6. Right lumbar region
    7. Umbilical region
    8. Left inguinal region
    9. Right inguinal region
    10. Hypogastric region
  3. Clinical aspects
  4. Sources
+ Show all

The four region scheme

Divisions and landmarks

The four anatomical regions of the abdomen are known as quadrants. They are separated by theoretical anatomical lines that can be traced on the abdomen using certain anatomical landmarks. The median plane is that which follows the linea alba and extends from the xiphoid process to the pubic symphysis and splits the abdomen vertically in half. The transumbilical plane is a horizontal line that runs at the level of the umbilicus. These two planes transect at the umbilicus in a cross-like form and divide the abdomen into four quarters.

Before learning everything about the regions of the abdomen, test your knowledge with our quiz:

Right upper quadrant

The right upper quadrant (RUQ), in a craniocaudal order, contains:

Right lower quadrant

The right lower quadrant (RLQ) contains:

Left upper quadrant

The left upper quadrant (LUQ), in a craniocaudal order, contains: 

  • The left lobe of the liver
  • The spleen
  • The stomach
  • The jejunum
  • The proximal ileum
  • The body and the tail of the pancreas
  • The left kidney and the left suprarenal gland
  • The left half of the transverse colon
  • The splenic flexure of the colon
  • The superior part of the descending colon

Left lower quadrant

The left lower quadrant (LLQ) contains:

  • the distal descending colon
  • the sigmoid colon
  • the left ureter

Depending on the sex of the individual, both the left and right lower quadrants contain either:

Has this article on the regions of the abdomen made you realise that you need to review your knowledge of medical terminology? Check out our guide to basic medical terminology 101.

The nine region scheme

Divisions and landmarks

Compared to the four region scheme, the nine region scheme of the abdomen may seem more complicated. However, it can help to further localize clinical symptoms and arrive at an accurate diagnosis more quickly. There are two vertical planes and two horizontal planes that are used to separate the nine segments. The vertical planes are known as the left and right midclavicular lines. They run from the midpoint in the clavicle caudally towards the midpoint of the inguinal ligament.

The horizontal planes include the subcostal plane and the transtubercular plane. The subcostal plane runs horizontally through the lower border of the tenth costal cartilage on either side. Finally, the transtubercular plane passes through the tubercles of the iliac crest and the body of the fifth lumbar vertebra.

The right and left hypochondriac regions are found superiorly on either side of the abdomen, while the epigastric region sits between them in a central, superior position. The right and left lumbar regions surround the umbilical region, which is central and has the umbilicus as its center point. Lastly, the right and left inguinal regions are found inferiorly on either side of the hypogastric region, which is the most inferior of the central line of segments.

Each of the nine regions shall now be listed individually, running craniocaudally from left to right:

Left hypochondriac region

The left hypochondriac region contains the:

  • The stomach
  • The top of the left lobe of the liver
  • The left kidney
  • The spleen
  • The tail of the pancreas
  • Parts of the small intestine
  • The transverse colon
  • The descending colon

Learn everything about the abdominal regions with our videos, quizzes, labeled diagrams, and articles:

Right hypochondriac region

The right hypochondriac region contains the:

  • The liver
  • The gallbladder
  • The small intestine
  • The ascending colon
  • The transverse colon
  • The right kidney

Epigastric region

The epigastric region contains the:

  • The esophagus
  • The stomach
  • The liver
  • The spleen
  • The pancreas
  • The right and left kidneys
  • The right and left ureters
  • The right and left suprarenal glands
  • The small intestine
  • The transverse colon

The position of the transverse colon can differ slightly from person to person due its mobile suspension within the transverse mesocolon. It is, however, usually located between the epigastric and umbilical regions of the abdomen. 

Left lumbar region

The left lumbar region contains:

  • A portion of the small intestine
  • A part of the descending colon
  • The tip of the left kidney

Right lumbar region

The right lumbar region contains the: 

  • The tip of the liver
  • The gallbladder
  • The small intestine
  • The ascending colon
  • The right kidney

Umbilical region

The umbilical region contains the:

  • The stomach
  • The pancreas
  • The small intestine
  • The transverse colon
  • The medial extremities of right and left kidneys
  • The right and left ureters
  • The cisterna chyli

Left inguinal region

The left inguinal region contains:

  • Part of the small intestine
  • The descending colon
  • The sigmoid colon
  • The left ovary and the left fallopian tube in females.

Right inguinal region

The right inguinal region contains the:

  • The small intestine
  • The appendix
  • The cecum
  • The ascending colon
  • The right ovary and right fallopian tube in females.

Hypogastric region

The hypogastric region contains:

  • The small intestine
  • The sigmoid colon
  • The rectum
  • The urinary bladder
  • The right and left ureters
  • The uterus, the right and left ovaries and the fallopian tubes can be found in females
  • The ductus deferens, seminal vesicles and prostate in males

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